Cotton cultivation tops the preference of Haryana farmers who have opted for the financial incentive-linked crop diversification drive of the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP-JJP coalition government.


The key objective behind encouraging farmers to choose alternative crops is to reduce area under paddy, cultivation of which is being blamed for a sharp dip in groundwater table of Haryana.


The state produces nearly 68 lakh metric tonne (LMT) paddy, including more than 25 LMT basmati, sown on about 32 lakh acres of land. For the first time, the farmers switching over to an alternative crop in place of paddy will be paid Rs 7,000 per acre incentive.


Since the ‘Mera Pani, Meri Virasat’ policy was launched in the first week of May, nudging farmers to shift to less water-consuming crops, as many as 82,693 farmers of 22 districts have opted for this scheme (till June 22) and committed to diversifying 84,649 hectare land, states the official data.


According to additional chief secretary, agriculture, Sanjeev Kaushal, at the heart of making this ambitious scheme attractive are a range of swift and bold policy decisions made by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.


Of the 82,693 farmers, who have registered themselves on the ‘Mera Pani, Meri Virasat’ portal, over 39,000 farmers have decided to grow cotton in 44,822 hectares instead of paddy. The alternatives these farmers have opted include maize (9,695 hectares), bajra (17,662 hectares), cotton (44,822 hectares), pulses (1,188 hectares) and horticulture activity on 11,280 hectares.


At least 9,032 farmers of eight paddy-rich blocks, including Ratia (Fatehabad), Siwan and Guhla (Kaithal), Pipli, Shahbad, Babain and Ismailabad (Kurukshetra) and Sirsa, where the depth of groundwater level exceeds 40 metre, have also opted for this scheme.


The policy ‘advises’ the farmers of these eight blocks to diversify more than 50% land that was under paddy cultivation last year to become eligible for Rs 7,000 per acre incentive.


Jai Prakash Dalal, agriculture and farmers’ welfare minister, said farmers were being encouraged to avoid planting paddy in areas where the groundwater level had gone below 40 metre. In order to attract farmers towards ‘Mera Pani, Meri Virasat’ scheme, he said, the state government has decided to give subsidy on agricultural equipment for sowing of kharif crops as well. “Farmers will have to apply online to avail the grant by June 30,” he added.


Whether the farmers have actually stopped paddy cultivation in line with the commitment they have made is a subject matter of physical verification that is now underway.


Till June 22, the committees constituted for physical verification had verified 2,137 hectares in 16 districts as the paddy transplantation began on June 15. The real picture of the success or otherwise of the diversification drive will get clear by the end of July when the physical verification of the land would end.


“The CM has personally been monitoring the progress of this scheme,” Kaushal said, praising farmers for taking the initiative and the agriculture department staff for working ‘very hard’ despite the challenges Covid-19 outbreak posed.


While the maximum number of farmers (8,543) opting for this scheme is from Jind district, the district with least takers is Mahendergarh where 85 farmers have come forward to diversify 92 hectares. 232 farmers chose this scheme in Kurukshetra. Fatehabad, Jhajjar, Palwal and Karnal are among the districts where more than 5,000 farmers each have accepted this policy.


The state government has promised the farmers opting for diversification that it will procure maize and cotton under the minimum support price (MSP).

Author: Millionaires