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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Punjab’s diversification puzzle: Behind mismatch, lack of proper data, not too many men in field

Sources said due to acute shortage of field officers in Punjab Agriculture Department as well as in the Revenue Department, accurate data has not been collected by both.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
Updated: June 7, 2021 7:52:13 am
This data is compiled by the Revenue Department in every district which is sent to Punjab Land Records office and then they send it further to the Punjab Agriculture Department which further sends this to the Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture.

Claiming a big success in diversification push, the state agriculture department says less water consuming crops are being sown in record five lakh hectares taken out from under the paddy area. The revenue department, however, cites figures to show that area under paddy has actually increased in two years. Why is there a mismatch?

In the Agriculture Department, the Director Agriculture’s office collects data of the area under Kharif and Rabi crops from its Chief Agriculture Officers’ (CAOs) offices in every district headquarters. The CAO get the data collected through its field officers who are Agriculture Development Officers and meant to cover each village.

In the Revenue Department, the data is collected through crop inspection (girdawari) which takes place twice a year.

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The normal period of crop inspection (girdawari) by patwaris (revenue officers) takes place from March 1 to March 31 every year for Rabi crops, while for Kharif crops, it is October 1 to October 31.

After this girdawari by patwaris, a kanungo (revenue officer just above patwaris) is supposed to check 50 per cent of the total girdawari done by patwari whereas a circle revenue officer is supposed to inspect 25 per cent of the total. The inspection period of kanungos and CROs is from April 1 to April 10 for Rabi and from November 1 to November 10 for Kharif crops.

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This data is compiled by the Revenue Department in every district which is sent to Punjab Land Records office and then they send it further to the Punjab Agriculture Department which further sends this to the Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture. The final data is considered to be the data collected by the Punjab Land Records Department.

Sources in the government said that due to outbreak of Covid, Land Record Office could not get details from all the districts on time and it compiled the data for 2019 and 2020 with a delay and Agriculture Department’s data was quoted everywhere which seems to be highly inflated in case of maize and cotton, and shows a “false reduction” under paddy area.

Sources further added due to acute shortage of field officers in Punjab Agriculture Department as well as in the Revenue Department, accurate data has not been collected by both.

“Though the figures of Punjab Land Records are considered the final figures for the land under various crops but this office too only compiles the reports it gets from the 22 districts and at district level there is huge shortage of patwaris, kanungos etc. and it is difficult to establish that if figures are coming after physical verification or not ,” said a senior officer in the Punjab Revenue Department, adding that large number of the villages in the state hardly see any visit of the field officials from both the departments for the months together.

Director Punjab Agriculture, Dr S S Sidhu, said that the report of Director Land Record Officer, Punjab, is considered as the final report as Agriculture Department fixes targets for every crop, while physical girdawari is done by the Revenue Department. About the inflated diversification figures by the Agriculture department, he added that right now he can only talk about the current targets for the Kharif crops.

Another senior officer in Punjab Agriculture admitted a huge difference in the data of both the government departments and said that it has put the Punjab government in an embarrassing situation.

“Now who is to blame? Further, who is to be believed?” he questioned.

Sources questioned why this difference in data was not addressed in 2019, when the figures from Revenue Department first came up.

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