Punjab seeks Rs7410 crore drought relief package

Joining the chorus of states demanding drought relief from the union government, a Punjab team led by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal met central leaders in New Delhi on Wednesday to demand a Rs7,410-crore package for farmers in the state.

Badal, who led a delegation of Akali Dal and BJP leaders, also demanded another Rs2,000 crore in drought relief, Rs100 per quintal for rice, and Rs50 for maize over and above the minimum support prices for the ongoing kharif season.

"We have met the prime minister and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to discuss the important issue of drought and the impact of low rainfall on agriculture throughout the country, particularly Punjab, and demand a Rs7,410 crore package," Badal told reporters in New Delhi later.

He said the agriculture minister had hinted that the union government may announce a bonus over and above the minimum price for rice farmers for the rabi season, starting October.  

On August 20, the centre had increased the minimum support price for rice for the 2009-10 season to Rs950 per quintal for average quality and Rs980 per quintal for higher grades. In 2008-09, the government had procured paddy at Rs900 per quintal for fair average quality and at Rs930 for higher grades. This included a bonus of Rs50 per quintal over and above the MSP. 

The delegation also demanded that the centre grant Rs3,000 crore to revamp the canals in Punjab. Badal requested the agriculture minister to send a central team to assess the drought situation in the state, instead asking farmers to shift to other crops.