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Money squandered on mechanised farming but govt yet to reap a harvest
August 21, 2012
PANJIM: Mechanisation was touted to be the saviour of agriculture in Goa, with falling prices of produce and inverse escalation of labour costs and other factors.
There are two main strategies by which the government attempts to assist the farmers in cutting costs to make agriculture viable, or so we think – by subsidising equipment
cost as well as providing tractors for ploughing fields on hire at a nominal rate.
While the schemes have benefited farmers to an extent, money squandered on mechanisation by the government, is yet to reap a harvest.
A case in point is the subsidy provided by the government to buy power tillers or tractors. Under this scheme, the government offers a bountiful 75% subsidy for a general category farmer and a 90% subsidy for a farmer belonging to ST community. However to avail of the subsidy the applicant needs to have a minimum of 10,000 sqm land for a power tiller and a minimum of 1 lakh sqm land for a tractor above 35 horsepower (hp).
The department has relaxed this minimum area requirement by asking for an undertaking from the applicant that he will till the land of other farmers in the neighbourhood. However, it is learnt that once the subsidy is obtained, the undertaking is in most cases not respected and the ‘neighbourhood’ farmers have to continue to rely on the government tractors for ploughing their fields.
This despite the directorate operating another scheme called custom service where the beneficiaries of subsidised farm machinery, is duty bound to give it on hire to the needy cultivators (as given in the undertaking). Under this, the Agriculture Department allows the tractor/tiller owner to charge Rs 250/hour for a tractor and Rs 164/hour for a tiller and allows a tractor to spend 15 hours in a hectare of fields and a power tiller to spend 30 hours in a hectare, half of which is then reimbursed under the custom service scheme.
Farmers have however complained that this rate the department is allowing them to hire out is grossly inadequate causing them to hire out at a much higher rate. Besides department tractors are available at Rs 125/hour since they are further subsidised by the government.
At the end of the day despite the government pouring crores of rupees into subsidising power tillers and tractors for several years now and despite many ‘undertakings’ to make the tractor available to others, there continues to be a shortage of tractors with the 44 tractors owned by the Agriculture Department unable to take the load during peak season.
It’s a similar story with combined harvesters. Since the department does not have harvesters of its own it seeks that harvester owners like farmers’ clubs, SHGs and societies who own the harvesters it makes available the ‘custom service scheme’ allowing the owners to claim reimbursements of hiring them out. For harvesters the department provides subsidy on hire charges to the farmers for harvesting, by using combined harvester @ Rs 1,000/hour for a maximum of 2 hours 30 minutes per hectare or Rs 250 for 15 minutes per 1000 sq metres.
Here the harvesters owning farms claim to have harvested much more land than is actually under cultivation, in order that they may claim more reimbursements from the government.
“The main reason for this is that the department is grossly understaffed at the grassroot level to cross check claims by farmers owning mechanised equipment and availing subsidy, as to whether the harvesters and tillers are actually doing the work farmers claim they do.
During 2011-12, 23 tractors and 488 power tillers were subsidised by the government and 161 power tillers and 71 tractor applications are pending for approval.