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Punjab Agricultural University in line of farmers’ ire

punjab Updated: Oct 03, 2015 23:51 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times
Punjab Agricultural University

Angry farmers confront PAU vice-chncellor Baldev Singh Dhillon during a kisan mela in Bathinda.(HT Photo )

Chandigarh: In a disturbing trend, the Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) - hailed as mother of the green revolution and virtually revered by farmers - is fast losing its respect and credibility among the farming community that is openly venting its ire on the institution.

The farmers’ anger was clearly visible at PAU’s kisan melas held in Bathinda and Gurdaspur in September. Irate farmers hurled seed packets and paper balls at organisers, disrupting the event. Another mela organised on the PAU campus turned out to be a damp squib after chief guest Punjab and Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki and state agriculture minister Tota Singh failed to turn up, apprehending farmers’ wrath.

The morale of farmers is at an all-time low as both rabi (wheat) and kharif (paddy) crops have suffered losses. The whitefly attack on cotton has come as an added blow.

“The farmers have no one to look up to. In this scenario, their frustration is understandable,” opine experts. PAU vice-chancellor Baldev Singh Dhillon’s remarks blaming farmers for the cotton crisis have added fuel to fire.

“There are no new varieties, no tangible results of research. The farmers are helpless and have been left with no option but to take to streets and raise slogans against government,” add experts.

Stagnant yield frustrating farmers

“There used to be strong link between government, the PAU and farmers which seems to have broken now. The aspirations of farmers are not being fulfilled,” says eminent economist Sardara Singh Johl and chancellor of Central University of Punjab, Bathinda.

The yield of wheat and paddy has become stagnant and the PAU is unable to come up with newer varieties. This has resulted in discontent among farmers.

“The system seems to have collapsed. There is no system of checking seeds and pesticides. There are no funds for research and the yield is stagnant. There are no new varieties to bail out farmers,” says Johl.

“Despite all this, the expectations of farmers and all other stakeholders in the agri sector are rising,” he adds.

Trust deficit adding to mess

“There is visible amount of mistrust between farmers and the PAU,” says agriculture analyst Devinder Sharma. He feels universities are not actually coming to the rescue of farmers but are promoting industrial interests and blaming farmers to save themselves. Scientists have started behaving like spokespersons of political parties. They are defending their research and blaming farmers. The PAU must introspect,” he says.

Not getting timely help: Farmers

Farmers, especially those reeling under the whitefly attack, blame the PAU for not taking adequate steps in time.

“Scientists have failed to judge the situation in advance. They should have come to the rescue of farmers immediately when trouble started. Adding to their woes, spurious pesticide was supplied to them. The agriculture department, too failed to fulfil its responsibilities,” says Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of a Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) faction.

“What would farmers do when their entire crop is destroyed due to the carelessness those are to protect it,” he asks.

Wrong to blame farmers: Experts

Experts have flayed the PAU V-C who blamed farmers for whitefly crisis.

“In case, the farmers are not adhering to advice, one can mention this fact in one’s report. But one can’t blame the beleaguered farmers publically,” they say.

“The government is also responsible for the crisis. Crops are failing and the central government is not giving proper remunerative prices. To add to it, productivity has become almost stagnant,” says farmers’ commission consultant PS Rangi. A researcher can’t focus on his work, if he has to struggle to get his salary, he adds.

Politics at play, claims PAU V-C

PAU V-C BS Dhillon admits that trust deficit has cropped up. “However, there is also lot of politics at play. There is paucity of funds as a result the research has suffered. We can’t take big leaps as we used to do in the past. Lately, the vagaries of weather have worsened the situation. Manpower crunch is another big problem,” says Dhillon.

He also said farmers’ expectations were sky high. “They want big results and that too fast. We are expected to do more than what we can deliver,” said Dhillon. He claimed that farmers only want PAU’s advice to increase yield. “But they have failed to check input costs,” added Dhillon

The V-C, however, said the picture wasn’t that grim.

“Despite odds, our research to create a new non-BT cotton and non-basmati paddy varieties is at an advanced stage. Also, active research was going on other crops, including wheat, peas, brinjal and sugarcane,” said Dhillon.

Clearly, it’s high time for the PAU to weed out the seeds of discord and re-establish its reputation and rapport with the farming community.