On the concluding day of the four-day agriculture summit on Wednesday, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal made it clear that he would not review his decision of giving free power to agriculture sector even if experts were advising him to do so.
Addressing a gathering, Badal said, "Experts may be talking with their experience but I talk with political experience, and I will not withdraw the facility from farmers till I am here (chief minister)."
Justifying his decision, Badal said this was the little he could do for the farmers. "The state power corporation sends me power bills of all farmers and my government pays it on behalf of the farmers, and I get satisfaction in doing this," he said. In the current financial year, the bill for the free power to agriculture sector is around Rs 6,000 crore, and the expenditure is rising every year. Experts recommend productive subsidy in the shape of technical knowhow besides making farmers pay the power bills of tubewells, which could be reimbursed to them. While farmers in general want quality power and not free power.
The gathering consisted of farmers from Punjab and other states, experts and researchers from the country and abroad. With polls on his mind, Badal reminded the audience of the political experience behind the decision. "Had I not given free power, the debt on farmers, which at present is Rs 30,000 crore would have been Rs 60,000 crore," he added.
Going a step further, he announced to give subsidies to farmers on the purchase of all farm implements and asked the Punjab State Farmers Commission to clear applications from farmers seeking subsidy. Badal announced 50% subsidy for women starting dairy farming.
The chief minister called upon farmers not to burn paddy stubble and suggested them to make manure out of it. On the suggestion of Bhartiya Kisan Union president BS Rajewal, the chief minister announced to lift the ceiling of Rs 13,000 per acre annual rent on agricultural land. He called upon the farmers to start fish farming and bring in the white revolution.
Former chairman of commission for agricultural costs and prices Dr T Haqque said dis-oriented economic policies of the country were responsible for the plight of the farmers. He said the input cost of agriculture is increasing which resulted in less income for the farmers.
Take up MSP issue with Centre
BKU president Balbir Singh Rajewal asked chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to take up the issue of the Centre assuring at the WTO meeting in Indonesia in December last year to put an end to the regime of minimum support price on wheat and paddy in the next four years. "This would finish farming and farmers in the state as they would be left to the mercy of market forces," Rajewal said. He demanded opening schools in villages on par with schools in cities as farmers were becoming landless and there was no proper education for their children. He demanded that the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices should get more powers so that the recommendations made by the commission were implemented in letter and spirit.