Even as the state government has drawn a proposal to demand more than R7,000 crore from the central government to promote crop diversification, a section of farmers and experts has been suggesting direct transfer of money into pockets of farmers to make diversification feasible.
Sukhjeet Singh Neena Chahal, a progressive farmer of Narinderpura village of Mansa, is in support of the proposal. Sukhjeet and many others like him are sore over the alleged bargaining for diversification money going on between Punjab and the Centre.
"It was in 2009 that the central government gave around R700 crore compensation to the state government for distribution among farmers. We all know how the Punjab government did everything possible to grab that money and farmers are still facing court cases for holding protests in Chandigarh to demand money sent by the Centre for them. What is the guarantee that the state government will promote crop diversification after getting money from the Centre?" said Sukhjeet Singh.
He added that, "I have simple formula. Give all the money, which the state or Centre wants to spend on diversification, directly to farmers. If a farmer will get money, he will of course opt for crop diversification. Otherwise pumping crores of money into the pocket of state government will be futile."
Making a point, Sukhjeet Singh said, "The central government has learnt that 50-year-old public distribution system did not work accordingly and now it has been transferring money directly into accounts of the poor. Similarly, money for crop diversification should be sent into pockets of farmers and they should be allowed to use it accordingly."
He said, "It should be ensured that the profit of the farmer should not be affected. Farmers are not happy with the wheat-paddy cycle and want to get out of it. It will only happen if you will give them equal profit in crop diversification."
Economist Sardara Singh Johal is also in favour of transferring money directly to farmers but he wants reforms too.
"The Punjab government has been spending around R6,000 crore on power subsidy. Give this money directly to farmers, but at the same time make them pay for power. It will make farmers opt for less water and power consuming crops and that would naturally push state towards to crop diversification," said Johal.
He added that, "Crop diversification will also help in reducing the rent in contract farming. It is interesting that when water and power is free for farmers, consumer is the real beneficiary as subsidy does not count in the expenditure of farmers and MSP remains low, which ultimately keep the price of the issue (end product) low for the consumer."
"Contrary to this subsidy system, when farmer will get money into his own pocket, it will increase the MSP and also the value of end product for consumer. At the same time, government is also supposed to install processing plants and market establishments for the smooth sale of diversification crops," said Johal.