March 9, 2021 2:22:45 am
DIVERSIFICATION, WHICH is the need of the hour in Punjab to save its groundwater for future generations as well as the environment which is falling prey to rampant burning of paddy stubble, has found some push under various schemes of the last Budget of the current Congress government in Punjab. The Budget which was presented on Monday by the state Finance Minister Manpreet Badal allocated Rs 200 crore towards the diversification, Rs 361 crore under horticulture to reduce dependence on wheat and paddy as well as funds allocated under several other schemes to promote diversification.
In the past four years under this government barring the last Budget (2020-21), diversification measures could not get the required push. There was hardly any mention of diversification in the first Budget of this government in June 2017. The next budget had said 7,000 farmers will be supported for diversifying 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) in the 2018-19 budget, and in 2019-20 budget and allocation of Rs 60.49 crore was made under National Horticulture Mission (NHM) only. In the last budget and allocation of Rs 200 crore was made.
“In the last budget, when Rs 200 crore were proposed to boost crop diversification, farmers hardly got any benefit from this amount as several farmers sold their maize and Basmati crops, which are the major alternatives for paddy, much below the MSP price (maize) and government did not pay anything to such farmers to compensate their losses while this amount could have been used to pay the gap between the MSP price and market price on which farmers were forced to sell,” said Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) Dakaunda General Secretary Jagmohan Singh..
“Last year farmers had sown Basmati on 6.60 lakh hectares but market price of the Basmati was very low for the first around two months due to which farmers faced heavy losses and here the government could have use that grant to compensate the farmers by paying the difference between the MSP and market price so as to motivate farmers to enhance area under Basmati this year too. But government remained a mute spectator over the poor Basmati price,” said Professor Gian Singh, retired economics professor, Punjabi University, adding that farmers needs such support for diversified crops to get motivated.
“The grants are meant to be utilised, not just to be a mention in the Budget document,” said experts.
This year, the government has also kept aside Rs 361 crore under horticulture and the main purpose of it is to reduce dependence on wheat/paddy cycle and diversify the cropping pattern. The amount is proposed to be utilised for marketing of produce and food-processing.
Also, Rs 10 crore has been allocated under Direct Benefit Transfer of Electricity (DBTE) under the banner of ‘Paani Bachao Paise Kamao’ scheme to motivate the farmers to cultivate diversified crops, improve the efficiency in water usage.
For sugarcane, which is also a major alternative crop for paddy and wheat, an allocation of Rs 300 crore has been proposed for the year 2021-22, to provide support to sugarcane farmers in the state. An allocation of Rs 60 crore has been proposed for modernisation and expansion of sugar mills of Gurdaspur and Batala. Apart from this, to promote this crop, establishment of the ‘Punjab Sugarcane Research Development Institute’ at Kalanaur (District Gurdaspur) at a cost of Rs 47 crore is proposed for the promotion of research and development activities and providing training to farmers engaged in sugarcane cultivation. The first phase of this project shall be completed by December 2021.
Under Kamyaab Kisan Khushaal Punjab (K3P), an outlay of Rs 3,780 crore proposed to be implemented during the next three years. To kickstart this program, an outlay of Rs 1,104 crore has been earmarked for the 2021-22 and the money is supposed to be spent on preserving the ecological balance, promoting horticulture produce, research, development, horticulture marketing, mobile vending carts to the farmers for self marketing of their horticulture produce and fixation of base price for horticulture crops and payment of deficiency price as compensation.
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