Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday constituted a high level panel that will headed by the Chairman of the Punjab State Farmers’ Commission Dr GS Kalkat for suggesting measures that should be taken to improve economic condition of farmers as per the recommendations given by the experts and agri-scientists in the Progressive Punjab Agriculture Summit (PPAS)- 2014.
The Chief Minister said that due to the shrinking of current land holdings, rising cost of the agriculture inputs coupled with the non remunerative MSP and the apathetic attitude of the centre, agriculture was no longer a profitable venture and was passing through a severe crisis.
Badal said that the committee comprising agriculture scientists, experts, economists and progressive farmers will come forth with vital inputs concerning the welfare of farmers so that the government could finalize a time bound action plan to bail out the beleaguered peasantry of the state from the present crisis besides supplementing their income.
“In order to boost Research and Development on Agriculture, Union Government must reserve at least two percent of the total agriculture GDP on R&D because the major portion of budget was sent of salaries of agriculture universities and just paltry amount was spent on research and extension services,” Badal said, adding that the Union government must present a separate budget for Agriculture on the lines of Union Railway Budget to facilitate the 65 percent population of the country which was dependent on agriculture.
He even asked the state agriculture department and the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) to strengthen their extension services for benefitting the farmers.
While expressing concern over the deepening of agrarian crisis, the Chief Minister said that it was extremely difficult for any state government, institution or a person to resolve this grave problem adding that the need of the hour was that the union government must take initiatives to make agriculture a profitable venture. He said that the greatest fault lies in the mechanism of fixing the cost of the agriculture produce of the farmers which must be rectified.
Badal said that the Union government neither takes the states nor the other stakeholders related with agriculture in confidence before fixing the MSP of the crops.
He said that it was ironical that the Government of India (GoI) in its recent budget had slashed the excise duty on Cars to facilitate the general public to avail of this incentive whereas the farmers had been completely ignored on this count by the centre while showing least concern towards either exempting or slashing excise duty on the imported agriculture machinery.
Justifying the rationale behind providing the free power to the farmers of the state, the Chief Minister said that had we not come to the rescue of farmers the entire peasantry would have been perished. He clarified that though farmers were not paying their tube well bills from their pocket but the state government was reimbursing the entire amount of nearly Rs 5000 crore to the PSPCL annually. Braving all sort of criticism for giving free power to state farmers especially from the opposition and centre, Badal reiterated his firm commitment that the hapless farmers of Punjab would ever get his incentive till his last breath.