The Punjab government has allegedly diverted about Rs 30 crore from the central grant meant for promoting cotton cultivation to purchasing an insecticide that is spurious, costly and ineffective.
The assistance that state agriculture department had sought for 4,000 clusters of 10 hectares each to support cotton growers was approved on June 18. The money came under Rashrtiya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Centre's agriculture development scheme, but went into buying a chemical solution against the attack of white fly insect on the fibre crop. "The insecticide purchased by the state agriculture department is costly, spurious, and ineffective against white fly," said Sunil Kumar Jakhar, leader of Opposition in the state assembly.
He said the state had the target to cover 5.25 lakh hectares under cotton but been able to sow it over 4.5 lakh hectares only because of the government's decision, the impact of which had been severe on farmers. "Farmers are being divided on crop lines. The issues of the growers of cotton, potato, sugarcane, and other minor crops are being ignored," he said. Questioning the silence of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and agriculture minister Tota Singh on the issue, he called for official investigation into the supply of spurious pesticide "before any farmer in the cotton belt commits suicide".
Jakhar said the Punjab government had diverted 64.7% of the RKVY funds, while its Andhra Pradesh counterpart had used 98.5% of the grant for the mandated purpose. He also questioned the diverting of water from the canal system to the chief minister's constituency of Lambi, when the tail-end areas of Abohar and Fazilka were not getting enough water for irrigation. "The Punjab government is exploiting every misery of the farmers and the scale of damage to cotton crop is monumental, requiring revenue survey and adequate compensation to the farmers," said the Congress leader.