Expressing that state-run Punjab Agricultural University still needs to do a lot to reach out to farmers and strengthen its extension education activities, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann Friday said that instead of waiting for farmers to come to them, researchers need to visit fields and help the agriculturists.
“Just now, our director research said that farmers should come to PAU for any problem. Please reverse this mindset. Don’t wait for farmers to come to you, you go to the fields and find what their problems are,” said Mann. He was addressing a gathering after inaugurating the Kisan Mela at PAU.
“If crops get infested, does anyone from cooperative society or agriculture department reaches out to tell us which spray we should use? No. We ask each other, and do what other farmers are doing. Entire village starts spraying the same medicine without knowing if it is effective or not. With folded hands, I request scientists to save farmers and reach out to them,” he said, adding being from a farmer’s family, he knows how things work in villages.
Mann said that it was shocking that despite having the most fertile lands, farmers in Punjab were unhappy whereas those living in extreme conditions in US, Canada were prosperous. “We need to come out of AC rooms and go where problem is,” said Mann.
The CM said that the state is fully 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
Mann also said that in coming days an important decision will be taken to get rid of the menace of paddy straw burning. He asked what kind of system it was where the government boasts of paddy production but doesn’t want the stubble that will be produced along. “For burning stubble, FIRs are registered against farmers and he is made apraadhi anndaata. Government orders and slogans on buses is not going to stop stubble burning,” said Mann.
The CM 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.
“FCI doesn’t have anymore capacity to procure paddy. They are full for next five years. Punjab is the highest contributor to central pool despite rice not being our staple diet…we have sacrificed our waters for it. This needs to stop. A scientist told me that the motors being used in Punjab to extract groundwater are being used by other countries to extract oil. This is where we have reached,” he said.
Mann said that India was importing pulses worth crores from other countries such as Columbia and Mozambique. “I had flagged during NITI Aayog meeting that Punjab should be given responsibility to grow pulses for the country but farmers want equal returns from other crops as much they get from paddy. Vietnam is an example of how it has scripted a success story in agriculture,” said Mann.
Earlier, Mann arrived at PAU amid heavy security cover and the campus was turned into a fortress since Thursday. Some farmers also protested and alleged that they were hassled due to CM’s security paraphernalia and were not allowed entry inside the campus. Some farmers under the banner of “Kisan Mazdoor Welfare Society” held a demonstration at PAU mela demanding legalization of poppy opium (khus khus) cultivation. Considered the largest in the region, farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan etc throng PAU Kisan Mela, which was held physically after two years due to pandemic.