While the small and marginal farmer is doomed
  -by Dr. H.S. Sidhu former head Deptt. of Economics GNDU

[Punjab accounts for just 1.57 % of India's territory and 2.39% of its population but it contributes more than 50% of the total food grains purchased for the central pool. Punjab 's success on the agricultural front is the result of adoption of modern technology consisting of high yielding varieties of crops, and other modern inputs such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and adoption of modern farm practices. Since the beginning of “green revolution” in mid 1960s, Punjab agriculture has recorded a rate of growth of around 5% per annum compared to the all India growth rate of 2.71%. Of late Punjab is facing serious crisis and the strategies which were once hailed as the model of development to be emulated by others, are now proving to be a curse.

Punjab model of agrarian transformation was born out of the food shortages of the 1960's. Thus, came into existence the agencies such as Fertilizer Corporation of India, Food Corporation of India, Agriculture Price Commission and Public Distribution System. A credible agricultural research with a number of Agricultural Universities with Indian Council of Agricultural Research as a nodal agency was also put in place.
ਤਬਾਹੀ ਦੀ ਕਗਾਰ ਤੇ ਖੜੀ ਏ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੀ ਕਿਸਾਨੀ
ਕੁਝ ਹੀ ਸਮਾਂ ਪਹਿਲਾਂ ਪੰਜਾਬ, ਭਾਰਤ ਦਾ ਸਭ ਤੋਂ ਅਮੀਰ ਸੂਬਾ ਸੀ ਹੁਣ ਇਹ ਦੂਸਰੇ ਨੰਬਰ ਤੇ ਪਹੁੰਚ ਗਿਆ ਹੈ। ਉਹ ਸੂਬਾ ਜਿੰਨੇ ਅਨਾਜ. ਨਾਲ ਭਾਰਤ ਨੂੰ ਮਾਲਾ ਮਾਲ ਕਰ ਦਿਤਾ ਸੀ, ਹੁਣ ਇਸਦੇ ਹਰੇ ਇਨਕਲਾਬ ਦੀ ਦੇਸ. ਨੂੰ ਜਰੂਰਤ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੈ। ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਮੁਲਕ ਕੋਲ ਅਨਾਜ ਦੇ ਵਾਧੂ ਭੰਡਾਰ ਹੋ ਗਏ ਹਨ। 70ਵੇਂ ਦਹਾਕੇ ਵਿਚ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੀ ਖੇਤੀ ਦੀ ਤਰੱਕੀ ਦਰ 7 ਪ੍ਰਤੀਸਤ ਸੀ, ਜੋ ਹੁਣ ਘੱਟਦੀ ਘਟਦੀ 2 ਪ੍ਰਤੀਸ.