Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Monday refused to accept the suggestion of reviewing his government's decision of giving free power to the agriculture sector.
He was reacting to the suggestion from world renowned rice breeder Dr GS Khush, who on the opening day of the four-day agriculture summit organised by the state government on Sunday, had suggested this to conserve water, the most precious natural resource available with the state.
"The withdrawal of free power to the agriculture sector is not possible; this is the little our government is doing for the farmers," Badal said, reacting to a query from mediapersons. He said his government was spending around Rs 6,000 crore annually for giving free power to the agriculture sector.
Not only Dr Khush, but also other agricultural experts say free power to tube-wells is leading to fast depletion of subsoil water and should be stopped immediately. Dr Khush suggested supporting farmers in the form of technology and other forms of direct subsidy. He had asked the Punjab government to install drip irrigation system which could save about 30% of the total water consumption.
Shifting onus on to the Centre, Badal said there was no support coming from the Centre. "All funds are with the Centre; though agriculture is a state subject, the states have no control," said Badal. He reiterated his demand for a separate agriculture budget. Badal said farmers in Punjab were under huge debt and excessive debt could lead to a law-and-order problem.
He refused to accept that he could be the future prime minister as proposed by one of the ministers from Bihar during his address on Sunday. "I won't go out of Punjab at any cost," he announced a day later, talking to reporters.
51 agri-scientists, experts, researchers honoured
On the occasion, Badal honoured 51 scientists and researchers in different fields of agriculture. Those honoured include Prof MS Swaminathan, called the Father of Green Revolution; rice breeder Dr Gurdev Singh Khush; Dr Boombla, soil scientist; Dr GS Kalkat, agriculture scientist and chairman of Punjab State Farmers Commission; director general, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Dr S Ayyapan; Dr Deepak Pental, genetist from Delhi University; Thomas Lumpkin from international maize and wheat centre; Dr AS Khera, plant breeder; former PAU V-C Dr Khem Singh Gill; and Dr GS Kang, potato breeder.
Pak Punjab governor visits summit
Governor of Pakistan Punjab Mohammed Sarwar and deputy high commissioner of Pakistan Mansoor Khan visited the agriculture summit on Monday. During a meeting with them, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal sought help for sending good breeds of high-yielding varieties of livestock, including Sahiwal cow, Nili Ravi buffalo and goat breeds to India. The chief minister, accompanied by the governor, took a round of the livestock exhibition.