paddy straw burning: Punjab today sought Rs 2,000 crore from the central government for farmers so that they can remove paddy straw without burning it to check pollution and soil damage. The demand was raised by Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh at a meeting with Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh.Farmers in Haryana and Punjab set paddy straw and stubble ablaze every year to prepare ground for the next crop. In the process, they damage soil quality and cause heavy pollution. “We have about 20 million tonnes of paddy straw. Who will use it? We have demanded that the Centre give Rs 100 per quintal, which comes to roughly Rs 2,000 crore,” the Punjab chief minister told reporters after the meeting.As the central government fixes the minimum support price of paddy, it is its responsibility to address the issue of paddy straw, he said, adding that providing Rs 100 per quintal will help farmers to remove paddy straw without burning it. “The Agriculture Minister has assured that he will look into the matter. A final call will be taken after agriculture and environment ministries make a recommendation in this regard,” he added.On farmers’ debt waiver, the Punjab CM said the state has asked the centre to increase its borrowing capacity so that it can waive the farm debt of 10.25 lakh farmers. The issue was discussed with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley yesterday.In the meeting, he said, “We have not asked any funds from the centre. We are asking them to allow us to increase our borrowing percentage, which today is 3 per cent and we want 1.5 per cent more. This will give us additional Rs 9,500 crore to meet this requirement.” There are 17 lakh farmers in Punjab. Around 10.25 lakh farmers will be covered under the debt-waiver scheme.Even farmers with less than 5 acres will be covered, he added. Besides, the state government has asked the Centre to provide deficiency support price for maize and sunflower. The Punjab CM said a National Post Graduate Horticulture Education and Research Institute will soon come up in Amritsar, for which the state has allocated the land. The institute will be inaugurated soon. Besides, he added, a water conservation project with central assistance of Rs 7,000 crore has been sanctioned for Punjab to promote micro-irrigation.
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