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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Crop diversification: Experts reject 'meagre' outlay of Rs. 500 crore

Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, March 01, 2013
First Published: 00:53 IST(1/3/2013) | Last Updated: 00:58 IST(1/3/2013)

Agriculture experts have given the thumbs down to the budget outlay of Rs. 500 crore for crop diversification in Punjab.

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The amount is far less than the Rs. 5,300 crore demanded by the Punjab State Farmers' Commission (PSFC) earlier this year.

PS Rangi, a consultant with the PSFC, said, "The outlay is an eyewash. It won't serve any purpose. But it's good that the Centre has realised that the wheat-paddy cycle can't continue to harvest prosperity for the northern states, especially Punjab and Haryana, for a long time."

The union finance minister announced an outlay of Rs. 27,049 crore for the agriculture sector, 22% more than previous year's outlay. "It is a welcome step as the rate of inflation is 8% and the sector outlay has grown by 22%, but the bigger issue is how much the states would get individually," said Rangi.

"The Centre has done nothing for the agriculture sector, which has been marginalised," said economist Sucha Singh Gill, director general of Chandigarh-based Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID).

Gill said funds for diversification were insignificant. "The Centre must understand that a number of states are driven by agriculture and passing through a transitional phase. Several states are heading for the Green Revolution, whereas states such as Punjab and Haryana want to move on and are looking for alternatives to growing paddy. Punjab has already been told to cut down paddy cultivation by 40%," he added.

The cap on agriculture credit for farmers has been raised by 22%, from Rs. 5.75 lakh crore to Rs. 7 lakh crore, which is in the same proportion as the increase in the total agriculture budget outlay.

Ignoring the demand for higher minimum support price (MSP) of wheat and paddy, raised especially by Punjab farmers, finance minister P Chidambaram mentioned in his speech that food production was expected to touch 2,500 lakh tonnes, attributing it to "good MSP".

Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma said the budget had failed to address recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report, which had connected the MSP to input costs.

Bhartiya Kisan Union president Balbir Singh Rajewal said the budget had set the alarms bells ringing for Punjab and Haryana at a time when the states were keen on crop diversification. "The amount of funds allocated for diversification shows the Centre's lack of concern," he added.

'Inadequate'
Ludhiana: Renowned agriculturist and chancellor of Central University, Bathinda, SS Johal and Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) vice-chancellor BS Dhillon have also termed the amount sanctioned for crop diversification as too small.

"Crop diversification is the need of the hour in states such as Punjab. With this amount (Rs 500 crore), we cannot go ahead in this direction. We need funds to the tune of thousand of crores of rupees for this purpose," said Johal.

The PAU V-C said if the total amount was to be divided between original Green Revolution states of Punjab, Haryana and western parts of Uttar Pradesh, each would get a paltry amount for crop diversification. HTC

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