Considered the most prestigious event for farmers in the region, the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has decided to organise ‘Virtual Kisan Mela’ (Farmers’ Fair) via online platforms this year.
While it was not possible to let the gathering of at least one lakh farmers take place on the campus physically due to coronavirus, the varsity administration has decided not to let the Kisan Mela tradition discontinue and now it will be held online for the farmers.
The Kisan Melas, which have been organised by the PAU since 1967, see the footfall of at least one lakh farmers in two days on PAU campus in Ludhiana (bi-annually in March and September). The farmers from not only Punjab but also neighbouring states such as Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh travel to PAU campus to buy high-quality seeds, farm equipment and gain knowledge on new agricultural technologies in the two-day main fair event.
While the event in March is held to prepare for kharif sowing season, the one in November prepares farmers for rabi season.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Gurmeet Singh Buttar, additional director, extension education, PAU, said that to keep up the tradition of Kisan Melas, it has been decided to hold ‘Virtual Kisan Mela’ for farmers this time on September 18 and 19.
“PAU was the first agricultural institute in the country which initiated the concept of Kisan Melas. They have been organised since 1967 uninterrupted. We thought it would be disappointing and demotivating for the farmers if this time the event is not held just because of pandemic. So for the first time, we have planned to hold Virtual Kisan Mela through online platform for farmers in the region,” Buttar said.
Buttar said that the modalities and other details of how online Kisan Mela will be held, were still being worked out but the recent workshops held online for other varsity works, yielded positive response due to which it was decided not to discontinue Kisan Mela tradition because of pandemic. “In the normal times, at least a lakh farmers visit the campus in two days for the fair but we cannot estimate how many farmers we would be able to connect with online. We are still working out modalities of how it will be done, which online platforms will be used. We are planning to hold some useful talks by experts from various departments and maybe also an online question/answer interactive session to answer the queries of farmers,” Buttar said. “The tentative dates for the first-ever Virtual Kisan Mela by PAU are September 18 and 19.”
During the March mela, the farmers are sold high-quality paddy seeds while in September, PAU sells wheat seeds. Buttar said that the seed sale will continue at district headquarters and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs). “Farmers buy seeds during Kisan Mela every year but this time we will be supplying seeds to all district headquarters and KVKs from where they can buy. Virtual Kisan Mela will be a ceremony to ensure that the tradition does not break due to coronavirus,” he said.
This year in March, the Kisan Melas which were scheduled for March 12 at Gurdaspur and Faridkot, for March 17 at Rauni in Patiala, for March 20-21 on PAU campus Ludhiana (main event) and for March 25 at Bathinda, were also postponed after coronavirus outbreak.
Besides field demonstrations and agro-industry exhibition, these melas are a big attraction for farmers with several other activities such as farm produce competitions, awards in special categories and seed sale.
Till early 1990s, the PAU also used to organise unique one-day Farmer Women’s Fair at different locations in Punjab to promote women farming and entrepreneurs. The festival would celebrate the power of women in the field of agriculture with exclusive presentations, competitions for women farmers but later these women-exclusive fairs were discontinued and more regional ‘Kisan Melas’ were introduced for other districts.
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