ਤ ਤੇ ਡਿੱਗ ਪਈ ਹੈ। ਬੇਰੋਜਗਾਰੀ ਵੱਧ ਰਹੀ ਹੈ। ਮਾਹਿਰਾਂ ਮੁਤਾਬਿਕ ਕਣਕ ਦਾ ਰੇਟ 850 ਰੁਪਏ ਕਵਿੰਟਲ ਕਿਸਾਨ ਨੂੰ ਵਾਰਾ ਖਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ। ਪਰ ਸਰਕਾਰ ਬੜੀ ਮੁਸ.ਕਲ ਨਾਲ ਕਿਤੇ 600 ਰੁਪਏ ਤੱਕ ਚੁੱਕ ਪਾਉਂਦੀ ਹੈ, ਉਹ ਵੀ ਸਮਰਥਨ ਕੀਮਤ ਤੇ ਉਪਰ  ੍ਰੁ।ੳ।+ ਦੀਆਂ ਸ.ਰਤਾਂ ਮੁਤਾਬਿਕ ਤਾਂ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੇ ਜੱਟ ਦੀ ਹਾਲਤ ਹੋਰ ਵਿਗੜ ਜਾਵੇਗੀ, ਜੇਕਰ ਭਾਰਤ ਨੇ ਬਾਹਰੋਂ ਸਸਤੀ ਤੇ ਵਧਿਆ ਕਣਕ ਖਰੀਦਣੀ ਸੁ.ਰੂ ਕਰ ਦਿਤੀ ਤਾਂ। ਇਹੋ ਹਾਲ ਝੋਨੇ ਦਾ ਹੈ, ਤਾਂ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਕਿਸਾਨ ਦੇ ਦਿਮਾਗ ਤੇ ਬਸ ਇਹੋ ਦੋਨਾਂ ਫਸਲਾਂ ਬੈਠੀਆਂ ਹੋਇਆ ਹਨ। ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦਾ ਕਿਸਾਨ ਵੱਡੇ ਭੁਲੇਖੇ ‘ਚ ਹੈ, ਤੇ ਅੱਜ ਵੀ 1970 ਦੇ ਦਹਾਕੇ ‘ਚ ਜੀਅ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ, ਜਦਕਿ ਦੁਨੀਆਂ ਅੱਗੇ ਨਿਕਲ ਗਈ ਹੈ। ਹੋਰ ਤੇ ਹੋਰ ਮਹਾਂਰਾਸਟਰ ਸੂਬਾ ਵੀ ਅੱਗੇ ਜਾ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ। ਜਿਣਸ ਦੇ ਰੇਟ ਦੇ ਹਿਸਾਬ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੀ ਕਿਸਾਨੀ ਮਹਿੰਗੀ ਹੋ ਗਈ ਹੈ। ਇਨੇ ਐਂਵੇ ਵਾਧੂਟਰੈਕਟਰ ਤੇ ਮਸ.ੀਨਰੀ ਖਰੀਦ ਰੱਖੀ ਹੈ। ਉਦਾਹਰਣ ਦੇ ਤੌਰ ਤੇ ਇਕ ਟਰੈਕਟਰ ਸਾਲ “ਚ ਘੱਟ ਤੋਂ ਘੱਟ 1000 ਘੰਟੇ ਚਲਣਾ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਹੈ, ਜਦ ਕਿ ਇਹ ਸਿਰਫ 400 ਘੰਟੇ ਚਲਦਾ ਹੈ। ਇਹਦਾ ਕਾਰਣ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਕਿਸਾਨ ਬਹੁਤ ਛੋਟੇ ਛੋਟੇ ਮਾਲਕਹਨ, ਇਥੋਂ ਤੱਕ ਕਿ 71 ਪ੍ਰਤੀਸ.ਤ ਕਿਸਾਨਾਂ ਕੋਲ 5 ਏਕੜ ਤੋਂ ਘੱਟ ਜਮੀਨ ਹੈ। ਅੱਜ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੇ ਕਿਸਾਨ ਨੇ 7000 ਕਰੋੜ ਰੁਪਏ ਮਸ.ੀਨਰੀ ਤੇ ਖਰਚ ਰੱਖੇ ਹਨ ਜੋ ਕਿ ਵਿਹਲੀ ਪਈ ਹੈ। ਕਿਸਾਨ ਨੇ ਮੁਫਤ ਦੀ ਬਿਜਲੀ ਟਿਊਬਵੈਲਾਂ ਤੇ ਅੰਨੇਵਾਹ ਵਰਤੀ ਹੈ, ਜੱਦ ਕਿ ਪਾਣੀ ਦੀ ਤਹਿ ਦਿਨ ਬਦਿਨ ਥੱਲੇ ਜਾਈ ਜਾ ਰਹੀ ਹੈ। ਇਲਾਜ ਇਕ ਹੀ ਨਜਰ ਆ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ, ਕਿ ਕਿਸਾਨ ਰਵਾਇਤੀ ਫਸਲ ਚੱਕਰ ਛੱਡ ਕੇ ਨਵੀਂ ਲੀਹ ਅਖਤਿਆਰ ਕਰੇ। ਇਸ ਸੰਬੰਧ ਵਿਚ ਭਾਰਤ ਦੇ ਮੰਨੇ ਪ੍ਰਮੰਨੇ ਅਰਥ ਵਿਦਵਾਨ ਡਾ: ਐਚ ਐਸ ਸਿੱਧੂ ਕੁੱਝ ਖੋਜ ਭਰਪੂਰ ਬਦਲਵੇਂ ਹਲ ਵੀ ਸੁਝਾ ਰਹੇ ਹਨ

