Punjab finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa may have announced several perks for the agriculture sector, including provident funds for farmers, financial relief to families in which farmers committed suicides and medical insurance as part of the Budget 2016-17 for the state but several agricultural experts and farmers have pointed out all perks are futile without crop insurance.
They stressed that if crop of farmers are not insured by the state government, they will continue to face losses, get trapped in debts and eventually commit suicides.
MS Kang, former vice-chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) and editor-in-chief of journal of crop improvement opined that introducing weather-based crop insurance is the first step to help farmers. “Weather is the biggest challenge of agriculture today. Each year, farmers have to suffer huge losses when their crop gets affected due to inclement weather. So, having proper crop insurance is a must and I must say this insurance is need of the hour if we want to save agriculture and discourage suicides among farmers,” said Kang.
He suggested that there should also be some law where farmer like business organisations should be allowed to declare him bankrupt as this can be another method to vanish the grave issue of suicides.
PPS Pangli, a progressive farmer and head of various farmer associations, including Borlaug Farmers Association for South Asia (BFASA) said, “Each year Budget for agriculture get announced, but always without anything on crop insurance which is the reason that farmers today have become distressed. If Haryana and several other states of the country can have crop insurance plans then why can’t Punjab? Agricultural experts have stressed a lot on crop insurance in different seminars and conference, but the state government seems to have given no importance to their views. Secondly, the Punjab government should allow farmers of the state to sell their produce in mandis of other states also.”
Sardara Singh Johl, chancellor of Central University, Bathinda, and a noted agricultural economist of the country while stressing on the need of crop insurance added it is shocking that there was nothing on pension scheme for the farmers. “Provident funds seem lucrative, but they will be misused either directly by the farmer or his family. After all, through this fund, one can withdraw money anytime and there may not be any saving whereas with pension scheme, future or old age of the farmers can be made secure. For `50, 000 medical insurance announced, I feel the state government should also make it clear as how farmers under what circumstances will be eligible for this insurance”, he suggested.
Rajwinder Pal Singh Rana, a progressive fish farmer, who runs his own fish farm in Mandiani village near Ludhiana, and has been selling his fish in various Indian states lauded the state government announcing `18 crore for fisheries sector. “For this announcement, I am personally thankful to Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal as I was part of the same meeting along with several other fish farmers where the CM had taken our suggestions on issues faced by us. Accordingly, he assured us that big amount will be announced in the budget for fisheries”, shared Rana.
AS Nanda, vice-chancellor of GADVASU, also appreciated the state government’s decision on announcing `18 crore for fisheries. He said with this amount, fisheries will get a big boost and there is huge scope of fisheries in Punjab.