While flagging Punjab’s dwindling groundwater level, a state Cabinet minister called its residents bewakoof (stupid) for sowing only rice and wheat. He apologised later.
Minister for Conservation of Land and Water Inderbir Singh Nijjar said while speaking to reporters: “We have been pushing farmers to grow wheat and rice for long. There is no one more stupid than us Punjabis.”
He said: “By growing rice, Punjab is becoming a desert. The government is doing its bit, but we have a limited budget and we cannot give everything to one occupation. Ask them (he pointed towards farmers) also to be sensitive to Punjab’s water problems.”
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Dakaunda general secretary Jagmohan Singh said that Nijjar had abused Punjabis by calling them ‘bewakoof’. “Instead of bringing some good policy to tackle the rice-growing issue, he is making such shocking statements against farmers and Punjabis which is highly unacceptable and condemnable,” he added.
“Rice was neither our traditional crop nor our staple food, but we are growing it to meet the food requirement of the country. The Centre is procuring every grain of it on minimum support price (MSP). We are ready to grow our traditional crops, but then – give us reasonable MSP on that,” Jagmohan Singh said, adding that the minister’s statement reveals their (government) mindset towards people.
Nijjar later apologised to the “entire Punjab community”. He said he made the remarks in the heat of the moment. “I am a Punjabi and am well aware of the contribution the community has made to the country’s freedom struggle or in bringing about the Green Revolution. I apologise with folded hands,” he said in a video message.