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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

'Free power to farmers costing Punjab dear'

Gurpreet Singh Nibber , Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, February 17, 2014
First Published: 11:14 IST(17/2/2014) | Last Updated: 11:16 IST(17/2/2014)

International rice breeder and Punjab's son of soil Dr Gurdev Singh Khush is happy, nervous and excited to be home to attend the four-day Progressive Punjab Agriculture Summit.

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Dr Khush, who arrived on Sunday, has still not forgotten the days he spent in the sleepy Roorke village of Nawanshahr district before leaving to study in the US in 1955.

Born in 1935, Dr Khush, who did a Phd (plant genetics) from California University and worked at Manila, Philippines, for 35 years, is not happy with the Punjab government's decision to give free power to the agriculture sector, which, according to him, is costing the state dear.

Dr Khush, though reluctant to be quoted, said he would say what is right. "It is a political decision of the Punjab government, but I am against free power," he said, adding that the government could give subsidy and support farmers in many other ways.

Pointing out that with free power there was no check on usage of underground water, he suggested for supporting farmers by giving them technical know-how, and ways and means to save underground water. "There is a need to conserve natural resources," he said.

He suggested drip irrigation for farmers, saying that it saved 30% water. "Help them (farmers) have this system," he said. 

"I left Punjab six decades ago, and feel there has been a sea change here. Farming in 1950s was tough; it is much easier now. Also, 90% land is under cultivation," he told HT on an emotional note.

He also said that the wheat-paddy crop cycle in the state needed some alternatives. "There is need to focus on allied industry such as dairy, vegetables and growing cash crops," he said, but accepted that the crop-growing pattern could not be changed overnight. "But we must try to cut paddy cultivation by at least a million hectares, from 2.5-milion hectares to 1.5 million," he said. Dr Khush also said Punjab should focus on food processing, and creating cold chains.

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