The Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday curtly asked the Punjab government not to appeal farmers for crop diversification if it could not make arrangements for maize procurement.
“Don’t play fraud on farmers. Let them grow what they want. By encouraging them for crop diversification, you are cheating them,” the high court bench of justice SS Saron and justice Lisa Gill observed during the resumed hearing of a petition filed by one Gurnam Singh, who had sought that Punjab government be directed to procure maize on minimum support price (MSP) announced by the Centre.
As the hearing resumed on Tuesday, the petitioner’s counsel, JS Toor, pointed out that the Centre was to file an affidavit on Punjab government’s proposal on maize procurement. To which, assistant solicitor general Chetan Mittal, who appeared for the Centre, apprised the court that there was nothing new in the proposal sent by Punjab.
“We have rejected the proposal,” he said.
The Punjab government has been arguing that procurement should be done by the central agencies and if Punjab was to do it, the Centre should provide advance cash for the same and compensate for incidental losses. It has also stated that maize can’t be used for public distribution system (PDS) as there was no demand. This proposal was repeated by the state to the Centre. The Centre, on the other hand, had been maintaining that it was ready to compensate the state for the losses incurred for distribution of maize for the PDS. But As of procurement, it wanted state agencies to do it and is refusing to provide any advance for the same stating that such a provision could not be made as other states were also not being given similar benefits.
During the hearing, it came to light that due to diversification campaign by Punjab to encourage farmers against paddy cultivation, maize cultivation was on the rise. In the 2016-17 season, 91,700 hectares is under the maize cultivation in the state and the government has estimated a produce of 3.8 lakh metric tonnes. Last season, 25,000 metric tonnes maize was received in state mandis.
The high court has adjourned the case for September 27 for further arguments. However, the court was miffed that the state was running a campaign for crop diversification but was not giving incentives to farmers opting for the maize crop in place of paddy.