March 25, 2015 — In a speech in Firozpur, Punjab, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised concerns over environmental vulnerabilities in India, especially with regard to India’s breadbasket, the Punjab state.
As EcoSikh has reported in the past, groundwater depletion in Punjab has reached a detrimental point. PM Modi stated that Punjab has saved the country from starvation, and it is Punjab’s farmers that are the food provider for the nation. Groundwater depletion not only threatens Punjab, but food security within all of India.
PM Modi also appealed to all people of Punjab to grow food with the best scientific methods, using micro-irrigation, and more efficient sprinkler systems. He urged farmers to not flood their plots with water, but instead have faith in modern irrigation technologies. “Crops grow better when we feed them drops not flood them with water…this has been proven as scientific fact,” Modi said. According to the prime minister, new technologies also will improve underground water levels.
One of the bigger issues outline in Modi’s speech was farmer’s overuse of fertilizers on crops. The un-checked use of chemical fertilizers in Punjab is killing farmlands. The use of nitrogen is farming should not exceed four times the amount of potassium, or crops will be damaged. But, in Punjab, the average use of nitrogen is 57 times the amount of potassium. Modi likened the overuse of nitrogen to overdosing on medicine, where a small amount will quell an illness but a large amount can cause death. Similarly, potassium is being used well over its recommended dosage.
PM Modi appealed to the farmers of Punjab “to lead the country and pledge to control the use of nitrogen and phosphorus, and save the country from hunger and disaster.” He added tat “the country’s future is in [the farmer’s] hands and [that they should] take good care of [their] country.”
To combat the over reliance on fertilizers, the Government of India (GOI) has created a plan for its famers called “Soil Health Card,” which will be similar to a citizen’s health card to record the health of a farmer’s land. The plan hopes to save farmers 40,000-50,000 rupees, which would otherwise be wasted out of poor knowledge about their land.
Last year’s droughts and untimely hailstorms shook the farmers’ economy in many areas. Modi announce that he has created subsidization plans to cover losses incurred due to complications.
PM Modi also hopes to undergird the environmental wellness of Punjab by founding the Bhagat Singh Post-Graduate Research Institute of Horticulture and Education in Amritsar to improve farming in the future. According to Modi, under his government Punjab would receive 54000 crore rupees, or $9 billion of funds for plans to improve the land and farming techniques. This new financial commitment from the Modi government triples the amount the state received under the last administration.
Modi also disclosed the development of pension plans for farmers, which can be funded through private-public partnerships, which among his other plans, will begin the process of supporting Punjab’s farms.