Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh, who was at the centre of Congress attack in the Vidhan Sabha, described the whitefly attack on cotton crop as “natural calamity” and accused the opposition of unnecessarily dragging him into the controversial purchase of ineffective pesticides.
Making a statement on the floor of the House before the empty benches of the Congress, which had staged a walk out, the minister, on Wednesday, unequivocally stated that the damage caused to cotton due to whitefly could not be merely attributed to spurious quality of pesticides purchased by the state agriculture department.
Justifying the substantial damage caused to cotton crop in the Malwa belt due to pest attack as a “natural calamity”, the minister pointed out that due to unseasonal rains, the harvesting of wheat was delayed, which further resulted in late sowing of the cotton crop and that led to its damage.
The minister said the situation was further aggravated by scanty rainfall, coupled with high temperature and moisture. Visibly upset as the Congress demanded his resignation and held him responsible for the failure of the cotton crop, the minister said the problem of whitefly had accentuated due to deficient rain during this season. He said, earlier, the larva of whitefly used to be washed away with torrential rain that didn’t happen this year.
The minister vehemently said the entire gamut of events was nothing short of a ‘natural catastrophe’ but unfortunately the opposition was giving different spin to the whole story due to political reasons.
Tota Singh said out of total 11.25 lakh hectares of area sown under cotton crop, 92,167 hectares (10-15%) was covered under the pesticides purchased by the agriculture department.