The Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Monday approved a proposal of the State agriculture department, which shortlisted Monsanto and two other companies to provide high yielding varieties (HYV) of maize seeds to farmers at subsidised rates during the current Kharif season.

According to a release quoting a spokesperson from the Chief Minister’s office, the HYV seeds of three companies including Monsanto, Pioneer and Shri Ram had been chosen under the crop diversificationprogramme.

It also said that after thorough research and a detailed exercise in collaboration with the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) the State government agreed to subsidise the seeds of these companies, which had reported yields of 8.5 tonnes per hectare during the trials.

The State government would provide Rs 8750 as subsidy for every quintal of these HYV hybrid seeds, which would then be made available at rates ranging between Rs 8,750 to Rs 11,250 per quintal to the farmers.

To ensure their easy availability, the State government has also decided to make these HYV seeds available at all the block level offices of the Agriculture department. The government has also directed the three shortlisted companies to provide all relevant technical support to the farmers for sowing the seeds for their better results.

HYV maize was identified as a major alternative crop under the crop diversification programme of the State government, which proposes to replace about five lakh acres under water guzzling paddy cultivation that is scheduled to begin in second week of June.

In his reaction, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal faction), Balbir Singh Rajewal said that the State government could not have taken a decision that was more against the interests of the farmers.

He said by favouring multinational companies, how could the Punjab government justify its claim that it was seeking to bail out the distressed peasantry from the prevailing agrarian crisis.

Meanwhile, Faridkot-based Kheti Virasat Mission’s chief, Umendra Dutt has termed the decision of the State government as extremely unfortunate as it was contrary to ground realities, which required immediate steps towards eco-sustainable agriculture. He said while there was immediate need to re-orient Punjab’s development model on agriculture, the present decision would only ensure monopolisation of a few companies over food production.