It is high time Prime Minister Narendra Modi starts taking serious stock of the outcomes of the big schemes, such as soil health card, announced by him, and develop a coordinated approach with the help of states to attain the targets.
A close look at the outcomes of the Budget 2016 announcements of finance minister Arun Jaitley, outlined in the 2017 Budget, shows major gaps in meeting the identified objectives. The results obtained in the distribution of soil health cards (SHCs) are amongst the leading ones.
FM Jaitley announced in Budget 2016: “The Soil Health Card Scheme is now being implemented with greater vigour. Through this, farmers get information about the nutrient level of the soil and can make judicious use of fertilizers. The target is to cover all 14 crore farm holdings by March 2017. Rs 368 crore has been provided for National Project on Soil Health and Fertility….”
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Compare this with the result mentioned in the 2017 Budget: “Soil Health Card (SHC) Scheme is being implemented since 2014-15.
–Total Outlay for 12th Plan: Rs 568.54 crore
–So far, a sum of Rs 96.03 crore has been released to States.
Progress: As on December 31, 2016
Soil Samples collected: 2.33 crore
Soil sample tested: 1.56 crore
Soil Health Cards issued 4.25 crore…”
The latest figures available on the agriculture ministry’s SHC portal show that by the end of January 31, 2017, while 5.05 crore SHCs have been printed, of which 4.93 crore have been distributed, which is only 35% of the target.
It is not hard to understand why FM Jaitley didn’t announce the SHC results in his Budget speech on February 1, and announced measures to improve the situation.
“Issuance of Soil Health Cards has gathered momentum. The real benefit to farmers would be available only when the soil samples are tested quickly and nutrient level of the soil is known. Government will therefore set up new mini labs in Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) and ensure 100% coverage of all 648 KVKs in the country. In addition, 1,000 mini labs will be set up by qualified local entrepreneurs. Government will provide credit linked subsidy to these entrepreneurs”, he said in the speech.
In a few months time, the current NDA government will be completing three years in office, and these schemes will be the yardsticks of its success.
The very fact that quite a few of the top states, including Rajasthan, West Bengal and Kerala have not achieved even 25% of their target—and even Punjab and Haryana are reluctant to adopt SHC—clearly indicates that Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to take the SHC scheme beyond election rally speeches and convince the state governments to push it.