Sirsa, Oct 2 (PTI) Saline land and saline water, which is called a curse for agriculture, is proving to be a boon for the farmers nowadays in the Sirsa district of Haryana, officials said on Saturday.

        There is a lot of land in the state of Haryana, which was often left barren due to the rise in saline water level, but farmers have started earning more money than other crops by doing the business of shrimp fisheries through crop diversification, state Agriculture Minister J P Dalal said.

The economic situation has suddenly strengthened. Fish farming is being done in 785 acres of land in the entire state, out of which 400 acres land is in Sirsa, he said.

        Sirsa district adjoining the border of Rajasthan and Punjab at the last end of Haryana has the highest number of cultivators in the state. In this district, farmers have been mainly cultivating narma, cotton, guar, paddy, wheat since the beginning.          Due to the adoption of traditional farming, where the groundwater went down considerably in some places in this area, thousands of acres of land became saline, while the water level also came up completely, due to which the farmers' production stopped on such land.          Due to which the land became barren. The economic condition of the farmers was also disturbed due to non-fertile land. Keeping in view the condition of farmers across the country, the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana was implemented by the central government to promote the Blue Revolution, the minister said.          The farmers of Sirsa district took up this scheme and today the scheme is proving effective in strengthening the economic base of the farmers, the minister said.

        District Fisheries Officer Jagdish Chandra said there is immense potential for fish farming in saline water and saline land.          Under the scheme, there is a provision of grant of maximum 40 per cent of the unit cost by the government for the general category and 60 per cent of the unit cost for the SC/ST/Women category, he said.          At present, the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana of the Department of Fisheries, which is proving to be very beneficial for the fish farmers, he said.          Farmers interested in fisheries can apply to the fisheries department for grants to buy vehicles (motorcycles, cycles and three-wheelers) for making ponds on land, fish farming in salt water, shrimp farming and selling fish, he said.          He informed that white prawn rearing is being done in about 400 acres of area in the district. In these, 35 acres in village Chormar Kheda, 32 acres in Gudiyakheda, 16 acres in Mithdi including village Bhangu, Jhordwali, Phoolo, Odhan, Darba Kalan, Manak Dewan, Asha Kheda, Karmshana, village Chautala etc.  In villages like white shrimp reared in salt water. Buyers from Telangana and West Bengal come to buy the white shrimp being produced in Sirsa. From here, the fish is exported to various countries including China. Its seeds and feed are brought by fisheries traders from Andhra Pradesh.          He said that Agriculture Minister Jai Prakash Dalal had reviewed the fish farming business in a state-level meeting, in which he has been given a target of 600 acres of fisheries business, whereas he wants to increase fisheries in 600 acres from this target.          He said that soon the Sirsa district would emerge as a pilot project in fisheries across the country.

        Devendra Singh and Sandeep Kaur, farmers of Chormar Kheda, are doing fish farming business on their two and a half acres of land, which put seeds worth Rs 3.40 lakh in the pond and after a period of 125 days, producing 11.50 tonnes of fish, and over Rs 51 lakh is sold.          To encourage this business, he was also given Rs 4 lakh as subsidy by the state government.  Singh said that fish production was 4.6 tonnes per acre, while Rs 13.62 lakh were spent per acre.

        Similarly, Gurpreet Singh of village Mithri rears shrimp. They are earning lakhs of rupees annually from fisheries.          He said that he started a shrimp farming business by taking the barren panchayat land on lease. For this, he got a grant from the administration under the government's Pradhan Mantri Matsya Yojana, which helped him a lot.  He said that they produce shrimp up to Rs 11 lakh per acre. It is very profitable on the basis of income as compared to other farming. More or less similar is the situation of Rajneesh of village Chadiwal.

The farmers have demanded the state government to set up a water testing laboratory in Sirsa itself.