Chandigarh, January 21
Agriculture in Punjab is going through a deep crisis nowadays. If we look at the agricultural scenario in the state, there are four main concerns associated with the agriculture- economical, environmental, health and social. “In order to provide food security to the country, we have ruined our natural resources,” said Surinder Singh, director of Nabha-based Kheti Virasat while speaking at the two-day state-level workshop, organised jointly by the Kheti Virasat and Nabha Foundation, on “Organic Farming: Transition to Organic Agriculture, Challenges and Prospects” at Panjab University, today.

The workshop aims at bringing key stakeholders on a common platform to review the impacts of the contemporary agriculture practices, status of organic farming and to identify the barriers for promoting the best practices in organic farming.

Speaking on the occasion, K. Ashok Rao, an executive member of the All-India People Science Network, while discussing the impact of the WTO on Indian agriculture, said an important mechanism for protection of domestic agriculture was ‘qualitative restrictions’. “This means the nation has the right to disapprove imports if it hurt their farmers,” he said.

He further added that subsidies are major problems. In countries like India, the World Bank and World Bank-trained economists never tire of expressing concern about non-merit subsidies. “For example, in India the subsidy given on fertilisers and electricity is considered a disaster for the nation. But the same World Bank does not expresses its concern when the United States brings in a Farm Bill that increases the already high subsidies,” he asserted.

His views were seconded by Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, chairman, Punjab Mandi Board, and admitted that implications of the WTO would affect small and marginal farmers, as the former would leave them landless.

Voicing his concern, Surinder Singh said more than 109 blocks are overexploited for water and the soil has very low level of organic matter at present. He said our farmers are under about Rs 27,000 crore of agriculture debt and each farmer was having a debt to the tune of Rs 2 lakh. “More than 13,000 farmers have committed suicides in Punjab. According to the State Farmers Commission, this figure consists of about 2 lakh marginal farmers. The main reason is that input cost has been increased in the past 5-10 years and returns are not enough,” he maintained.

Chander Parkash, joint director of Kheti Virasat, added Kheti Virasat has successfully established organic farming model in Punjab with financial assistance from the Nabha Foundation. More than 150 farmers from different areas of Punjab participated in the workshop.

Source: Tribune News Service