Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Monday said that farmers would be able to get the best price for basmati soon, as private buyers would be encouraged to avail tax concessions worth over Rs 150 crore on purchase of the crop over and above the state government fixed price for the commodity.
Badal, accompanied by Bholath MLA Bibi Jagir Kaur, said that farmers should diversify by getting out of the wheat-paddy cycle, the major cause of a depleting water table.
“The government wants to encourage farmers to grow basmati through tax breaks for export and special processing industry,” Badal, who was here to attend 64th death anniversary of Sant Prem Singh Muralewale, said, adding that the move was likely to increase the area under basmati in the state by 40-50%, around 2-3 lakh hectares.
Basmati is grown on around 500,000 hectares in Punjab and consumes less water than the traditional paddy crop.
“We have announced over Rs 150 crore tax concessions a year to private buyers of basmati on the condition that the stakeholders shall buy basmati over and above the price fixed by the state government. This will create an assured market for the basmati,” he said.
The policy will make diversification a reality, besides encouraging the food processing industry, he claimed.
The CM added that a five-member committee headed by the chairman of Punjab State Farmers Commission GS Kalkat, would be formed to recommend basmati price to the government.
“Punjab used its soil and water to meet the foodgrain requirement of the country after independence. Instead of appreciating our contribution, the central agencies are now criticising the state's agriculture policies,” he said.
Badal added that Rs 1,700 crore had been earmarked for repair of link roads in the state.
“Each village citizen will get 70-litre potable water within four years. We are going to establish a modern hospital in all blocks as recommended by the Talwar committee,” he said.
“There is no government in the country, which pays an annual power subsidy of Rs 5,000 crore,” he boasted.
On the decision to impart free school education to 20% girls, even as the SAD-BJP alliance had promised all beneficiaries up the graduation level, Badal ducked the query and went on to claim that girls were being provided free education in the schools.
Interestingly, education department had recently stopped free education for all girl students. The facility was pruned to girls of poor families only.
The CM also announced that funds under Shagun scheme would be allocated within three months to clear the backlog cases. “Subsequently, we will transfer Rs 10 crore in advance to the welfare department so that the beneficiaries can avail the facility on time,” he added.