Haryana moves to wean farmers away from paddy on 2 lakh acres

The Manohar Lal Khattar-led government aims to wean farmers away from the water-guzzling paddy on two lakh acres this year. Last year, it had convinced them to steer clear of paddy on one lakh acres.

Haryana Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister JP Dalal told The Indian Express that the government will provide an incentive of Rs 7,000 per acre to farmers who opt for pulses, cotton, maize and horticulture crops in place of paddy under the ‘mera pani-meri virasat’scheme.

Farmers, however, said the incentive was not attractive enough to make them move away from the lucrative paddy.

The state government will also offer an insurance cover ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per acre to farmers who choose to replace paddy with vegetables and fruits for a small premium. “This way we will make horticulture risk free for farmers who fear inclement weather.”

Dalal said there is tremendous scope for horticulture in the state because 60 percent of its area falls in the national capital region (NCR). “It’s easier for our farmers to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to the people of Delhi.’’

Farmers will also be encouraged to cultivate pulses such as moong, moth bean and urad considering the remunerative prices these items command in the market.

“To this end, the agriculture department will provide seeds at cheaper rates, especially to farmers of southern Haryana besides helping them in procurement of their produce,” he added.

The minister said they are developing fruit clusters in different parts of the state to provide better marketing to the farmers. “We have a kinnow cluster at Dabwali in Sirsa district; dedicated areas for mangoes, litchi and peach (prunus persica) in Yamunanagar, and a guava cluster in Fatehabad,” he said.

Launched in 2020 to save water, the ‘mera pani-meri virasat’ scheme has received a lukewarm response from paddy farmers who are faced with depleting water levels.

Dalal blamed it partly on the contract system prevalent in the state wherein the cultivator, who takes the land on rent for only a year, wants to squeeze the maximum profit out of it by using fertilizers and pesticides.

More than half of the land in the state is cultivated under contract system under which landless labourers or farmers with small parcels of land take more land on cultivation for an annual rent (theka) ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 70,000 for an acre depending on its location and irrigation facilities.

“We are figuring out ways to convince these cultivators to leave the wheat-paddy cycle,” said Dalal.

Farmers are, however, not impressed with the incentive of Rs 7,000 an acre for moving away from paddy. Calling it too little, Balbir Singh, a farmer from Gorkahpur village in Fatehabad district, said while paddy fetches him 1 lakh an acre, cotton gets him half this sum.

“Cotton also has a higher input cost. Paddy requires labour only at the time of sowing, while for cotton you need a work force both for sowing and harvesting.”

Mandeep Nathwan, a farmer leader from Fatehabad district, said a large number of farmers will be ready to leave paddy if the government offers them an incentive of at least Rs 40,000 per acre in place of just Rs 7,000.

“Farmers produce paddy worth Rs 50,000 to Rs 1,00,000 depending on the variety of the crop and the produce after an investment ranging from Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000 for an acre. They will stop growing paddy only if they are adequately compensated besides getting assured procurement of their alternative produce,” said Nathwan.

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