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Healthy Soil, Wealthy Farmer: Myth or Reality?

In May 2017, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) completed three years under the leadership of Narendra Modi –the Prime Minister of India (PM). It is that time of year when the Ministries aggressively release their achievement reports. With the arrival of the Modi Government, the Union Ministries started to prepare the achievement reports under a tagline like Three Years of Modi Government. Such achievement reports list various kinds of achievements, policy decisions, collaborations, and strategic partnerships. With images of policy makers like PM and Ministers, they present milestones of the schemes. The visual appeal and quality of the achievement reports vary from one ministry to another ministry. Some of the ministries present their achievements in very innovative and organised way. On the other hand, some of them present their achievements in an ad hoc manner. Their colour combinations, designs, and images are very dull and unimpressive. Many such reports are riddled with glaring grammatical errors.

In this backdrop, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare released its achievement report which sheds light on all initiatives in 2016-17. The report prominently talks about “Healthy Soil, Wealth Farmer”. In fact, the Soil Health Card Scheme is placed on the priority in the report. At this juncture, Impact News put various things in a perspective.

Soil Health Card Scheme in a Nutshell:

  • Soil Health Card was launched in February 2015.
  • Soil Health Cards will be issued every two years for all landholder in the country.
  • In the year 2011-14, there were only 15 mini laboratories sanctioned which have increased up to 9063 during 2014-17.
  • Nation-wide program to conduct farm-level soil analysis.
  • 2.80 crore samples have been collected of which 14 crore cards are being made.
  • 7.1 crore ‘Soil Health Cards’ have been distributed till 2nd May 2017 to the farmers and rest within the next 3 months.
  • During 2014-17, Rs. 840.52 crore release to state which is 30 times more as compared to Rs. 27.76 crore released during 2011-14.
  • Soil Testing Labs (Statistic + Mobile + Mini-Labs) Sanctioned

(Source: http://pibphoto.nic.in/documents/rlink/2017/may/p201752201.PDF

According to the Operational Guidelines for Implementation of Centrally Sponsored Scheme Soil Health Card, “Soil testing programme was started in India in the year 1955-56 with the setting up of 16 Soil Testing Laboratories (STLs) under “Determination of Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Use” programme.”

In November 2016, Parshottam Rupala, the Minister of State for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare informed that there are 1414 Soil Testing Labs with an analyzing annual capacity of 195.27 lakh samples in the country. Rupala replied in Parliament on a state-wise number of Soil Testing Labs (STLs) and their capacity in the country (for more detail please you can see the graph).

In India, agriculture is a state subject and successful completion of any scheme is depending on various stakeholders. In 2016, Mint (Business news daily), reported that soil health card scheme lags behind due to lack of interest from states. This report quoted a background note prepared by the agriculture ministry and said that less than a fifth of targeted farmers has received soil health cards. It is a staggering figure which paints a glooming picture of this much hype scheme.

According to the official estimation, Indian agriculture sector registered 4.4 per cent growth in 2016-17. Increasingly, the government officials are pitching for more reforms in the agriculture sector. In this backdrop, a huge number of farmers are grappling with the uneven weather, inefficient public distribution system, and increasing input costs. It is evident that several governments are ill-equipped in dealing with challenges of productivity in the agriculture. In various states, draught crippled the farm sector. It is widely reported that Indian farmers are massively using some subsidised fertilisers like urea which deteriorated soil conditions. In order to deal with such situations, the Union Government rolled out this scheme with intent to spruce up farm productivity in India.

In the entire achievement report as well as in the national level discussion, one thing is missing. It is human recourses for the soil testing. How many human resources we have across the country and what skills they have!


Soil Testing Labs (STLs) & their Capacity in India:

 S.L. No STATE  Number of STLs Capacity  per annum (Number of soil samples in lakh)
I South Zone
1 Andhra Pradesh 95 4.83
2 Karnataka 65 3.0566
3 Kerala 28 2.38
4 Tamil Nadu 49 58.0672
5 Puducherry 2 0.04
Telangana 3 0.3
  Sub Total 242 68.6738
II. West Zone
6 Gujarat 141 14.32
7 Madhya Pr. 63 3.78
8 Maharashtra 181 24.7135
9 Rajasthan 114 10.86
10 Chhattisgarh 22 1.95
11 Goa 4 0.43
  Sub Total 525 56.0535
III North Zone
12 Haryana 40 3.65
13 Punjab 71 6.315
14 Uttarakhand 16 1.0654
15 Uttar Pradesh 291 42.595
16 Himachal Pradesh 21 1.85
17 Jammu & Kashmir 24 1.62
18 Delhi 1 0.05
   Sub Total 464 57.1454
IV East Zone
19 Bihar 45 2.9
20 Jharkhand 8 0.4
21 Orissa 33 3.6
22 West Bengal 36 2.724
   Sub Total 122 9.624
V NE Zone
23 Assam 15 1.24
24 Tripura 8 0.55
25 Manipur 8 0.4
26 Meghalaya 6 0.3
27 Nagaland 4 0.55
28 Arunachal Pradesh 8 0.09
29 Sikkim 6 0.37
30 Mizoram 6 0.27
   Sub Total 61 3.77
  Grand Total 1414 195.2667

(Source: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=153822)

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