Two cotton yards with cotton-testing laboratories, which were built under the Technology Mission on Cotton (TMC) at grain markets of Kotkapura and Jaitu, have proved near failures due to the alleged apathetic attitude of the authorities concerned. Instead of serving the purpose, these buildings used to house tehsil offices of two sub-divisions earlier.
Cotton yards at Kotkapura and Jaitu were constructed under a special project of the Centre in 2000, under which 19 cotton yards were constructed at a subsidy of Rs. 22.7 crore in Punjab. About 250 such cotton yards were to be set up in 10 states, for which Rs. 231.4 crore was released as subsidy, as per the information available on the website of the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI). The mission was kicked off with an aim to promote marketing of the crop and to help farmers and traders check and improve the quality of cotton.
TMC's objective is to improve quality of cotton, bring down input costs, make farmers aware of marketing facilities besides improving ginning and other processing aspects by decreasing trash in the produce, says the CCI website.
With the help of equipment installed in the labs at cotton yards, length and strength of staple is supposed to be measured so that the quality of cotton can be ascertained. The labs are also supposed to tell farmers expected price of their crop merely by checking a sample.
“The cotton yard at Kotkapura has been a failure. Neither farmers nor commission agents have been made aware of the mission by the market committee. For some time, the building housed tehsil complex and now it is functioning merely on paper,” said a source.
Neither farmers are aware of the facility nor there seems to be the initiative on part of deputed employees to tell farmers about the quality and the expected price the crop would fetch by checking staple length and strength, claimed a commission agent at grain market, Kotkapura.
As cotton is mainly procured by private agencies, prices are based on their discretion, depending upon the prices in international market, cotton exports and area under the crop, he added.
“There is hardly any cotton in the cotton yard. The area under the crop has also come down,” a source said, adding that the lab has also been reportedly closed.
The source added that the cotton yard at Jaitu was constructed at a cost of Rs. 2.4 crore but it has remained non-functional most of the time. “For some time, a sub-divisional office was being run from the building of cotton yard, which was shifted just before the results of the assembly elections. It is mostly locked and there is a possibility that the required machinery might not have been installed at all,” the source said.
“Farmers do not know much about the objective behind starting cotton yards. There might be some problem in the policy or it might be indifferent attitude of the state government or the department concerned. Nearly Rs. 5 crore have been invested in the facility and it should be fully utilised for promoting cotton cultivation,” says Sukhjinder Singh, a farmer from Niamiwala village.
The area under cotton has shrunk this year to 15,110 hectares in Faridkot district as against 18,000 hectare expected by the agriculture department at the beginning of the last season.
In Kotkapura, the cotton yard witnesses a glut of paddy and wheat during the respective seasons, but no cotton seen here at anytime of the year.
Lal Chand, secretary, market committee, Jaitu, refused to say anything on the state of affairs at the cotton yard and testing lab.
An employee in the testing lab at Kotkapura, however, said, “Our testing lab is functional and we have tested about 6,000 samples this season, but the lack of awareness among farmers and staff shortage are the causes of concern.”