With reference to the central government’s concern over curbing paddy cultivation in Punjab, experts and students of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) expressed their reluctance to do the same. The state government along with its farmers is yet to prepare itself practically to accept diversification in new crops instead of paddy or even wheat for that matter.
Various experts conceded that paddy cultivation consumed a lot of water, which directly influenced the fast depleting ground-water table scenario but suggest the central government to help Punjab in various ways in crop diversification to shift from paddy to other crops.
“Why will Punjab’s farmers who have been cultivating paddy from last many decades think of giving up paddy cultivation? It should not be ignored that agriculture in the state is market driven. In other words, the central government will have to give assurance to the farmers that if they cultivate some other crop, they will get better or at least an equal rate as paddy in the “mandi”,” shared PAU vice-chancellor BS Dhillon.
Agreeing with him, GS Buttar who heads the department of agronomy maintained that if they asked farmers to stop paddy cultivation, not only would the farmers suffer on economic grounds but the state would also get affected by the same.
“I would like to share that to take farmers away from ubiquitous paddy or even wheat cycle, the state government had already submitted a diversification plan some time back but as the central government could not come up with any concrete results and solutions to motivate Punjab towards crop diversification, Punjab continues to give a green signal to paddy and wheat cycle.
But, whenever they come up with crop that has a similar market as paddy and wheat already has and of course similar subsidies, state government will encourage farmers towards diversification,” stated Buttar who was also of the opinion that in the mean time there was a need for better training programmes for farmers who cultivate paddy on efficient irrigation systems to save water.
On being asked what other crops could be cultivated in Punjab instead of paddy, Buttar suggested, “Maize and cotton can go well along with various fruits and vegetables but again I would say that the central along with state government will have to prepare the market accordingly.”
State director of agriculture MS Sandhu said, “We are eager to promote cultivation of those crops that consume less water and are already working hard on this but the central government is yet to help us on this front. Cotton and maize cultivation can be encouraged but only with similar subsidies and market prices as paddy has otherwise farmers will never get into any diversification.”
Himmat Singh Sidhu, a second year student of BSc in agriculture recommended that diversification must be planned thoroughly and efficiently.
“Few years ago, when basmati cultivation was encouraged by the state government, almost every farmer began with this cultivation which as a result failed to set good rates for basmati in the market. In clear words, excess cultivation should also be checked,” said Sidhu while final year student Ravinder Singh added, “Till a new diversification plan is finalised and the state is practically ready to help the farmers to diversify towards other crops, let’s concentrate on various efficient ways of not only saving water but also prevent it from polluting it for which I blame all the industries that openly flush out their waste in water bodies including canals from where many farmers take water for irrigating their fields."