Chandigarh: Instances of stubble burning in Haryana declined by 48 per cent between October last year and January 2023 compared to the same period in 2021-2022, said state agriculture and farmers’ welfare minister Jai Parkash Dalal, adding that the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is confident about achieving its “zero burning” target.
In an exclusive interview with ThePrint, Dalal talked about the state government’s approach to stubble burning, minimum support price (MSP) for farmers, why he feels the Congress is a “sinking ship”, and preparations for assembly elections to be held in the state next year.
The minister, notably, is the BJP MLA from Loharu in Bhiwani district, where the charred bodies of two Muslim men, allegedly killed by cow vigilantes, were found last month. When asked about this, he said that neither the deceased nor accused were from Loharu and that the guilty should be given the “strictest punishment”.
Also Read: Pakistan-occupied Kashmir will be part of India in 2-3 years, says Haryana minister
‘48% decline in stubble burning ‘
On the issue of stubble burning, a major contributor to air pollution in the national capital region (NCR) each year, Dalal said that Haryana had made considerable strides.
Incidents of stubble burning in the state declined “by 48 per cent from 6,800 to 3,800” between October 2022 and January 2023 compared to the same period in the previous year, he said. He also claimed that there had been “more than 50,000” stubble burning incidents in Punjab in the October 22-.
Dalal added that the Haryana government has been buying stubble from farmers at a fixed price of Rs 2,500 per quintal. “Farmers have less time to sow the crop. If the government buys the stubble at a reasonable price, the farmers will definitely not burn it,” he pointed out.
The agriculture minister further pointed to Delhi’s role in the region’s air pollution, owing to “dust, industry and local problems”, and also fired a salvo at Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor Arvind Kejriwal.
”Kejriwal’s mindset is to harass the farmers, but there is pollution throughout the year in Delhi,” he said.
“It is easy to blame the government. Since Kejriwal now has a government in Punjab as well, this year, he has accused the Haryana government, not the farmers (for stubble burning).”
‘Best mandis’, higher agri budget
Mandis (agricultural produce markets) in Haryana are the best in the country in terms of infrastructure, Dalal said, adding that work is underway to set up a “huge mandi” on 550 acres of land in Kahnaur.
Tenders worth Rs 2,500-3,000 crore will be floated for this mandi and the government is expecting it to generate an annual turnover of Rs 40,000-50,000 crore, he said. “We will earn 25 per cent of our (agriculture department) budget of Rs 1.75 lakh crore from this mandi.”
Dalal added that the Haryana government has increased the allocation for agriculture in its annual budget five-fold in the last five years. “In FY 2013-14, the budget was Rs 800 crore and this year, it has been kept at Rs 6,200 crore. The irrigation budget has also been increased by 30 per cent.”
He said that the government’s plan is to ensure that rainwater does not remain stagnant in a farmer’s field for more than three days and that Rs 1,200 crore has been sanctioned for the flood control department for this purpose.
Sugarcane, millets, fisheries
On the Haryana government’s decision to increase the rate for procurement of sugarcane by Rs 10 and the demand by farmers that it be hiked to Rs 420 per quintal, the minister said the government can’t make everyone happy.
“The sugarcane payment system in Haryana is the best in all of India,” he said, adding that for the last 8-10 years, farmers in the state have been getting the highest prices for the crop compared to other states.
Asked if increased focus on millets over wheat will benefit farmers, Dalal said that both have their own place. Millets, he explained, are grown on the sandy land of districts in southern Haryana including Narnaul, Mahendragarh, Rewari, Bhiwani, Hisar, and Fatehabad.
“PM Modi exhibited his far-sighted vision by proposing in the UN that 2023 be celebrated as the Year of the Millet. Since millets are not produced in snowy countries like America and Canada, they are importing them from India. So at present, the price of millet is higher than wheat. The MSP of wheat is around Rs 2,100 and that of millet is Rs 2,350,” he said.
He added that the Haryana government has sent money to farmers through direct benefit transfer (DBT) for the procurement of bajra (pearl millet). “Farmers have been paid Rs 600 per quintal without having to bring their crops to the mandi,” he said.
Dalal pointed out that Haryana has another strength that many may not be aware of: fisheries.
“The general public may not know… despite not having a solid water body in the state, fisheries worth Rs 2,500 crore are reared here,” he said. The state government has also formed a pond authority, he added.
So far, he said, about a thousand farmers have been trained as part of the state government’s initiative to promote brackish-water prawn culture. The target, he added, is to train 10,000 farmers to become a part of this movement in the next two-three years.
‘Ours is a government of gau bhagat’
Terming the deaths of 45 cows who were allegedly poisoned at a gaushala (cow shelter) run by the Karnal municipal corporation in January this year as “unfortunate”, Dalal said he suspects the cows were killed by “some criminal for the business of dead cows”. The police, he added, have registered an FIR and the law is taking its course.
“Ours is a government of gau bhagat (cow worshippers). There is also a cow protection law in the state. And as many 650 gaushalas have been set up, which currently house at least 5.5 lakh cattle,” he said.
On the killings of two Muslim men, Junaid and Nasir, Dalal said the case had nothing to do with his constituency Loharu, where the bodies were found.
“A conspiracy was hatched to defame us by spreading the scandal elsewhere. The police and court must give the strictest punishment for these incidents,” he said.
Junaid and Nasir, residents of Rajasthan’s Bharatpur, were allegedly abducted and killed last month in Haryana by cow vigilantes who purportedly suspected them of cow smuggling.
‘Congress is a sinking ship’
Asked about the Congress’s promise to give farmers MSP with a legal guarantee under the ‘C2’ formula suggested in the Swaminathan Commission report if voted to power, Dalal said the opposition party was “100 per cent lying and talking about impractical things”.
Explaining further, he said: “The cost of land in Haryana ranges from Rs 75 lakh to Rs 1 crore. Under the C2 formula, land value is also added to the MSP. The MSP for crop worth Rs 1 crore is Rs 10 lakh, then we add more profit to it. How will the government pay this much money?”
The A2+FL formula for calculating MSP considers the actual cost of production in addition to the estimated value of family labour in cultivating a crop. However, the C2 formula incorporates additional expenses, such as estimated rent on land and capital interest, leading to a higher cost of production.
The Congress, he said, is a “sinking ship” that will do anything to attain power. “The AAP is the same. They also came into power by raising slogans and big promises, but they are not true to their word anymore,” he added.
On his party’s preparations for the Haryana assembly polls next year, Dalal said the BJP is always in election mode with all its cadres from the chief minister to booth-level workers engaged in ensuring the welfare of the poor.
”We do service and as a result, people keep blessing us,” he claimed.
The minister also said the state government is working hard for the upliftment of “29 lakh families with an annual income of less than 1.8 lakh” who were identified with the help of the state’s Parivar Pehchan Patra Yojana, a family ID card scheme.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
Also Read: E-tender is CM Khattar’s new mantra. Haryana sarpanches call it attack on ‘village culture’