Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 27. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today suggested a separate fund for states engaged in Green Revolution to help them diversify away from the wheat-paddy cropping cycle.
Speaking at the National Development Council (NDC) meeting in the Capital, Badal asked the Union Government to help Punjab promote farm diversification.
A technology mission was needed for the “diversification of agriculture with an allocation of Rs 5,000 crore for Green Revolution states”.
A fund of Rs 4,000 crore was being provided to states in the North-East to “bring in Green Revolution”.
The diversification plan for Punjab should be included in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017), he said.
Badal desisted from mentioning Haryana as the other state to implement Green Revolution when the country decided to be self-sufficient in grain crops in 1960s.
Punjab, he said, had been apprised of the fact that the Central Government would soon withdraw from the procurement of wheat and paddy, hence diversification was the only way out and it could only be possible with a strong support from the Centre.
“A remunerative MSP (minimum support price) and an assured marketing system for alternative crops such as maize, soyabean, cotton and sugarcane is needed,” Badal said at the meeting which was also attended by Chief Ministers of other states.
Badal suggested that animal husbandry activities like dairy, poultry, fishery and piggery among others should be treated on a par with agriculture for exemption from the Income Tax and allowing lower interest rates.
Badal also sought liberal fixed annual grants to leading agricultural universities for research.
He painted a grim picture for agriculture in the state, saying 69 per cent of the population was dependent on it for their livelihood besides providing food security to the nation. Yet their contribution to the GSDP was just 14 per cent.
In 1971, he said 77 per cent of the state population was engaged in agriculture and contributed 43 per cent of the GSDP. “Agriculture is facing a serious crisis and is no longer a remunerative preposition. The MSP has not kept pace with the rising cost of agriculture inputs. Punjab farmers are reeling under a whopping debt of Rs 35,000 crore,” the Chief Minister said.
The Central Government should fulfil the promise made to bail out Punjab farmers and the state government in the wake of drought-like conditions during the kharif season of 2012, he said.
Despite a 42 per cent deficit in rainfall, the state and farmers ensured a bumper production of 133 lakh metric tonne of marketable paddy at a huge extra cost.
The Group of Ministers led by Sharad Pawar had announced a drought-relief package, which had not been provided to Punjab.
Further, Punjab was ready to commission three thermal power plants of 3,920 MW of collective capacity by May 2014 but Coal India Limited had expressed its inability to provide full coal linkage, he added.
He sought full coal linkage for landlocked states like Punjab, which did not have a seaport of their own.