Gurgaon: Haryana Agriculture Minister Om Prakash Dhankar on Friday said the state government will release Rs.500 crore to cotton farmers who lost their crops to whitefly. Dhankar said in the absence of experts and consultants the government ended up paying huge money to farmers as compensation for crop damaged by insects or natural calamities. "The government has its limitations; it cannot hire consultants and experts and pay huge salaries. Had there been a consultant, the state government would not have to pay Rs.600 crore to sugar cane farmers," he said. The minister was speaking after inaugurating a seminar on 'Agriculture in Haryana: Converting challenges into opportunities', organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India in Delhi.
He also asked the sugar mills to take up the responsibility of cane farmers' welfare. "Similarly, basmati rice exporters should ensure paddy growers get the best price for their produce; this is required to take the agricultural sector forward," Dhankar said. Highlighting the challenges faced by the agricultural sector in the country, particularly Haryana, the minister said, "Land ownership is one of the biggest challenges faced by the agricultural sector as tenant farmers do not get any compensation in case of any eventuality." Sharing concerns over the loss of soil fertility due to excessive use of pesticides and also due to burning of agricultural waste, Dhankar said, "Hardly 20 percent organic material is left in our soil; we are reaching an optimum level." He said Haryana needed to promote water conservation in a mission mode. "Water recycling and recharging needs to be promoted even in urban areas as per capita water consumption is about 150 litres in urban centres compared with 50 litres in rural areas," he added. Dhankar hailed the Centre's new crop insurance scheme and said it will prove highly beneficial for farmers across the country.