Punjab seeks share of profit from wheat harvest
The Punjab Govt has approached the Centre asking for the money that India saved on expensive wheat imports to repair its canals, reports Jatin Gandhi.india Updated: May 29, 2008 00:19 IST
The Punjab government has approached the Centre asking for the money that India saved on expensive wheat imports – roughly Rs 2,500 crore – to repair its canals. The state government has argued the money be given to the state to rejuvenate its irrigation system because of the mammoth contribution it has made to this year’s wheat procurement.
Government procurement of wheat this year has crossed 210 lakh tonnes – the highest ever in the country – of which nearly 60 per cent has come from Punjab. The state has approached the Planning Commission asking it to part with Rs 800 crore annually for the next three years. The money, it says, will be used to revamp the irrigation canal system in the state and dig up more canals and ultimately produce more food for the country. Its rationale is that the country saved precious foreign exchange by doing away with imports for wheat – which could have been to the tune of three million tonnes for wheat priced at Rs 2,000 per quintal or so in the international market.
“We have contributed 100 lakh tonnes to procurement this year. If we get the money we are asking for, we can contribute 130 lakh tonnes. The food crisis is a long term problem and we can solve it,” Sukhbir Badal, MP and working president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) told Hindustan Times.
Punjab’s agriculture depends entirely on a mix of canal irrigation and ground water. It has the highest number of tubewells in the country at more than 12 lakh. To top this, the government provides free electricity to farmers and this has led to sharp depletion of the state’s ground water, MP Naresh Gujral said. “We subsidise the farmers’ electricity bill by about Rs 1400 crore annually. We have told the Planning Commission give us Rs 800 crore for the next three years and we will be able to rejuvenate the canals built by the British and dig new canals to effectively use our share of the river water,” he said.
Gujral said the commission had asked for more details, which the state government would furnish soon.