Off to Canada

the media has of late celebrated the news of Indian farmers gearing up for a Canadian citizenship. But it actually is a story of a severe resource-drain that affects agriculture, the Indian economy's backbone. An institution responsible for extending research and development gains to India's own agricultural sector is aiding this drain. What's worse, the scheme will not benefit poor farmers, as claimed, but the super-rich ones.

Punjab Agricultural University (pau) has been commissioned by Mohali-based private firm, World Wide Immigration and Consultancy Services Limited (wwics), to train Punjab's farmers in Canada's agro-climatology and cropping practices. This will enable them to permanently migrate to Canada on the excuse of promoting its agriculture. J S Bhalla, coordinator of the training course and associate professor, department of extension education, pau, says the move will benefit poor farmers by helping them migrate to Canada legally. But the reality is that the scheme's beneficiaries will be Punjab's richest farmers, with a minimum net worth of Rs 1 crore. They will also have to buy assets worth Rs 45 lakh-Rs 50 lakh in Canada. These conditions are specified in Canada's new immigration rules, which came into force in June 2002. The reason for the rules' sudden popularity in Punjab may be that by associating with pau, a government institution, wwics has made the scheme appear like it is government-backed.