Terming the central compensation announced for drought-hit farmers as “inadequate”, Punjab Farmers’ Commission has demanded a bonus of Rs. 150 per quintal on the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy.
The union government had agreed to give farmers who own up to 2 hectares (about 5 acres) of agricultural land a relief of up to Rs. 1,050 per hectare (Rs 420 per acre). “This is too small to compensate the state farmers who have spent an additional Rs. 6,000 to 8,000 each on diesel and electricity to irrigate the crops because of almost negligible rain during monsoon,” said state farmers’ commission consultant PS Rangi, demanding bonus on the MSP.
The commission would also recommend the state to forward the demand to the Centre, said Rangi. The Centre has set Rs. 1,350 as the MSP of paddy for the current kharif season. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal already had demanded Rs. 2,330 crore from the Centre to cover up the losses because of drought. Of this, Rs. 700 crore was sought for additional input cost incurred on running tube-wells for irrigating paddy fields.
Badal had also demanded compensation for the electricity that the state had purchased for higher cost from outside for feeding the agriculture sector, and the cost of digging tubewells deeper since the groundwater level had dipped further because of excessive usage during drought.
Punjab would get only Rs. 73.5 crore as compensation, in spite of the CM’s having met union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh twice on the issue. The yield predicted in Punjab is 120-lakh tonnes, while other rice-growing states have not shown much hope.
The rainfall deficit in the state is 59% overall and 80% in Sangrur, Patiala and Barnala districts that lie in the paddy belt. The compensation announced after July 15 does not account for the fact that paddy transplantation in state started after June 10, and before that, much water and electricity were consumed already in preparing the fields for paddy transplantation.