Chandigarh August 10: The Government of India today agreed in principle that there was a dire need to come to the aid of farmers and the government in Punjab in the wake unprecedented failure of monsoon in the region.
Addressing a joint press conference at the end of a nearly three hour grueling meeting with the Punjab Government delegation headed by the Food and Civil Supplies Minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon and Irrigation Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon at Punjab Bhawan here today, the Union Agriculture Minster Sharad Pawar and the Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said that there was a strong merit in the demand for a central package submitted by the Punjab Government.
The visit of the Central delegation followed intensive lobbying by the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal with the Central leaders. The Chief Minister who is currently away on a visit to the USA, had personally overseen the preparation of the Punjab memorandum and had deputed his two senior cabinet colleagues to follow the matter up the Center. He had personally met the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Sharad Pawar in this regard.
The Punjab Government prepared a well-documented case for a relief package of Rs 5,112.09 crore to bail the Punjab farmers out of the throes of crisis following drought like conditions here. The package is meant to compensate the farmers and the state for their extraordinary efforts and sacrifices during the on-going crisis.
Pleading strongly for financial assistance to save the beleaguered Punjab peasantry, Kairon and Sekhon impressed upon the high level Central team the need to assess the gravity of the problem being faced by the state. The Central team conceded that the state had been badly hit by the conditions of inadequate rain during the paddy sowing season and needed to be helped by the Government of India as they had always been in the vanguard of fighting the nation’s battle for food security.
The package demanded by the state government includes Rs. 2,531 crore for purchase and arrangement of additional power, Rs. 850.80 crore to compensate for additional cost incurred by the farmers on of high speed diesel, Rs. 893.49 for conversion/rescheduling of cooperative credit, Rs. 300 crore on account of additional ground water Irrigation, Rs. 300 crore for restoration of capacity and installation of alternative tube-wells, Rs. 211.60 crore for arrangement of feed and fodder for livestock sector and Rs. 26 crore for drinking water supply.
Besides this, Kairon also demanded a bonus of Rs. 100 per quintal for paddy over and above the MSP which itself needed significant upward revision. The State had already demanded a MSP of Rs.1650 per quintal for paddy in view of the increase in prices of fertilizers, diesel, labour etc. Likewise, the MSP of cotton should be raised by Rs 500 per quintal over and above the MSP announced this year. A drought relief of Rs. 200 per quintal for maize may be provided. The Centre should direct the Public Sector Banks to reschedule the repayment of loans from Short Term to Medium Term and a subvention to compensate them for additional burden of interest due to such conversion of loans may also be provided.
Responding to the demands put forth by the Punjab Government, Pawar said that the mandate of the Central team was limited to provide immediate relief to mitigate drought like situation. He said the GoI fully appreciate the concerted efforts of the state government in providing adequate power to the farmers to enable them to save their paddy by diverting electricity from the domestic and Industrial to farm sector and assured the state government that the visiting team would take up this issue at the appropriate level for its early resolution in accordance with the already set precedent when in similar situation the GoI sanctioned Rs. 800 crore to Punjab and Rs. 400 crore to Haryana in 2009. The GoI had already announced adequate subsidy on the seeds for the drought affected farmers. The ambit of Integrated Fodder Development Scheme had been widened to cover the drought affected farmers to ensure adequate supply of fodder from other states. Mr. Pawar asked the Punjab Government to immediately go for diversification of agriculture by motivating the farmers to get out of the rut of wheat-paddy rotation. The farmers should be encouraged to go for cash crops likes oil seeds, pulses, sugarcane, maize, cotton besides horticulture in big way. He said the Union Government was seriously already contemplating to provide marketing support mechanism to the farmers to encourage them for sowing these crops as an alternative to wheat paddy cycle.
Meanwhile, Jairam Ramesh also sanctioned Rs. 40 crore for the provision drinking water to the people in the rural areas affected due to drought like condition. He said Rs. 211 crore under MGNREGA had already been earmarked for Punjab during 2012-13 and more funds could also be available to the state if it raised any such demand or mooted proposal. He also pointed out the 30 new works have been included under MGNREGA related to Agriculture and Punjab could be immensely benefitted from it. He also announced the grant of Rs. 52 crore under Integrated Watershed Management Program in Punjab.
On the failure of Northern Power Grid, Ramesh apprised in the meeting that he would soon take up this issue with the Union Power Minister to ensure uninterrupted power supply to Punjab for further transmission in the farm sector to enable the farmers to nurture their khariff crops in view of scanty rainfall resulting in 70% deficient rains as on August 7, 2012 across the state.
Earlier, Kairon and Sekhon presented a detailed memorandum to the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar seeking a special package of Rs. 5112 crore for Punjab to compensate the farmers and state in facing the crisis emerging out of drought like situation.
Both Kairon and Sekhon presented a shawl, a siropa (rob of honor) and a sword to the Union Agriculture Minister and Union Rural Development Minister on the occasion as a mark of respect to them.
Prominent among others who were present on the occasion included Advisor on National Affairs and Media to the Chief Minister Harcharan Bains, Chief Secretary Rakesh Singh, Financial Commissioner Development GS Sandhu, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister SK Sandhu, Financial Commissioner Animal Husbandry Jagpal Singh Sandhu, Secretary Power Anirudh Tiwari, Special Principal Secretary Gaggandeep Singh Brar, Secretary Food and Supplies DS Grewal, MD Milkfed Mr. Balwinder Singh Sidhu, Financial Commissioner Rural Development Mandeep Singh Sandhu, Director Agriculture Mangal Singh Sandhu and CMD PowerCom KD Chaudary.