New Delhi: Punjab has sought financial assistance of Rs 1,000 crore from the Centre for creation of infrastructure to encourage crop diversification in the state.
    
The demand was raised by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal during his meeting with Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar here on Saturday.
    
The Chief Minister said crop diversification was the need of the hour to bail out the beleaguered farmers of the state caught in the conventional wheat-paddy rotation.
    
Badal also urged Pawar's intervention in releasing the Rs 5,112 crore relief package sought by Punjab to bail out the farmers of the state from the current drought-like situation.
    
The package demanded by the state includes Rs 2,531 crore for purchase and arrangement of additional power, Rs 850.80 crore to compensate for additional cost incurred by the farmers on of high speed diesel.
    
The Chief Minister also demanded a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal for paddy over and above the MSP, which he has sought to be revised up to Rs 1,650 per quintal of paddy.
    
The Agriculture Minister assured Badal of all help from the Centre in view of the current crisis due to deficient rainfall.
    
On the issue of diversification of agriculture, Pawar said the Centre would provide financial support to Punjab for diversifying to alternate crops and said the Centre would organise a two-day seminar on August 27 and 28 at Chandigarh to motivate Punjab farmers for diversification of crops.
    
On crop diversification, Badal asked Pawar to ensure announcement of a remunerative Minimum Support Price for alternate crops well in advance of sowing and an efficient procurement mechanism for marketing of such crops.
    
The Chief Minister said such initiatives would help the state to diversify away from rice as many states like Bihar, UP, Odhisa, West Bengal, Assam and Madhya Pradesh have been producing more rice in the last three years.
    
Badal said farmers should get a minimum of 15 per cent higher returns by cultivating alternate crops and by moving away from paddy.
    
He said the area under paddy cultivation in Punjab has increased to 28 lakh hectares, up from only 2.4 lakh hectares in 1961 and the State has been contributing about 90 LMT of rice (135 LMT of paddy) to the Central Pool.
    
On the local subvention to farmers, Pawar assured Badal that he would take up the matter with Finance minister P Chidambaram.

(Agencies)

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