Chandigarh, Aug 2 (IANS): Upset with the central government over the state not being given anything in the recently-announced Rs.1,900 crore package for states with deficient rainfall this year, the Punjab government Thursday sought a package of Rs.2,380 crore for the food grain-surplus state.
Expressing his "shock" at Punjab being completely overlooked, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, in a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sought his "urgent, immediate and effective intervention" for a "central package of Rs.2,380 crore for the beleaguered Punjab farmers reeling under one of the worst monsoon failures in recent history".
Badal said that he would meet the prime minister soon on the issue.
He noted that there has been a crippling 65 percent deficit in monsoon up to July 25 this year.
"The country at large and Punjab and the northwest region of the country are in the throes of one of the worst droughts since the 1960s. Worse, the forecast for the remaining stretch of the monsoon period holds out no hope for the Kharif season. The timing of the rainfall deficit has dealt a crushing blow to the peasantry in Punjab as it hit them at the sowing season," Badal said.
"The 65 percent rainfall deficit means that the farmers will have to incur an additional expenditure for sustaining the paddy crop transplanted in about 27.80 lakh hectares and other Kharif crops like cotton and maize by using diesel to run pump-sets."
He said that the additional expenditure on the farmers and the state government owing to the deficit monsoon would amount to Rs.2,380 crore.
The chief minister said that the treatment meted out to the leading agricultural state of the country has been shocking. Punjab alone contributes nearly 70 percent of the food grains to the national kitty despite having only about 1.55 percent of the country's geographical area.
"We have been seeking a comprehensive economic package to save the nation's saviour. Unfortunately, even the financial packages announced for farmers in the country have by-passed the country's leading agricultural state. All this has virtually broken the back of agriculture and agriculturists in the state," Badal said.
"The monsoon-stricken present juncture is one of the most critical points of time when farming and farmers in Punjab and the overall food security of the country are face to face with a crisis of frightening magnitude," he said.
Stressing that Punjab's farmers had brought India to its present status of being food grain surplus from the time when the nation had to import food grain or beg for it from other countries, Badal claimed that the faulty policies of the central government were driving Punjab's farmers to humiliation and even death.
"The farmer of Punjab has sacrificed two of his most precious assets at the altar of the national interest - land fertility and water. And he has always done it with dignity and without seeking any favours from any government. If he is not saved, the country at large would be pushed back to the days of disgrace and hunger yet again," Badal said.