14 August Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday made it clear that there was no question of withdrawing free power to farmers in the state, and the same will continue as long as he is leading the government.
The Chief Minister said that though the report of the Montek Singh Ahluwalia led experts group was only a preliminary one, his government would not consider any recommendation on withdrawal of free power by any expert. “As long as I am here, free power to tubewells will continue,” he said, reacting to media reports.
Montek himself clarified during a Video Conference interaction with the Chief Minister that the report of the expert group was not anti-farmer. Media reports suggesting so were misleading, he said, adding that what the group had suggested was diversification as the only hope for Punjab agriculture.
No plan to change free power policy
Montek said that since the state government had categorically announced that it had no plans to change its free power for farmers policy, the expert group had recommended that farmers must be incentivise to diversify out of rice, since the water intensive crop was economically profitable for farmers even though the ecological damage was massive. Diversification implies a reduction in area under rice and modernisation of marketing, which in turn implies a much larger role for the private sector, said Montek.
The expert group under Montek Singh Ahluwalia was set up by the Chief Minister to formulate a strategy for post-Covid economic revival of Punjab.
Captain Amarinder said diversification had already been started in Punjab during his first term as chief minister. He pointed out that the state had significantly increased cotton this year by reducing paddy, but the problem of price support remains a big obstacle to diversification. The farmers need MSP for alternate crops to incentivise them away from paddy, he added.