Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday emphasised the need to bring synergy amongst the departments of Cooperation and Animal Husbandry & Dairy Development to boost the crop diversification programme across the state.He was addressing a public gathering after laying the foundation stone of the Verka Mega Dairy plant here.The plant is being built at a cost of Rs.358 crore and will be completed in three phases. It will have milk handling capacity of 11 lac litres per day and generate direct and indirect employment generation of 500 and 80,000 respectively.The Chief Minister exhorted the farmers to come out of the rut of wheat-paddy cycle and shift to dairying as allied farming. He said that with the ever increasing production of milk, more such milk plants would be required across the state to give further impetus to dairy development, thereby helping the farmers who were facing acute agrarian crisis owing to low returns due to nearly stagnated Minimum Support Prices (MSP) and ever increasing costs of inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc.The Chief Minister also inaugurated the Verka Mohali Dairy as a 'Fully Automated Fermented Unit' at a cost of Rs.100 crore through a remote control. The unit will have additional milk processing capacity of 2.5 lac litres, 2.5 lac litres of lassi and 100 MT of Dahi per day.This project has been completed in record period of 18 months.As a part of Cooperative Week celebrations from 14th to 20th November, the Chief Minister said that the first phase of the plant would be completed at a cost of Rs.138 crore, with milk processing capacity of 2 lac litres per day, in 18 months with direct and indirect employment generation of 250 and 32000 persons respectively.The second phase would be completed in 2022, with additional milk processing facilities for 3 lakh litres per day at a cost of Rs.120 crore, and direct and indirect employment generation of 250 and 48000 respectively.Subsequently, in the third phase, additional milk processing facilities at a cost of Rs.100 crore for 6 lac litres per day would be added in 2024, which would have milk drying capacity of 60 MT per day.
Lambasting the anti-farmer organisations and other political parties which have unleashed false propaganda against the government over procurement of paddy in the state, the Chief Minister pointed out that out of 160 lac metric tonnes of paddy procured till date, 157 lac metric tonnes had already been lifted and payments had been made to the farmers. The remaining paddy having high moisture content over and above the prescribed limit would also be soon lifted by the procurement agencies. He said the Akalis were making an issue out of non-issue just to register their existence as the people had already rejected them and now their own senior party leadership too had deserted them.The Chief Minister further criticised these self styled leaders of so called pro-farmer organisations for deliberately instigating some farmers to burn paddy stubble in the open farms despite strict guidelines of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The law for the common man and even for Chief Minister was the same and everybody was bound to abide the law of the land, he said.Captain Amarinder Singh expressed satisfaction over decrease in the cases of stubble burning this season due to vigorous campaign launched by the state government to create awareness amongst the farmers, as compared to the corresponding period of the last year.The Chief Minister said he had already vehemently pleaded with the Prime Minister for allowing Rs. 100 per quintal as incentive to the farmers, over and above the MSP on paddy to farmers who abstain from burning paddy, but there has been no response to his plea so far.
The Chief Minister mentioned that his government had taken several path breaking initiatives to provide subsidised farm equipment and agro-machinery for in-situ management of paddy straw. Under this programme, the Agriculture department had so far distributed 2149 Rotavators, 2174 happy seeders, 192 paddy chopper combo, 1047 paddy straw mulcher, 1052 MB Plough and 1148 Zero Till Drill machines to prevent stubble burning.Chiding the Delhi Government, the Chief Minister asked how Punjab could be responsible for all the pollution in the national capital when there was no such pollution in Chandigarh from where it crosses over to Delhi.These leaders should refrain from indulging in blame game and politicking over such sensitive issues and should rather suggest some concrete solutions to tackle this problem, he added.In his address, Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa blamed the previous regime of SAD-BJP for destroying all the cooperative institutions, which had a glorious legacy spanning over 65 years for their vested interests. He complimented the initiative taken by Captain Amarinder Singh to revive these cooperative institutions, especially Milkfed, Markfed and Sugarfed through modernisation and upgradation of these plants.He said that the modernisation and up-gradation of existing milk plants at Verka in Amritsar at a cost of Rs.52 crore, and at Jalandhar at cost of Rs.35 crore, would be completed by February-March, 2019. Subsequently, Patiala and Ludhiana milk plants would be modernized at a cost of Rs.20 crore and Rs.100 crore respectively. Similarly, the cooperative sugar mills would be soon upgraded and modernized at Gurdaspur, Batala and Ajnala to enhance their cane crushing capacity with co-generation facilities.
Animal Husbandry & Dairy Development Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that this modern milk plant would act as a catalyst to add value to the milk produced in the region by the local dairy farmers. He also lauded the state government’s campaign against adulterators for selling spurious quality of milk and milk products, which has now resulted in net increase of Milkfed sales by 35-40%.In his welcome address, MLA Bassi Pathana Gurpreet Singh GP thanked the Chief Minister for fulfilling the long pending demand of the people of the area by laying the foundation stone of ultra modern Verka Mega Dairy plant. Earlier, the Chief Minister planted a sapling in the complex of the upcoming Dairy Complex as a part of the State Government’s Mission Tandrust Punjab and visited the stalls put up by various cooperative institutions like Milkfed, Markfed, PUNCOFED, Sugarfed, Punjab State Agriculture Cooperative Bank, Punjab State Cooperative Bank etc.On the occasion, the Chief Minister honoured the members of eight cooperative societies from the state and five societies from Fatehgarh Sahib for rendering outstanding services to strengthen the cooperative movement. The Chief Minister also released a coffee table book depicting the legacy of Verka and its achievements and activities.Prominent amongst others who were present on the occasion were MLA Fatehgarh Sahib Kuljeet Singh Nagra, MLA Khanna Gurkirat Singh Kotli, MLA Payal Lakhbir Singh Lakha, MLA Samrala Amrik Singh Dhillon, Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, Additional Chief Secretary Cooperation & Development Viswajeet Khanna, Special Principal Secretary to CM Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, Registrar Cooperative Socities Vikas Garg, Chairman Markfed AS Samra and MD Milkfed Manjit Singh Brar.