In the eight blocks of Haryana (Ratia, Sirsa, Sewan, Guhla, Pipli, Ismailabad, Babain and Shahabad), farmers won’t be allowed to cultivate paddy on any new area where paddy was not grown last year.
To save water and for better implementation of its crop diversification plans, the government of Haryana launched the ‘Mera Paani, Meri Virasat’ scheme on May 6, 2020; it was meant to encourage farmers change their cultivated-crop preferences—from paddy to maize/cotton/millet/pulses or fruit trees (less water-intensive crops), with a primarily focus on maize—for 1 lakh hectares of land of the state. Under this scheme, farmers switching from paddy to other crops for more than 50% of their kharif 2019-20 paddy acreage by the end of the current financial year will be provided Rs 7,000 per acre as diversification-cost support.
In the eight blocks of Haryana (Ratia, Sirsa, Sewan, Guhla, Pipli, Ismailabad, Babain and Shahabad), farmers won’t be allowed to cultivate paddy on any new area where paddy was not grown last year. All farmers for selected blocks whose groundwater level is at a depth of 35 meters or more, who used to grow paddy, have been strictly instructed to cultivate maize, bajra, pulses, corn, potato, tomato and other seasonal vegetables to avail the diversification benefit of Rs 7,000 per acre; the produce will be procured by the government at the minimum support price.
Under the scheme, demonstration plots will be established in each targeted block for familiarising farmers with the best agricultural practices for a good yield of the selected crop. Farmers other than those in the targeted blocks will also be eligible for availing benefits under this crop diversification scheme if they can replace their paddy area with alternate crops. Such farmers have to apply and submit details of revenue record on the designated web portal, regarding cultivation of paddy last year in the area proposed to be diversified away from the crop, on the condition that they won’t grow paddy in any new landwhere paddy was not grown earlier.
The state government will ensure adequate availability of maize planter, multi-crop planter and pneumatic planter, and will install ‘maize-dryers’ in related grain markets for reducing moisture content of the maize produced by the farmers; this is aimed at the promotion of mechanisation in crop diversification.
In fact, 85% subsidy will be provided for installation of drip irrigation systems in the area under alternative crops. The impact of the scheme could be visible only in next cropping seasons; as of now, farmers are still focusing on growing paddy. As per data (Crop Division of the MoA&FW), the all-India net sown area for paddy has increased 17.33% and for maize 7.24% during this kharif (2020-21) season. In Haryana, the net sown area for paddy and maize, as on July 24, 2020, is 11.2 lakh hectare and 0.08 lakh hectare, respectively. It is easy to gauge both the potential for diversification with mazie as well the huge gap at present.
Under the diversification scheme, the grants are estimated to cover 40-50% of the costs for farmers diversifying at least 50% of their last-year paddy acreage; agricultural lands of gram panchayats in various blocks of the state will not be permitted for cultivation of paddy. The financial benefit to encourage diversification will be provided to the farmers’ respective panchayats by the end of the current financial year. Farmers who are cultivating with a tube-well (50 hp electric motor) will not be allowed to grow paddy.
The Har Khet Ko Pani initiative under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) is going to face a major challenge in the coming years (if emergency steps aren’t taken by state governments) as every year, the groundwater level is falling by almost about 1 metre due to indiscriminate usage of water in paddy cultivation, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, Odisha, Punjab and Haryana. The root causes for overexploitation of water are the vicious circle of farming of rice-wheat and the price/procurement support as well as power subsidies given by many state governments
However, a diversification benefit that doesn’t cover 100% of the costs—especially against the backdrop of absent procurement/price support hitherto and uncertainty over future procurement—may not work. To make a ‘Mera Paani, Meri Virasat’ successful, farmers should be provided diversification support of up to Rs 25,000 per acre to encourage their participation. More states need to come up with such schemes as well.
The author is visiting faculty (economics) at Amity University Noida