Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal last week asked Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh to sanction a Rs 21 crore regional research centre in his home bastion.
This will be the ninth fish research centre to be developed by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in India and is aimed at expanding fish farming in the pond areas that have both brackish and fresh water, reports TimesOfIndia.
This would be the fourth such centrally-funded institution that has either come up or has been approved in Bathinda in the past one year. An All India Institute of Medical Sciences has already been approved here while the foundation-laying ceremony for the Central University is likely on September 7.
According to CIFA and state fisheries department, there are 750 hectares of panchayat ponds and 250 hectares of private fish farms in Bathinda with just 76 fish farmers. The state fisheries department statistics show that Bathinda ranks third in Punjab after Ludhiana and Sangrur in terms of fishery resources and fish production. Punjab has overall 36,682 acres of water bodies, including panchayati and private ponds where fish farming is being done.
A seven-member team led by ICAR's additional director general S K Singh and Bhubaneshwar's Centre Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA) on Wednesday reached Bathinda for their second inspection. They held a detailed meeting with local officials.
CIFA has already submitted a detailed report before the Union agriculture ministry listing both merits and limitations of the Jodhpur Romana site. For instance, it points out that "there are no ponds in the proposed site, which are yet to be excavated with additional expenditure which is not reflected in the financial plan of CIFA".
The report also says that the site has easy accessibility as it is just 7 km from Bathinda city and has canal water availability for 11 months, subject to approval from irrigation department. The chief minister had met Singh on August 26 to seek the Centre's approval, eight months after he had shot off a missive to the agriculture ministry for the research centre.
The January 17, 2015, letter by the chief minister reads: "It is informed that Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has approved the regional research centre of Central Institute of Fresh Water Aquaculture (CIFA) at Jodhpur Romana village, in Bathinda district. For this purpose, state has provided 12 acres of prime land on a 33-year lease for a token amount of Re 1 per acre per year."
State fisheries department officials, however, believe that Bathinda may not be the right choice to develop farming.
"We need to focus on our reservoir areas like Ropar and Harike to develop a good market and branding for our Amritsari fish. Pond farming can only be developed in those areas where there's enough water to spare or manmade lakes," said a senior official with agriculture department.