Mechanised farming hits poll bump in Punjab

Written by Swarleen Kaur | Chandigarh | Updated: Mar 31 2009, 05:55am hrs
Agriculture in Punjab, the countrys grain bowl, is already lagging in the use of new technology. Now, the state government's ambitious plan to introduce mechanised paddy cultivation by importing 500 paddy transplanters to replace farm labourers may also have to wait for a year because of the coming Lok Sabha polls.

Following the enforcement of code of conduct, the state government has put a freeze on subsidy to the agricultural sector till May. As a result, there will be no subsidy available for the paddy transplanters either. The cost of each machine is around Rs 1.60 lakh, and the state government had earlier announced to offer 50% subsidy to farmers who would opt for the machine.

Paddy sowing in Punjab begins in May. To ensure the use of paddy transplanters, the state government would have to act fast to procure the machines and then train farmers in the use of new technology. Speaking to FE, director agriculture Punjab BS Sidhu said, We have written to the Election Commission, requesting that the state government should be allowed to continue subsidy for agriculture. We have also explained that there is a proper system to select farmers for the subsidy. If we get the go-ahead from the Election Commission within a fortnight, we will be able to introduce mechanised paddy cultivation, which is a major need in the farming sector.

Last year, the state had witnessed acute shortage of farm labourers, which exhorted the government to promote mechanised sowing of rice saplings. In this light, the state decided to import 500 paddy transplanters from China for the paddy season of 2009-10. The Central government's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme picked up momentum in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which badly affected the inflow of migrant labourers in Punjab. Due to the scheme, a good percentage of labour was not willing to come to north India.

The state government had directed the agriculture department to arrange these machines, and was to provide subsidy through Punjab State Farmers Commission (PSFC). To create awareness among farmers about mechanised sowing of rice saplings, the state government had bought seven machines from China and four from Japan. Punjab Agriculture University ( PAU ) had also demonstrated the use of these transplanters at various places.

According to a PSFC official, in a recent communiqu to the Farmers Commission by the financial commissioner development, it has been clearly stated that the state government would not pay any subsidy. This order has forced us to delay our plans. But we have requested the state government to take necessary steps to help farmers and provide subsidy on these machines and other sectors.

To increase profits of small and marginal farmers who constitute more than 70% of the total hands engaged in agriculture, there was a plan to introduce 450 agro centres in the state.

These service centres will function as collective pool of latest agricultural technology as each Centre will have stock of 50-60 HP tractors, laser land levelers, disc harrows and tillers, bed planters, ridgers, rotovators and mini walking tractors (rotary tiller).

The small and marginal farmers could hire the necessary machinery from these centres. The state government had announced to subsidise purchase of machinery by the each centre.