Govt demands Rs 800-cr relief
The state government on Sunday sought a Rs 800 crore interim relief package from the Centre, expressing its anxiety over the drought-like situation in the state caused by a deficit monsoon so far. It also sought 1,000 MW additional power allocation from the central pool in lieu of extra money being spent by the state government on purchase of power for the agriculture sector besides additional cost of diesel borne by farmers for irrigation of paddy crop, in view of deficient and erratic monsoon.
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said the state government has approached Prime Minster Manmohan Singh, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to immediately come to the aide of Punjab farmers, as failure of crop could have a bearing on the nation's food security.
He added that 70 per cent deficient rains in June and July was the cause of concern for Punjab, as it contributes more than 50 per cent paddy to central pool.
Powercom, the power utility of Punjab government, was making all efforts to procure power for the agriculture sector even at exorbitant rates with the single purpose of supplying sufficient power to the farming sector in the paddy sowing season, Sukhbir said, adding that it has purchased power of Rs 6,556 crore even as farmers had to incur additional cost on diesel.
"The Centre should compensate the state and its farmers by sanctioning interim relief of Rs 800 crore as first installment," he said.
Sukhbir also demanded that the Union Power Ministry should "wake up" to the crisis and sanction 1,000 MW additional power from the central pool to Punjab, so that sufficient power could be provided to agriculture sector in this "extraordinary drought period".
He added that Punjab was committed to bring 29 lakh hectares area under paddy.
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