Chandigarh, Nov 17 (UNI) Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Working President Sukhbir Singh Badal, MP, today asked the Centre to reimburse subsidies given by states to farmers to meet food deficit needs of the country.
''Not only this, the Central Government for federal financial transfers should include performance of states in terms of their contributions to meet the food security of the nation'', he said while delivering his address at the ''Roundtable discussion on agrarian crisis and food security of India''.
''We have already taken up these issues with the Prime Minister of India'', he said.
The Rountable discussion was organised by the Institute for Development and Communication (IDC) here.
Dwelling on the agrarian scenario in Punjab, Mr Badal said Punjab had been growing food for social good and to attain self-sufficiency in food production for the whole country.
About 50 per cent of food procured for the central pool was contributed by Punjab alone. ''We have paid heavy price in terms of environment degradation, falling water table etc.'' he said.
Mr Badal said the very people who were involved in food production were increasingly coming under debt, their income levels were declining and consequently, they were being pushed on the margins of new economic reforms.
The economic condition of the people had become so bad that for the first time in the electoral history of Punjab , both the Akali-BJP coalition and the Congress party have to promise ''Atta-Dal'' to these families on subsidised rates, he said.
This promise was made in view of the fast rising prices of food products leading to major hardships to the poor in the state, he added.
Mr Badal said the prices were rising at a fast rate mainly due to the macro economic policies. The states have no autonomy to reverse the price rise and, therefore, they were forced to subsidise the BPL families who could not pay for their food at the prevailing high prices. This had put excessive burden on the states finances.
Expressing deep concern over the sustainability of wheat production in Punjab at the present level, Mr Badal said it had become difficult due to alarming depletion of micro-nutrients in the soil and continuous fall in ground water level.
As a result, wheat yield in Punjab had fallen by about 22 per cent over the last 5 years (from 23 quintal per acre to 18 quintal per acre). If this fast decline in wheat yield in Punjab was not arrested in time, the wheat self-sufficiency of the country would be seriously endangered, he cautioned.
Arresting and reversing the downward trend in wheat yield in Punjab requires financial resources that were beyond the reach of the state on its own, he said.
''There is a need to reformulate a new scheme proposed for wheat enhancement by the Central Government'', he said. ''It is interesting that the programme has been conceived keeping in view states other than Punjab'', he added.
Highlighting issues related to the state's agrarian economy, Mr Badal said the prevalent canal irrigation system in Punjab was 50 years old and required upgradation and updating. For this purpose a total expenditure of at least Rs 3000 crore was needed.
He said the state was not in a position to generate this huge amount from its own resources, adding the Central Government should share this burden on 50:50 basis and provide a subsidy of Rs 1500 crore for this purpose.
Justifying the rationale for providing a huge subsidy to supply power to tubewells and canal water to farmers, Mr Badal pointed out that this subsidy served the national interest by keeping the cost of production of wheat and rice down and helped the Centre in procuring wheat and paddy at lower rates.
Mr Badal strongly pleaded that Minimum Support Price (MSP) of wheat and paddy should be announced at the time of sowing and adequately increased every year so that profitability of wheat and rice production was maintained.