Forget farming, focus on industrialisation: Punjab

Chandigarh: Long considered the food bowl of the country, Punjab is now asking to be excused from the responsibility of producing wheat and rice.

Punjab government has written a letter to the Union Government saying the state wants to shift from agriculture towards industrialisation.

In a letter written to Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, the state government has asked to be excused from paddy cultivation and to be allowed switch to pulses that need less water.

The water table in the state has fallen by 30 feet in the last decade and now the Punjab government wants Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal to pitch in.

"Rice can be grown elsewhere in well-irrigated areas like Bihar and West Bengal, while Punjab grows pulses. This will increase our food security and solve a variety of problems," says Punjab Agriculture Department Director BS Sandhu.

It was the Green Revolution 40 years ago that turned Punjab into India's largest rice and wheat producer.

But now farmers say the dearth of water, the increasing use of fertilisers and pesticides and shortage of electricity has made agriculture increasingly unviable.

"Agriculture is already a loss-making activity. The shortage of water will only turn Punjab into a desert," says a farmer near Mohali BD Baidwan.

That's not all. The state government says the current minimum support price offered by the Centre for rice and wheat make them unviable.

Ironically, the output of both crops in the state has seen an increase over the past few years.

Punjab wants to industrialise and get more money from agriculture. It wants to be excused from being called the food bowl of the country, posing an ominous threat to the food security of the nation and a new challenge to the government to carry out the perfect balancing act.

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