Recommends slabs as per landholding; Cabinet to take call

Not all farmers in Punjab will get free electricity, if the draft Farmers Policy framed by the Punjab Farmers and Farm Workers Commission is accepted in toto by the state government.

All institutional land holders, farmer families with one or more member having held a constitutional post; ministers, MPs, MLAs, Mayors of corporations, chairpersons of panchayats, those having served or retired from government service, those who paid income tax in the last assessment year, and professionals owning agriculture land will have to pay for the power used in the agriculture pump set (AP) connections.

The policy also recommends that farmers having over 10 acres of land get just 50 per cent subsidy on power; while all such farmers making use of drip irrigation get 75 per cent power subsidy.

This year, the total power subsidy to farm sector is estimated at Rs 9,674 crore, which is becoming unviable for the government. Last year, the government was unable to pay almost Rs 5,000 crore to PSPCL towards power subsidy. Other than the economic cost, restricting free power would also help in stopping the indiscriminate use of groundwater for farming.

The draft Punjab Farmers Policy was discussed “informally” in the Cabinet meeting held here this evening. The policy was presented for discussion before the Council of Ministers, but considering the political implications of its provisions with regards to charging regular tariff for power from the rich farmers, it was decided to hand over the draft Punjab Farmers Policy to a Cabinet sub-committee for a detailed study. The policy was presented to the ministers by Chairman of Farmers Commission Ajay Vir Jakhar. Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh will be forming the sub-committee to look into the issue. The original policy was framed in June last year. It had recommended restricting power subsidy to only non-income tax-paying farmers.

Farm commission suggestions 

  • Merge ministries of Agriculture, Cooperation and Animal Husbandry
  • Create data bank on farmers’ ecosystem, leverage ICT to deliver services, set up grievance redressal mechanism
Socio-economic development

  • Provide affordable healthcare & improve quality of rural education
  • Strengthen skill development and ensure equal wages paid to men and women
Climate change & biodiversity

  • No cultivation of paddy on village common lands and each village to have biodiversity reserves
  • Crop and variety based on farm biodiversity to be promoted
Water & power

  • Frame a water policy for optimum use of groundwater
  • Use “abiana” for maintenance of canal systems and enforce law to check theft of canal water

  • Make area-specific crop production plans
  • Diversify to maize, sugarcane and promote animal husbandry
  • Check sale of substandard agriculture inputs

Source: July 31, 2019, The Tribune