Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday urged President Pranab Mukherjee to advice the union government to ensure incentives that could help maize emerge as an alternative to the wheat-paddy cycle in Punjab. Mukherjee was present on the stage when Badal raised the demand in his address during the golden jubilee celebrations of the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) here.
The CM urged Mukherjee, who was here to preside over the 'International Conference on Sustainable Agriculture for Food and Livelihood Security' organised by PAU as part of the jubilee celebrations, to get food processing industry sanctioned for Punjab so that there can be value-addition to the state's maize produce. He asked the president to recommend a "remunerative" minimum support price (MSP) to encourage the farmers to go in for maize cultivation.
The CM referred to land and water as "mother and father of farmers" that they had "sacrificed in national interest" due to which, he said, the state was facing "an acute agriculture crisis". Agriculture was no longer a remunerative profession, and thus the farm-based economy of the state needed to be bailed out, he added.
Pleading that exports could boost diversification, Badal urged the President to ask the UPA government to facilitate free trade through the Attari border with Pakistan. "All the farmers in the state are under heavy debt, and this distress has led to farmers' suicides in the state," he said, adding that Punjab had not benefited much from "the central debt waiver package that has led to many small and marginal farmers leaving agriculture, thereby reducing the number of farmers in the state from 5 lakh to 3 lakh".
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