The Rs 7,000 per acre incentive programme launched by the Haryana government to encourage farmers to switch from water-guzzling paddy to other crops has not received the desired response.
While many farmers in the state said paddy gives them good returns, others argued that similar incentive programmes launched in the past have not proved to be beneficial for them.
The scheme was announced by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Wednesday to promote water conservation. Mr Khattar even appealed to farmers to save water for the future generations in the same way they leave their land as inheritance for their coming generations.
About 32 lakh acres is currently used to sow paddy in the state; 1kg rice production consumes 2,000-5,000 litre water.
The Chief Minister said that at present some part of the state fall in the dark zone, which comprises 36 blocks, where rate of depletion of ground water level has doubled in the last 12 years. "It means that where the ground water level was earlier at 20 meters, it has now further depleted to 40 meters," he said. The government will not provide panchayat areas to sow paddy where the ground water depth is more than 35 metres, he added.
The decision, however, has led to insecurity among many farmers who depend on panchayat land to earn their livelihood.
"If we don't grow, what will we eat? Paddy has assured procurement but not the other crops," said Surendra, who has been growing paddy on panchayat land since 1975.
Many farmers also complained that they are yet to receive cash incentives under a similar scheme last year. "They promised similar things last year and we haven't received the money despite growing maize instead of paddy. Why should we trust them this year," asked Surajmal Kundu.
The opposition has also attacked the government for passing the restrictive orders. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that even during the British raj, farmers were not dictated when it came to sowing crop. This will hit the livelihood of farmers in the long run, he said.