Central relief a cruel joke on state farmers

Saturday, 09 August 2014

Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 8
Though the Central Government has announced relief for rain-deficit states, official sources say that Punjab’s farmers will gain little from it. The decision to award relief was made by the Union Agriculture Minister in Parliament yesterday.

The relief will be given up to 2 hectares (or 5 acres) per farmer as subsidy on diesel at Rs 1,050 per hectare. This comes to Rs 420 per acre. A farmer owning 2 hectares will get Rs 2,100. There are 3.5 lakh farmers in Punjab who own land up to 2 hectares. It is clear that relief will not be given for the entire area under crops. A drum (200 litres) of diesel in Punjab costs about Rs 11,500.

The money will be disbursed by the state government. The state government will send a bill to the Centre which will reimburse the amount.

The state government will give a matching grant to the farmers.

Officials sources said the relief would be given for the post July 15 period. Areas where the rain deficit was less than 50 per cent would not be given any relief.

Though Punjab’s average rain deficit is more than 50 per cent, in some pockets it has been less than 50 per cent. Farmers in the state started transplanting paddy after June 10. The period from June 10 to July 31 was most critical as the farmers had to use diesel to operate their tube wells to transplant paddy.

The Centre has announced a hike in subsidy for wheat seed from Rs 1,000 per quintal to Rs 1,500 per quintal. The seed is available at Rs 2,200 per quintal in the market. After getting the seed at a subsidised rate of Rs 700 per quintal, it may be resold in the open market to flour mills. The Centre has announced some relief on green fodder too. But the allocation is negligible.

Punjab had sought Rs 2,330 crore as drought relief. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had met the Union Agriculture Minister on Monday in this regard.

In 2009, the Manmohan Singh Government had announced Rs 800 crore for Punjab as drought relief. Of this amount, Rs 200 crore was distributed among the farmers and the remaining sum was retained by the state government on the plea that it had spent an additional amount on free power to the farmers.

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