Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Punjab: Unsustainable Agricuture

From the breadbasket of India, Punjab has become a basket-case economy.
  • Endowed with ample water and good soil, Punjab’s happy, progressive people had a dream that is now a distant memory.
  • The Centre’s policies aimed at increasing food production to ensure an adequate supply of grain, coupled with export restrictions, have taken a toll.
 Over exploitation of groundwater because of the free power provided to farmers has resulted in the water table falling to dangerously low levels.
In the early years of development government focussed on trickled down theory based on experiences of USA and other western countries.
  • However, the expected progression of Punjab from agricultural economy to industrial powerhouse to service-sector leader never took place.
  • Food processing, essential for agricultural prosperity, never bloomed — for instance, Punjab exports wheat but imports wheat flour.
  • Till such time as off-farm jobs aren’t created, discontent is going to rise.

Reasons

It’s not right to blame GR for the whole mess — there’s more to it than that.

Research:
  • Starved of state government funds, PAU has witnessed decreasing faculty strength and new research has completely ceased in the last decade.
  • The state government imposes high taxes on the purchase of foodgrain by FCI. If just 5 per cent of this were provided to the PAU, it would help its revival.
  • But political expediency takes precedence over vision and foresight to dis-incentivise the monoculture of wheat and rice
Modernization trap:
  • Punjab is suffocating from its estimated 6,00,000-plus tractors.
  • Tractor-ownership is viable only if they are operated for over 900 hours per year. In contrast, average farm-use in Punjab is possibly half this figure.
  • As a result, once a farmer buys a tractor, he works for the bank for life to repay the loan and interest.
Unsustainable water utilisation:
  • Over exploitation of groundwater because of the free power provided to farmers has resulted in the water table falling to dangerously low levels.
  • The cost of drawing water from greater depths is causing more indebtedness among farmers.
Indiscriminate Fertilizer use:
  • Urea is sold at one-fourth the price of table salt today.
  • But the excessive use of cheap urea destroys the soil and leads to more plant vegetative growth.
  • An explosion of insect and pest populations is then inevitable.
  • Indiscriminate, unregulated sale of pesticides and spurious products is leading to an ecological disaster.

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