Ludhiana, Sep 13: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today blamed the Centre for the miserable economic condition of the farming community due to its arbitrary and anti-farmer polices and demanded the linkage of Minimum Support Price (MSP) with the whole sale consumer price index to ensure better and remunerative procurement prices.
Addressing farmers after inaugurating the two-day Kisan Mela at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) here, Mr Badal said that it was high time for the Centre to realize its follies. He said that he had been vehemently pleaded the case of farmers, who were in distress due to the negative attitude of the Centre.
He suggested that the central government should show magnanimity in conceeding to the genuine demands of the farmers, because it was only due to their relentless efforts, that the country became self reliant in food production after independence. He said if the government continued with the same apathetic attitude, the country might plunge into a serious food crises.
The Chief Minister said that there was a heavy debt of Rs 25,000 crore on the Punjabi farmers and about 10,000 families owed Rs 2.5 lakh each to financial institutions or to private money lenders. He also demanded an immediate financial package from the Centre to bail out the beleaguered farmers.
He said that at the National Development Council meeting exclusively related to the agriculture issues in May this year a consensus had emerged to provide a grant of Rs 25,000 crore to all the agrarian states, including Punjab.
Listing the priorities of the state government to boost the agriculture sector, Mr Badal said that the World Bank had already approved marketing facilitation program to assist the farmers in the marketing of their produce. He also mentioned that the PAU in collaboration with State Agriculture Department would soon envisage a program to issue Soil Health Cards to all the farmers to retain the fertility and texture of the soil by making judicious use of chemical fertilizers and peticides.
He also urged the farmers to go for cultivation of Kinnow, Guava, vegetables, oilseeds, hybrid maize etc as a part of diversification.
Showing deep concern over the depletion of groundwater due to the sowing of paddy and other water intensive crops, Mr Badal said that Punjab should also be compensated by giving royalty for this, as water too was a natural resource. He pointed to the royalty given to the states of Madhya Pardesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand for the exploitation of coal and other minerals from the mines.
The Chief Minister also asked the field staff of PAU and Agriculture department to regularly interact with the farmers in their fields to apprise them with the latest technology and research in the field of agriculture. He hoped this initiative would certainly change the mind set of the farmers towards the scientific approach from the conventional methods of farming.
Earlier, Mr Badal honoured three farmers from the state---Kartar Singh Sekhon from village Langroa in district Nawanshahhar, Balwinder Singh Tikka from village Lambi in district Muktsar and Meharban Singh from Sahouli in district Patiala for outstanding achivements in the agri field. Each award carried a citation, shawl and cash prize of Rs 25,000.
Mr Badal also announced to sponsor the overseas visit of the outstanding farmers of the state so as to upgrade their knowledge and skills in the fields of agriculture.
In his welcome address, PAU Vice Chancellor Manjit Singh Kang said the Kisan Mela offered a healthy platform to the farmers and they should make maximum use of this forum. He also urged the farmers to adopt the modern farm practices, as per the recommendation of the experts of the PAU.