Punjab may have topped the foodgrain contribution to the national pool last year, but this year the situation seems quite grim.
Due to delayed monsoon and erratic power supply, it is likely that paddy production will be severely hit – only 54% paddy has been sown so far this year in Patiala, Sangrur and Barnala districts, the three major paddy-producing districts.
Prolonged dry spell, erratic power supply and water table depletion have taken a toll on paddy sowing. Farmers taking up paddy cultivation even in assured irrigation areas fed by canal water are also not comfortable, as water is not reaching the tail ends of the canal.
"We have stopped sowing paddy. Our focus right now is to save our sown crop, due to absence of rain and erratic power supply and for that we are running our tubewells on generators," said Rajwinder Singh, a farmer of Kauli, who owns 30 acres, but has managed to sow paddy in 18 acres only.
Paddy sowing begins in the second week of June. Each year, paddy is sown in nearly 28 lakh hectare area in Punjab.However, this year till date only 16 lakh hectare area has been covered under paddy.
"Yes, the deficit rain has hit paddy sowing. As per our estimates, only 50% area under paddy has been covered as compared to last year," said Mangal Singh Sandhu, director, agriculture.
However, sounding the optimistic note, he said all the area would be eventually covered, as Punjabis never leave their fields without crop.
Assurances nonetheless, the delayed rain is bound to impact the yield. Besides, it would affect groundwater depletion and increase cost of farmers, as they are irrigating fields on diesel-run pumps, the director said.
Foreseeing a dip in production and depletion in the water table, the agriculture department is now trying to push the farmers towards direct sowing, which needs less water.
"The department has launched a drive to educate the farmers about direct sowing. This way, we would be able to catch up on the delay," he said.
However, the farmers, who are already unhappy due to delayed monsoon, are more upset with the state government for the erratic power supply.
"PSPCL had promised regular eight-hour supply for the paddy season, but gave only four to six hours of supply that too either interrupted or low voltage, which proved to be of no use. The canal irrigation system also didn’t help, as water failed to reach the tail ends of feeders," said Satnam Singh Behru, president of Consortium of Indian Farmers Association.
"In fact, the PSPCL and irrigation department officials are misleading the government by presenting false data. The CM must appoint DCs and SDMs to assess the ground situation and apprise him of the farmers’ grievances," Behru said.
"It’s a drought-like situation and the government must ask Centre to declare Punjab a drought-hit state. The paddy, which we are sowing now, is because of groundwater pumped on gensets," said Jagdish Singh, a resident of Panjola.
"It’s difficult to take up sowing of paddy. The diesel cost and high labour charges have already hit us hard. We are taking to sowing paddy so late, as we cannot leave fields without crops," lamented Joginder Singh, a resident of Laout village.