Instead of crop diversification, there's a need to diversify rural economy in Punjab, said experts during a discussion on "Farmers and labourers' suicides, reasons and way-out".
Speaking during the discussion organised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU Rajewal), professor in the economics department at Punjabi University, Patiala, Kesar Singh Bhangu said earlier the farmers' suicides were linked to drought, but this rabi season, farmers committed suicides as their wheat crop was damaged following rain and hailstorm.
He said the fabric of village panchayats had been disturbed as the bodies which used to work for the farmers' welfare had been politicised. He said the farmers have to take loans as there is no mechanism to address their social responsibilities. This way, they land in the vicious cycle of debt and often commit suicide, he added.
"Debt and family discord are interconnected. Higher the loan amount, more are the chances of family discord. We normally say a farmer has committed suicide because of family discord, but have never tried to look into the reasons," said Bhangu.
He said Punjab's agriculture production has suffered a dip. Even Bangladesh has surpassed the state in agriculture production. "Punjab Agricultural University is no longer a centre of farmer-centric research, but works like any other government department. Scientists are doing research to increase production, but nothing has been done to raise farmers' income. Instead of crop diversification there is a need to diversify the rural economy," he added.
A psychologist from Punjabi University, Dr Baldev Singh Sandhu, suggested setting up of village-level committees to help farmers in distress. "There is no dearth of intellectuals in villages. There is a need to channelize their knowledge," he added.
BKU (Rajewal) chief Balbir Singh Rajewal, however, said: "There is intellectual and moral bankruptcy in our society. Farming is on the agenda of the government, but not the farmers." He demanded a pension scheme for farmers by deducting a portion of minimum support price (MSP) paid to them and also fixing the age of retirement for farmers.