THIS WAS THE most serious move the Punjab Government made to analyse reasons behind farm suicides in the state and suggest ways to ensure no farmer or agricultural labourer opts to end his life because of agrarian distress: Chief Minister Amarinder Singh proposed, and the Punjab Assembly set up a five-member committee of lawmakers to take upon this onerous task.
Nine months, 53 meetings, innumerable visits to villages and towns of Punjab and elsewhere, the Committee of the Punjab Assembly has come up with never-before-heard solutions, some of them absolutely out-of-the-box, metaphorically as well as literally.
Out of a
box, in fact. An apiary, boxes in which honey bees are kept.
"Many diseases can be cured with just the aroma of honey bees. For example, a disease like asthma can be cured in 3-4 such sittings (of inhaling the bee/honey aroma emitting out of an apiary box). A farmer can enhance his income by Rs 500 per sitting," the Committee's report says in a matter-of-fact way, educating Punjab's farmers about how to increase their income, after it deduced, following massive brainstorming sessions, that the real reason behind suicides was low income of farmers.
If a farmer could earn Rs 500 by allowing an asthma patient to inhale the honey/bee/wax aroma from one box for a few minutes, it should be possible for him to offer this service to at least 20 patients in one day, thus adding a neat Rs 10,000 per day income to the farmer's budget.
Allowing for a weekly off day to the farmer, a luxury in the agrarian world, it can still result in an income of more than Rs. 2.50 lakh in a month. Two boxes of honey bees can jack up the farmers’ gross income to Rs 5 lakh a month.
"Many diseases can be cured with just the aroma of honey bees. Asthma can be cured in 3-4 such sittings. A farmer can earn Rs 500 per sitting by allowing an asthma patient to smell the honey/bees/wax." — Punjab Vidhan Sabha Committee's Report, Page 65.
When this author informed agricultural policies’ expert Devinder Sharma about this unique (read peculiar) profit-garnering formula proposed by the Vidhan Sabha panel comprising MLAs, he was left shell-shocked. "I keep coming across many inanities in government reports, having spent years poring through such documents, but this was something I could have never expected,” he said, as he tweeted the visual of this particular para with his comment.
In its 99-page report, tabled in the Punjab Assembly in the last Budget Session, the Committee has also advised farmers to become entrepreneurs and profit from the widespread instance of cancer and diabetes.
"Because of cancer and sugar disease (literal translation
), the demand for pollen of bees (sic
) is rising. This pollen sells for Rs 2,000 per kilogram in the market. It takes just 5-7 days to collect this much pollen, from which medicine is prepared. Much income can be had in this way," the report, currently being seriously studied by top Punjab bureaucrats, said. (Page 64).
In fact, poor Punjab farmers, who find themselves pushed to the brink of suicide and reeling under debt from which they are crying for an escape, can actually become global entrepreneurs, if only they turn to Page 64 and care to read the exertions of the Committee of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, which claims to have fulfilled its "responsibility" (zimmevari
, page v) with "complete honesty" (poori imandari
, page 1) and "complete dedication" (poori tan-dehi
, page v).
"Makhiyan di royal jelly di antar-rashtri mandi vich bahut zayada mang hai." (There is massive demand for the royal jelly of honeybees in the global market.)
Under the sub-head, Bee Propolis, a term that the Committee did not care to translate for the farmers, the report said propolis (also popularly known as bee glue) is now an ingredient in many medicines, "even in toothpaste."
Honey bee based tourism can be developed and huge profits can be made. Children, youth and elderly people enthusiastically come to witness the mysterious lifecycle of the honeybees. This show of nature can be ticketed and profits can be earned. —Lawmakers’ panel in its report submitted in the Punjab Assembly.
The farmers of Punjab, who are finding it hard to eke out decent wages, should market this resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax with exudate gathered from plants. Also, the Assembly panel suggested that "there is great demand for comb honey in the market. "Iss nu vech ke vee fayada uthaiya ja sakda hai. (Profits can be made by selling it, too.)"
Suggesting still more ways of enhancing the income of farmers to keep them from committing suicide and beating the agrarian distress, the Committee said they can earn a lot of money by selling tickets for Apitourism.
Here is a rough translation of the Committee's exertions (page 65): "Apitourism can be developed and huge profit (chokha munaafa) can be earned. Children, young people and the elderly enthusiastically come to witness the mysterious lifecycle of the honeybees. This (show occurring in nature) can be ticketed and profits can be earned."
In its report, published in Punjabi, the panel did not care to translate ‘Apitourism’.
Surprisingly, the Committee strongly recommended that the government should formulate a "solid policy” (Thoss Policy
) to encourage the apiary sector but did not propose that the poor farmers of Punjab be immediately given subsidised apiary boxes so that they can start earning big bucks without losing any time. The panel did, however, ask the government to check spurious honey being sold in Punjab ("naqli shehad nu farriya jaave
The Committee did not leave any aspect uncommented upon. Out to analyse the reasons for farmers' suicide, and tasked with making suggestions to ensure that no farmer walks that fatal path, it said:
"Makhiyan di awaaz de sangeet naal man di shanti vee mildi hai te bahut lok raat nu makhiyan di awaaz sunan layee uhna paas raat bitaunde hun." (Page 65)
"ਮੱਖੀਆਂ ਦੀ ਆਵਾਜ਼ ਦੇ ਸੰਗੀਤ ਨਾਲ ਮਨ ਦੀ ਸ਼ਾਂਤੀ ਵੀ ਮਿਲਦੀ ਹੈ ਤੇ ਬਹੁਤ ਲੋਕ ਰਾਤ ਨੂੰ ਮੱਖੀਆਂ ਦੀ ਆਵਾਜ਼ ਸੁਨਣ ਲਈ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਪਾਸ ਰਾਤ ਬਿਤਾਉਂਦੇ ਹਨ."
(Punjab Today Editorial Staff decided not to translate this paragraph into English. With due apologies to the Punjab Assembly's Committee, we request the readers to seek help of friends to decipher the last sentence. - Ed)
For more comprehensive reports on the important work of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha's Committee meant to help ameliorate the problems faced by farm suicide affected families, please click the following links:
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