iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Harkirat Singh, Hindustan Times
Ajnala (Amritsar), March 19, 2013
For the past five decades or so, successive Presidents of India have been unaware of their immovable asset a tract of wheat-rich farm land at Dyalbharang village in Ajnala subdivision of Amritsar district.
In the village's revenue records, this 47-acre land is not registered in any individual's name. It is simply mentioned as belonging to the President.

According to the records, the land was once owned by Upkar Singh, husband of Bibi Parkash Kaur, who was an influential Congress leader of Majha and considered close to the Nehru-Gandhi family. Parkash Kaur represented the Majitha assembly constituency and served as a minister in the Punjab government headed by then chief minister Partap Singh Kairon in the early 1960s.

During that decade, Upkar Singh allowed the land to be transferred and registered under the President's name. With the consent of then President Dr S Radhakrishnan (who was in office from 1962 to 1967), it was informally handed over to the state government for agricultural use. Upkar Singh died in the late 1960s, while Parkash Kaur passed away in the mid-1970s.

The state agriculture department, which was given custody of the land, initially did not do much cultivation due to the alkaline nature of the soil. Irrigation was another challenge as the area had no tubewell and the crops grown were dependent on canal water.

Talking to HT on Monday, chief agricultural officer (CAO) Dilbagh Singh Dhanju said, "It was basically alkaline land. Very little grew on it. However, the Amritsar wing of the agriculture department gradually turned it into high-yield land. Truckloads of gypsum were unloaded to overcome alkalinity of the soil."

The wheat yield increased from 10 quintals per acre in 2005-06 to 16 quintals in 2011-12 after more gypsum was added to the soil. This year, weather permitting, the agriculture department is expecting a high yield of 20 quintals per acre when the crop is harvested next month.

The million-dollar question is: When is Pranab Mukherjee coming to reap the rich harvest?