Lukewarm response to diversification scheme for water conservation

HARYANA : Finding it difficult to diversify paddy area into maize in 50,000 hectares in just seven blocks, the Haryana government has extended the area to seven districts under the recently launched Jal Hi Jeevan scheme.

These districts are Karnal, Kurukshetra, Jind, Kaithal, Ambala, Yamunanagar and Sonipat — where mainly paddy and wheat are grown.

The government is likely to extend the deadline of the scheme — which was fixed as June 15. Till now, only 10,000 hectares have been registered under the diversification scheme against the target of 50,000 hectares in seven blocks — Assandh, Pundri, Narwana, Thanesar, Ambala-1, Radaur and Ganaur.

Now, farmers of these districts will be able to avail financial benefits of the scheme — aimed at encouraging them to opt for alternative crops like maize in place of paddy.

Advertising Haryana Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Om Prakash Dhankar confirmed the move Thursday.

A senior officer told this newspaper that they were trying to pursuade farmers who take panchayat land on rent for farming to opt for an alternative crop in place of paddy. “It takes time in changing the crop pattern,” said the officer.

In a meeting on Thursday, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar directed officials to study and ascertain which other crops besides maize and arhar dal could be sown in place of paddy so as to conserve water. “Efforts are being made for the diversification of water grazing crops,” he said at the meeting.

On May 21, the government had decided to start a pilot project from May 27 in seven blocks of the state to divert the inclination of farmers from paddy to maize and pulses or oil seeds. For this, the registration of interested farmers was done on the government’s portal.

On the first day of the scheme, 3,491 farmers had decided to shift to alternative crops, mainly maize, from paddy cultivation in their 1,600+ hectares of land. However, officials soon realized that they won’t able to achieve the target of 50,000 hectares in just seven blocks as “it was about 30% of the area under paddy cultivation in the areas concerned which was to be shifted to maize”.

“It’s not easy task for farmers to change their crop pattern suddenly when paddy gives them good income. But we are making efforts to convince them to shift to alternative crops like maize which are equally beneficial to them financially. To save the water for the next generation, we have to make sincere efforts now,” said an official of the agriculture department.

Paddy sowing season in Haryana begins on June 16.