As farmers in Punjab, India’s key grain producing State, keep crop-diversification at bay and continue with the paddy-wheat crop cycle, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Friday asked the Centre to provide an assured mechanism to give remunerative prices for the alternate crops.
Mr. Mann said Punjab is ready to adopt crop diversification but the Centre must provide assured mechanism to give remunerative prices for these crops. “The Centre must take this step for ensuring that farmers of the State shift from water guzzling crops to less water consuming crops,” he said.
He was addressing a gathering after inaugurating the ‘Kisan Mela’ (farmers’ fair) at Punjab Agriculture University in Ludhiana.
The Chief Minister said that instead of paddy, the farmer of the State is ready to sow sunflower, maize and pulses but for that they must get adequate and assured price. He said that this will help in checking the depleting water table in the State on one hand and making agriculture a profitable venture on the other. He said that this is the need of hour to avert water crisis in the State.
Mr. Mann said that the farmers are worried about the depleting water table and pollution due to paddy straw burning. However, he said that they are not able to come out of the wheat-paddy crop cycle as they don’t want to lose assured price mechanism associated with it.
He said that the crisis of water can never be ignored as we are pumping out water at the same depth in which Gulf countries are taking oil, which is alarming. “Rice is not our staple food but for producing one kilogram of rice we are using 4,000 litres of water due to which we have to adopt alternative crops. The State government is already making sincere efforts in this regard.
According to government data in Punjab, currently, the water table is falling at a rate of 86 cm per year leading to a precarious situation, where no underground water will be available across the State in the coming 15-20 years.