Senior SAD (Taksali) leader Bir Devinder Singh on Wednesday said that the state needed a full-time agriculture minister given the grave agrarian distress, and called Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s performance handling the additional charge “hopelessly inadequate”.
In a statement released here, the former Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker said the state needs a minister who can devote his/her time and energy to address the sagging agro-economy and other related issues. “It is pathetic that many people in Punjab do not even know who is the state’s agriculture minister. Even I had to search on Google and discovered that Capt. Amarinder Singh is holding the portfolio,” he added.
Bir Devinder said that in the past two years, “he could not lay his hands on any discernible news item where of the CM being actively engaged as agriculture minister, giving direction to the agriculture policy of the state or speaking on the idea of crop diversification and giving achievable targets to his ministry”.
“Punjab needs serious policy direction in view of the alarming situation by overexploiting groundwater for paddy cultivation. Punjab is fast heading towards acute shortage of drinking water if stringent measures are not taken to save groundwater, meaning thereby that Punjab farmers will have to abandon paddy sowing,” he added.
Bir Devinder also said that a new crop pattern has to be evolved with the help of the agriculture university and soil scientists. “At present, 14.5 lakh tubewells are engaged in pumping out groundwater for paddy cultivation. Now, the water table has gone down to 215 feet and this has completely changed the condition and behaviour of the first layer of soil and subsoil,” he said.
He further said that the chief minister should immediately evaluate his own performance as agriculture minister, applying similar parameters as done in the case of Navjot Singh Sidhu’s performance as local bodies minister.
“People of Punjab would expect Capt. Amarinder Singh to honestly share the status of his report card, after a self-appraisal. I am sure he would discover that his performance as agriculture minister is hopelessly inadequate…,” he added.
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