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Centre approves diversification prog for Punjab

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 26 (UNI) The Central Government has approved the new crop diversification programme for Punjab and Haryana, which will entail a package of incentives for farmers to break the rice-wheat cultivation cycle that has led to shortage of ground water and deterioration in the soil texture.

The Agricultural Coordination Committee, which met here yesterday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in chair, formally cleared the programme and authorised the Agriculture Ministry to finalise the package. The proposed package will carry financial and logistics components and would be placed before the Union Cabinet for formal approval.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Water Resources Minister Prof Saifuddin Soz, attended the meeting.

The diversification programme, to be introduced initially in Punjab and Hayrana this year, plans to bring in a change in the cultivation pattern with a focus on growing pulses as part of combination in the year-round cultivation.

Besides, the Ministry is also planning to introuduce an early variety rice which can be harvested 15 days ahead of popular varietes now grown in northern states, Ministry sources said.

The programme will also encourage the farmers to go in for 'zero-tilling' to grow wheat, which involved no ploughing of the harvested paddy fields for sowing wheat. Thus, the fields could remain vacant for a month or so for cultivating peas.

It will also help wheat farmers to grow 'moong' and other pulses which will help restore micro-nutrients in the soil besides assuring additional income.

The package is likely to entail subsidy on the agricultural machinery for providing cheaper implements to the farmers to be used for crop diversification, the sources added.

But there are meagre chances of the Centre considering Punjab's Johal Committee's proposal, submitted to the Centre three years ago, for mobilising a fund of about Rs 1200 crore to help the state farmers for going in for crop diversifation.

Punjab is keen on crop diversification because the state's sub-soil water has already got depleted with a majority of 132 blocks going 'grey' and 'black,' sources said Similarly, Haryana is also facing acute ground water shortage in some parts of the state with other parts suffering from waterlogging.


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