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Angry farmers force rethink: Khattar govt softens paddy diversification order

The change in government stand came on the day CM Manohar Lal Khattar met farmers in Kurukshetra to take their feedback on the issue.

Written by Sukhbir Siwach | Chandigarh | Updated: May 27, 2020 11:43:50 am
Angry farmers force rethink: Khattar govt softens paddy diversification order The tractor march that was taken out in Fatehabad

Day after a tractor march by farmers in Fatehabad against restrictions on paddy cultivation, the government Tuesday softened its stand and announced immediate changes to its order that had restricted paddy cultivation to 50 per cent area in 19 blocks where groundwater is lower than 40 metres. As per the instructions issued Tuesday, diversification of paddy will not be compulsory. Rather, the government will encourage farmers to diversify from paddy. It also announced financial incentive for farmers opting for the diversification scheme.

The change in government stand came on the day CM Manohar Lal Khattar met farmers in Kurukshetra to take their feedback on the issue.

While the government had said that its earlier move was aimed at water conservation, the farmers had argued that they were already under distress due to the Covid crisis and paddy cultivation ensures them considerable savings.

Sensing farmers’ sentiments, the opposition too was aggressively trying to corner the government over the issue.

With the pressure mounting, the state announced a reversal of its earlier decision.

“We will win over the hearts of the farmers. We will persuade them for the need of crop diversification.

We won’t force them,” said Haryana Additional Chief Secretary Sanjeev Kaushal while speaking to The Indian Express.

The government’s previous instruction had mentioned that “the farmers have to diversify at least 50 per cent area” of the paddy cultivated last year in 19 blocks under ‘Mera Pani Meri Virasat’ scheme. Officials admitted that it had sent a message that the government would forcefully stop farmers from cultivating paddy in half of the area.

“We are removing that impression now,” added officials. Tuesday’s instructions mentioned that the “farmers are suggested to diversify paddy in 50 per cent area”. The government will now give an incentive of Rs 7,000 per acre to those farmers who will opt for the crop diversification scheme. If a farmer has just three acres of land, then he can claim this incentive of Rs 7,000 if he sows alternative crop in only one acres of land.

The farmers had earlier stated they were being asked not to grow paddy if they had tubewell connection of 50 horsepower electric motor, but now they will be just “suggested to opt crop diversification ”.

“This time the government even threatened farmers with taking away their farm subsidies in case they did not follow directions. It also said that there would not be any procurement of paddy,” claimed senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Last year too, the government had launched a similar scheme — ‘Jal Hi Jeevan Hai’ – with financial incentives to farmers leaving paddy cultivation.

However, farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said that hybrid seeds of maize had failed to yield any produce last year which was discouraging farmers to opt crop diversification this year.

Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar Tuesday said, “The situation of ground water level in these blocks is very worrisome, farmers are being motivated to save water and for this farmers would have to move towards crop diversification.”

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