After more than three decades of the adoption of  new agricultural strategy with its obsession with grains  to the exclusion of other goods and cash crops. Now the food scenario at the national level has completely changed from the food shortages of mid 1960's to the surpluses of late 1990's. In this changed context Punjab's wheat- paddy dominated agrarian economy is becoming non- sustainable. First, the growth rate of 5%  per annum achieved by the state's agricultural sector though it has been declining over time. For example, during the first decade of 'green revolution' recorded a whopping 6.63% compound rate of growth per annum. During the second decade (mid 1970's to mid 1980's) it came down to 4.74% in the third decade it was 3.87%. It is projected to fall further to 2.38% in the 9th plan. Thus, the growth rate of Punjab's agriculture which continues to be the mainstay of state's economy is declining over time. In terms of the per capita income Punjab has already slipped from the first to the 2nd place in the all India ranking.

 Secondly, it is not merely the decline in the agriculture's rate of growth much more important is the fact that the Punjab capacity to absorb labour has also declined over time. With huge backlog of  unemployed youth, and the incapacity of agriculture to absorb any more labour force the situation is really alarming for the state's planners and policy makers.

Third, given the input and output price structure and superior yields of wheat and rice compared to the competing crops, Punjab agriculture has become essentially a wheat rice mono- culture. About 48% of the total gross cropped area of the state is under wheat and another 31.25% is under rice. Thus, about 80% of the total gross cropped area has nearly stagnated. Wheat yield is still rising but at a much slower pace. The 'economic cost' of Punjab wheat to Food Corporation of India is Rs. 850 per quintal if transport and storage costs are taken into account. In contrast to this wheat is available internationally at $105 to $110 per tonne (Rs. 483 to Rs. 506 per quintal). Govt. of India is not allowing free import of wheat. Thus, but for the Government's import restrictions; it would have been extremely difficult for Punjab farmers to sell their agricultural produce. With more than 34 billion dollars of foreign exchange reserves, India also cannot deny under the WTO rules to major wheat exporters for a long time. Once it happens the Punjabi producer will be in real trouble. Already the marketing of wheat and rice is posing a serious problem for the state controlled buying agencies.

Fourth, FCI is saddled with burgeoning food stocks which on April 1, 2001 stood at 45 million tones while it requires only around 14 million tones annually for managing the Public Distribution System (PDS) and another ten million tones for food security and price stabilization purposes. Thus, against 24 million tones it is holding more than 45 million tones. Central Govt. proposes to withdraw FCI gradually from procuring food grains and want to pass on this activity to the state agencies. If it happens it will be totally disastrous for states like Punjab and Haryana. Punjab is finding increasingly difficult to sell its wheat and paddy.

Fifth, Punjab had made huge investments in farm machinery. During 1998, the State had 3.65 lakh tractors, 1.45 lakh seed drills, 3.25 lakh threshers, 7300 combine harvesters and more than 9 lakh tube wells. The total investment in farm machinery is at least worth Rs.7000 crores. The tractors populations of the state constitute about 20% of all the tractors in the country. Each tractor is being used for about 400 hours whereas to be economical it must be used for at least 1000 hours annually.

More than nine lakh tube wells are being supplied electricity by the State free of cost. As a result, these are being used indiscriminately. This is leading to depletion of underground water table which is falling at a rate ranging from 1 to 3 feet per annum. Every year farmers have to deepen these tube wells costing the state's farmers about Rs.50 crore annually. Farmers will have to install submersible pumps. A submersible pump costs at least Rs.7000 which is beyond the reach of a small / marginal farmer. Thus raise the cost of cultivation but will also lead to even more iniquitous use underground water which only rich farmers with resources to install submersible pumps will be able to make use of. Falling water table is threatening to seriously disturb the ecological balance leading to make much of Punjab land barren.

