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Farmers Agitation & the myth of Punjab’s agriculture production.

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In a debate on Republic TV, recently, Ms. Sanju Varma of BJP said 70% of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) allocation goes to just two states — Punjab and Haryana. To counter this narrative, Prof D K Giri a known antiestablishment debater, retorted, ‘but they also contribute ‘70% of the country’s food production’.

Do they contribute? Let’s find out:

Statistics for the year 2017 – 18 show as follows:

Let us analyse wheat production in the nation

The largest contributor was Uttar Pradesh (31.98%); followed by Punjab #2 (17.9%); Madhya Pradesh #3 (15.96%); while Haryana #4 (11.19%); Rajasthan, Bihar and Gujarat follow at #5, #6 and #7 together accounting for 21.09% of total wheat production. This shows that Punjab and Haryana together contributed 28.28% of the total wheat production in the year 2017 – 18.

Let us analyse rice (Paddy) production in the nation

The largest contributor state was West Bengal, with 13.26% for the same period (2017 – 2018). Followed by Punjab #2 (11.85%), UP #3 (11.75%), Andhra Pradesh #4 (7.24%), Bihar #5 (7.01%),
Tamil Nadu #6 (6.45%), Orissa #7 (5.78%), Telangana #8 (5.54%), Assam #9 (4.57%), Chhattisgarh #10 (4.19%), Haryana #11 (4.0%), Madhya Pradesh #12 (3.65%) followed by other states 14.71%.

Thus Punjab (@#2) and Haryana (@#11) together contributed 15.85% of the country’s total rice production. Therefore, the 70% myth gets blown away and it is not only the uninformed Professor, but the general impression among most of us is that Punjab and Haryana are our exclusive food suppliers.

During the same debate, Shri Chengal Reddy, a renowned farmer leader from Andhra Pradesh said that rice and wheat producers are not the only farmers produce! A point to note and ponder. There are fruit and vegetable producers, producers of green chili and spices, pulses, oil seeds, tubers, rubber, cotton, sugarcane and others. They are farmers, too!

Therefore, Punjab farmers cannot hold the country to ransom is the message that Chengal Reddy, as well as the statistics given above, delivers. In the backdrop of the fake #farmersrprotest, India & United Arab Emirates (UAE) have signed an ambitious agreement in which, UAE will invest 3 Billion USD in a food processing complex in India which will purchase food grains, fruits & vegetables directly from 22 lakh farmers in MP, UP and Gujarat.

Procurement of wheat by the government agencies surpassed last year’s figures of 341.31 Lakh Metric Tonnes (LMT) to touch 341.56 LMT on 24.05.2020, surmounting all impediments created due to the spread of Covid – 19 virus and the country wide lockdown. Wheat harvesting generally starts towards end of March and procurement commences in the 1st week of April every year. However, with the imposition of nationwide lockdown with effect from midnight of 24th & 25.03.2020, all operations came to a standstill. The crop had ripened by then and was ready for harvesting. Considering this, Government of India gave relaxation to start agricultural and related activities during the lockdown period, and the procurement could start from 15.04.2020 in most of the procuring states. Haryana started little late on 20.04.2020.

The biggest challenge was to ensure that procurement is done in a safe manner during the pandemic. This was achieved through a multi – pronged strategy of awareness creation, social distancing and deployment of technology. The number of purchase centres were increased substantially reducing the farmer footfalls in individual purchase centres. New centres were set up using every facility available at gram panchayat level and the numbers were increased sharply in the major procuring states like Punjab where it went up from 1836 to 3681, 599 to 1800 in Haryana and from 3545 to 4494 in Madhya Pradesh. Using technology, farmers were provided specific dates and slots to bring their produce which helped in avoiding overcrowding. Strict social distancing norms were followed and sanitisation activities were undertaken regularly.

In Punjab, every farmer was allotted specific spaces earmarked for dumping of stocks and no one else was allowed to enter those areas. Only people who were directly associated were allowed to be present during daily auctions.

