After receiving flak from all corners over its failure to control the whitefly attack on cotton, the Punjab government has decided to bifurcate the agriculture department and have a separate wing for plant protection.
The arrest of the top officer of the agriculture directorate of Punjab Mangal Singh Sandhu for his alleged involvement in a multicrore pesticide scam has jolted the government into action. The separate directorate will take steps to save crops from pest attacks and vagaries of weather.
Top officials in the agriculture department told HT that the government has given inprinciple nod to the proposal that would soon be taken up at a meeting of the council of ministers before being implemented.
Sources said the new directorate is likely to get functional before the onset of forthcoming rabi season when wheat cultivation begins. For past many decades, the Union ministry of agriculture has separate directorate for plant protection, quarantine and storage. The state government is also working on similar lines.
“Plant protection and saving crop from pest attack is a vast subject which needs special attention so we have come up with a proposal for a separate directorate,” says additional chief secretary (development) Suresh Kumar.
Vice chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) Baldev Singh Dhillon also felt the need for a separate directorate to protect plants, especially when the state is indulging in intensive agriculture and efforts are being made to diversify.
Apparently, taking lesson from the recent fiasco, when the agriculture directorate failed to take corrective steps immediately after the attack of whitefly was reported, the state government has proposed a separate set of officers and experts with chemistry and entomology background for better understanding of the subject.
The directorate also expects to calendarise arrangement for purchase of pesticides keeping in view the crop pattern. This is being done to avoid knee-jerk reactions, say officials. The new directorate would also deal with judicious use of pesticides to prevent ecological degradation.