 Sixth, the state's agrarian economy is in crisis because of declining profitability of the major crops. Recent calculation by Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana show that paddy wheat rotation in the state agriculture gives an annual net return of Rs.9000 per hectare or a return over variable cost of Rs.23800 per hectare in 1996- 97. About 26.5% farmers in Punjab own land below 2.5 acres. 45% have land holding below 5 acres. Therefore, a family of five or six members with five acres of land will earn Rs.47600 from crop husbandry. Thus a farm family owning land up to five acres along with dairying can earn Rs.5700 per month which is roughly equal to the gross salary of a newly appointed clerk. With such meager earnings at least 70% farmers in Punjab cannot afford to send their children to colleges or universities.

There are reports of suicides by farmers because of their inability to return loans. Distress sale of farm machinery, tractors and even land are being reported almost daily.

Some options for the Future

There is an urgent need to diversify the agrarian's economy. From wheat- rice combination go production of other more profitable crops such as soybean, sunflower and other oilseeds, sugarcane, fruits, flowers and exotic vegetable. Recently, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana has suggested a drastic reduction (of at least 20%) in area under paddy, if the deterioration in the underground water balance of the state is to be checked and the state's land is to be prevented from becoming barren.

But the farmers in Punjab will not diversify to alternative crops and crop combinations simply because we researchers and policy makers want until crops grown have assured market and are more profitable. For this to happen the state will have to provide a minimum support price for these alternative crops, Apart from this, the farmers will have to be imparted training for growing these crops. At the initial stage this role can only be performed by either State agencies.

 A part from this the State will also have to create a network of better rural roads, transport facilities, a chain of cold storages and refrigerated container facilities. The state will also have to invest in airports from where these fruits, flowers and exotic vegetables and other perishable agro- commodities are airlifted promptly. Thus, instead of withdraw; this requires a far more active role of the State if the process of agrarian transformation is to be carried out successfully.

 It also means moving away from crop husbandry sectors to other farm based activities such as dairy farming, poultry, bee keeping and such other allied activities. Already dairying is emerging as the fastest growing sectors. At present about 28.1% of the farm income is contributed by livestock enterprises in Punjab. But with the present quality of livestock the average yield per animal is very low (around 2.5 liter per day) which is too low in comparison to high cost of deed and fodder making dairy an uneconomical proposition. Artificial insemination and other means to improve the quality of livestock is of utmost importance if dairying is to become a viable allied economical activity. The unproductive and uneconomical animals which are heavy burden on livestock economy of the state must find alternative use.

 No country, or region with a predominantly agrarian economy can achieve economic prosperity is achieved by modern industrial societies. Experience of western industrialized countries suggests that all those countries have experienced a shift in the structure of their economies away from agriculture to secondary and tertiary sectors. Unless a significant proportion of the labour force is moved from low productivity agriculture to high productivity manufacturing, trading and service activities, the economy can not become a high productivity. That explains why, every developing economy strives to become an industrialized economy.

 Normally one would argue that Punjab should go in for agro based industries. But we must also keep in mind that Punjab is a part of the relatively free, large Indian market and it has to compete with other Indian states and push its way through. In this context, the state must concentrate its limited resources on developing only that agro- based industries where it has a comparative advantage.

 We have carried out an exercise on the basis of data published by Central Statistical Organization to identity agro- industries where Punjab has comparative advantage Vis- a  Vis other states of India. The following agro- processing industries were identified which should become core of Punjab's future industrialization strategy. These are (1) Malt, Liquor and Malt, (2) Dairy products, (3) Manufacture of Prepared Animal Feed, (4) Tanning, Curing, Finishing, Embossing and Japanning of Leather, (5) Leather, Footwear and other products, (6) Weaving Blankets, Carpets and Rugs, (7) Weaving and Finishing of Cotton Textiles, (8) Manufacture of Textile Garments, (9) Knitting in Mills, (10) Cotton Ginning, Cleaning and Balling, (11) Paper, Paper board and products, (12) Wool cleaning, Balling and process. In our opinion Punjab should concentrate only on these identified industries and not squander resources away on other agro- processing industry.

It also can definitely go in for setting up modern high tech footloose industries in the area of information technology, electronics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Another area which needs immediate attention of the Punjab Government is education. It is really shameful that a state which until recently was boasting of as the richest state of the country ranks 17th among the Indian states in terms of literacy. Higher education is not at all a priority of the state. Primary education particularly in rural areas is in a total mess.
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