In addition to the threat of spread of virus, there were 3 major challenges faced by the procuring agencies in wheat procurement. As all the Jute mills were closed, production of Jute bags used for filling of procured wheat stopped, creating a major crisis. This was tackled by using more plastic bags, supplemented by used bags with very strict quality conditions. Through continuous monitoring and timely actions, it could be ensured that the procurement was not stopped due to lack of packaging materials anywhere in the country.

There were unseasonal rains in all the major producing states leading to wheat getting exposed to rain water. This posed a major threat to the farmers as such stocks could not be procured under normal specifications. Government of India and Food Corporation of India (FCI) intervened immediately and after conducting detailed scientific analysis, specifications were re-fixed to ensure that no farmer is put to distress while making sure that the produce so procured meets the minimum quality requirements of the consumers.

3rd major challenge was the tight labour supply position as well as the general fear created among the masses about the virus. This was addressed by taking a series of confidence building measures (CBM) at the local level by the state administration. Labour was provided with adequate protection safety gears like masks, sanitisers and other precautionary measures were also taken to ensure their safety. Payment was swift and timely.

Launched in June 2000, ‘e-Choupal’, has already become the largest initiative among all Internet – based interventions in rural India. ‘e-Choupal’ services today reach out to over 4 million farmers growing a range of crops – soyabean, coffee, wheat, rice, pulses, and shrimp – in over 35,000 villages through 6,100 kiosks across 10 states: Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Punjab farmers must invite them to avail full potential of their produce. This enthusiastic response from farmers has encouraged ITC to plan for the extension of the ‘e-Choupal’ initiative to altogether 15 states across India over the next few years. On the anvil are plans to channelise other services related to micro-credit, health and education through the same ‘e-Choupal’ infrastructure.

Another path-breaking initiative – the ‘Choupal Pradarshan Khet’, brings the benefits of agricultural best practices to small and marginal farmers. Backed by intensive research and knowledge, this initiative provides Agri-extension services which are qualitatively superior and involves pro-active handholding of farmers to ensure productivity gains. The services are customised to meet local conditions, ensure timely availability of farm inputs including credit, and provide a cluster of farmer schools for capturing indigenous knowledge. This initiative, which has covered over 64,000 hectares, has a multiplier impact and reaches out to around 70,000 farmers.

With such pro Kisan fervour, how can Kisans of the nation, whether from any part of the country feel neglected and are on the street. Sure some anti nationals are behind it and sooner than later people like Yogendra Yadav, Dr. D K Giri and other left oriented non kisans will be caught napping, thrown out and fully exposed.

Rajiv Saxena
Rajiv Saxena
Rajiv Prakash Saxena is a graduate of UBC, Vancouver, Canada. He is an authority on eCommerce, eProcurement, eSign, DSCs and Internet Security. He has been a Technology Bureaucrat and Thought leader in the Government. He has 8 books and few UN assignments. He wrote IT Policies of Colombia and has implemented projects in Jordan, Rwanda, Nepal and Mauritius. Rajiv writes, speaks, mentors on technology issues in Express Computers, ET, National frontier and TV debates. He worked and guided the following divisions: Computer Aided Design (CAD), UP: MP: Maharashtra and Haryana State Coordinator to setup NICNET in their respective Districts of the State, TradeNIC, wherein a CD containing list of 1,00,000 exporters was cut with a search engine and distributed to all Indian Embassies and High Commissions way back in the year 1997 (It was an initiative between NIC and MEA Trade Division headed by Ms. Sujatha Singh, IFS, India’s Ex Foreign Secretary), Law Commission, Ministry of Law & Justice, Department of Legal Affairs, Department of Justice, Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), National Jail Project, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Minorities (NCM), National Data Centres (NDC), NIC National Infrastructure, Certifying Authority (CA) to issue Digital Signature Certificates (DSCs), eProcurement, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MPA), Lok Sabha and its Secretariat (LSS) and Rajya Sabha and its Secretariat (RSS) along with their subordinate and attached offices like Directorate of Estate (DoE), Land & Development Office (L&DO), National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC), Central Public Works Department (CPWD), National Capital Regional Planning Board (NCRPB), Housing & Urban Development Corporation (HUDO), National Building Organisation (NBO), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), BMPTC and many others.

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