With the issue of loss of cotton crop due to spurious pesticides becoming a major issue in Punjab around a year ahead of the state assembly polls, the expelled as well as suspended rebels of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Sunday sought to woo farmers by listening to their woes and promising to raise their issues.
At a public hearing of the affected farmers, over 200 submitted their ‘vakalatnama’ authorising eminent lawyer and Swaraj Abhiyan leader Prashant Bhushan, who had been expelled from AAP, to file a petition on their behalf in Supreme Court, seeking adequate compensation for cotton crop damage and a probe into the pesticide scam. Bhushan was accompanied by suspended AAP MP from Patiala Dr Dharamvira Gandhi and Swaraj Abhiyan leaders Prof Manjit Singh, Tarsem Singh Jodhan and Gyan Chand Bansal.
Talking to the media, Bhushan said that through the petition, they would seek setting up of a commission to find out the input costs on cotton cultivation and a proportionate relief for the crop loss, besides an investigation into the purchase of spurious pesticides as well as cotton seed that resulted into crop damage.
Stating that both the Punjab and the central governments would be made party in the petition, he hoped that it would be filed within one month.
Addressing the farmers, he said the present model of agriculture wherein use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides was being promoted was the root cause of the problem and farmers needed to switch to organic farming. He stressed on ushering the second green revolution of organic farming from Punjab.
Farmer Paramjit Singh from Ramgarh Bhundar village of Bathinda said he spent to Rs 54,310 on purchase of pesticides for cotton cultivation over nine acres, but couldn’t save his crop. He even produced copies of 14 bills pertaining to purchase of pesticides from different manufacturers. He said he got a compensation of Rs 27, 850 only. “Besides a huge expenditure on pesticides, I had purchased cotton seeds of about Rs 35, 000 and spent Rs 20,500 on fertilisers. In addition to this, I had to invest money on labour and other things,” he said.
Another farmer Rajinder Singh from Tamkot village of Mansa district said: “I had cultivated cotton on five acres and got only Rs 20,000 as compensation. I used four varieties of pesticide to check pest attack but to no avail. The compensation should be provided at a rate of at least Rs 40, 000 per acre”.
Jaspal Singh from Ghudda village in Bathinda said: “I had sowed cotton on seven acres and the entire crop was destroyed, but I was given compensation of only Rs 14, 000. When I approached the revenue patwari in this regard, he, with a purpose to teach me a lesson, deliberately changed my name to Jagpal Singh in the next cheque of Rs 1,300 so that I cannot it encashed”.
Gurdeep Singh, a resident of Lakhmir Wala village, said he got a compensation of Rs 1.32 lakh for the loss of cotton crop over 16 acres of land. “I have been paid full as per the existing government rate, but my loss is much more as compared to the compensation I got,” he said.