Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's "urgent, immediate and effective intervention" for releasing a Rs 2,380-crore central package for state farmers, saying that the peasantry of the border state had been reeling under one of the worst monsoon failures in recent history.
The chief minister made this plea through a memorandum to the Prime Minister, whom he is likely to meet shortly to press for an immediate release "of the much-needed package," a government spokesperson said.
Stating that there had been a crippling 65% deficit in monsoon up to July 25 this year, Badal said: "The timing of the rainfall deficit has dealt a crushing blow to the peasantry in Punjab as it hit them during the sowing season."
The chief minister regretted that the treatment meted out to the leading agricultural state of the country had been shocking. "We have been seeking a comprehensive economic package to save the nation's saviour. Unfortunately, even the financial packages announced for farmers in the country have bypassed the country's leading agricultural state. All this has virtually broken the back of agriculture and agriculturists in the state," Badal said.
The chief minister pointed out that there was no respite in sight for farmers in the near future too and that the forecast for the remaining stretch of the monsoon period held out no hope for the kharif season.
He said Punjab's farmers had sacrificed two of his most precious assets at the altar of national interest - land fertility and water. And he has always done it with dignity and without seeking any favours from any government, he added. Badal said: "Now, not only his pride but even the farmer's life hangs by a slender thread. If he is not saved, the country at large would be pushed back to the days of disgrace and hunger yet again."
Stating that a cumulative extra burden of Rs 850 crore is to be borne by the state farmers to save their crops, Badal said the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) would incur an additional expenditure of Rs 1,530 crore by diverting power from other sectors as well as purchasing power at a higher price. "The additional cost on all these counts will be Rs 2,380 crore. Thus, there is an urgent need to come to the farmer's aid in the worst hours of crisis through a comprehensive economic package, taking into account the stress that the state government and the PSPCL also have to take in the process."