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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Weak monsoon: Punjab seeks Rs. 2,330-cr central assistance

PTI  Chandigarh, July 03, 2014
First Published: 22:53 IST(3/7/2014) | Last Updated: 23:13 IST(3/7/2014)

Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention for providing Special Central Assistance of Rs. 2,330 crore to combat the deficit rainfall and prevailing drought like situation in the state.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Badal said Punjab has always been in the forefront for ensuring food security of the nation and has been contributing about 40-50 per cent of wheat and 30-35 per cent of rice to the Central Pool from the last three decades.

He said Punjab has experienced 51 per cent deficit rain fall in various districts up to June 30, 2014 and in order to mitigate its effects, the state's farmers were making strenuous efforts and spending extra money on diesel and other inputs to sustain their kharif 2014-15 crops.

Badal said the hard working and resilient farmers of the state were passionate about their crops and goes to any extent to save their crops in drought conditions, adding that the Punjabi farmers might come under debt but they does not let the productivity of the crops to fall.

The chief minister apprised Modi in the letter that the farmers, who use diesel-run pumps, have to spend more on diesel and the other farmers also resort to large scale use of diesel generators to run their tube wells increasing their expenditure manifold to mitigate drought.

Badal further said many of them also require to deepen their tube wells and to convert them from mono block pump-sets to submersible pumps/tube wells, adding that it was expected that nearly 85,000 tube wells in the state would require further deepening to ensure adequate irrigation water supplies, which was likely to cost about Rs. 700 crore.

The chief minister informed the PM that state-owned power utility-Punjab Power Corporation (PSPCL) was not only diverting electricity from paying sectors to non-paying agriculture sector for ensuring uninterrupted power supply to the farmers but it was also purchasing extra power from outside the state.

This is likely to incur additional expenditure of Rs. 1,500 crore, he added.

He said this puts extraordinary strain on the farmers as well as the State Government besides posing a serious challenge to the critical area of National Food Security to which Punjab has always been the dominant contributor.

He said that although the combined efforts of the farmers and the state government might result in keeping the level of paddy production somewhere near that of the last year, the effort would drain out almost the entire reservoir of fiscal energy of both.

"In this way, it is anticipated that the farmers and the Government will have to spend nearly Rs. 2,330 crore extra on the above to ensure near normal output of Kharif - 2014 crops," he added.

The chief minister urged Modi that unless the Government of India comes up with a substantial package to help the state, including PSPCL, there would be a serious question mark over the ability of Punjabi farmers to guarantee the National Food Security.

He said when faced with a similar situation during Kharif 2009 the Union Government, on the demand of Punjab Government, had sanctioned and released an amount of Rs. 800 crore as Capital Assistance for additional cost incurred by Government of Punjab in providing power to the agriculture sector during Kharif 2009.

"As regards, the extraordinary conditions prevailing this year, I humbly but vehemently request you that the GoI must provide a special central assistance of Rs. 2,330 crore to the State," added Badal.

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