Much talked about diversification in agriculture by the state government remains a distant dream if we take a look at condition of hatcheries and fish seed farms functional under the department of fisheries in Punjab.
The hatchery in Mohey village, 20 km from Ludhiana, received water supply only for three months, the reason being non-payment of electricity bill. Not only did it affect the “expected” production, but also forced the fish farmers in the adjoining areas to buy seed from private fish seed farms on higher rates.
Spread over 20 acres, the fish seed farm has 10 brood stock tanks for fish culture, followed by 35 nurseries to rear fish seed. Though equipped with a submersible tube well, the fish seed farm is dependent upon the mercy of the government for supply of water.
The public health department has to pay the electricity bill of the fish seed farm, but it was not paid for almost three years - from 2011 to August 2014 - and in lieu of outstanding amount of Rs 7 lakh, the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited suspended the supply. In addition, there are issues pertaining to manpower and funding that have marred the growth of the fish seed farm.
There are five varieties of fish, including coomon carp, rohu, morak, grass carp and katla and farmers from across the state come to take the fish seeds from this farm, said superintendent, Mohey fish farm, Dalvir Singh.
“In comparison to the production of 9 lakh 41 thousand in 2013, we increased the production to 25 lakh, 63 thousand,” he added.
Against the requirement of eight fishermen, there are just two and both perform the duty of watchman also on rotation basis. Also, there is no additional staff to assist the superintendent who is dispensing multiple duties since 2003. “I have observed that during the peak production days one fisherman goes on leave, which creates a problem at the farm,” said Sukhchain Singh, a farmer planning to diversify from agriculture to fish farming.
Despite repeated requests from the Fish Farmers Association, the government has failed to provide adequate staff at the fish seed farm.
Punjab Fish Farmers Association president Kanwaljit Singh Sidhu, who is also the member of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative, said the government must provide contractual labour at all the 14 fish seed farms across the state.
“In addition, the fish farmers should be given subsidies on a par with agriculturists in the state,” Kanwaljit added. Director, fisheries, Vipin Sood said they had received Rs 7,52,50,000 from the rural development department for the upgradation of the fish seed farms from across the state.