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Modi's soil health card plan: BJP-ruled states among worst performers

Last updated on: May 30, 2016 20:59 IST

Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh (all BJP-ruled), Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal and Kerala are among the worst performers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plan of providing a soil health card to all 140 million farmer families by the end of this financial year faces bottlenecks in major agrarian states, many governed by his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

According to an assessment done earlier this month, the progress has been such that the cabinet secretary's office is directly monitoring its progress.

Officials said this was being done on a weekly basis, to ensure it met the target.

Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh (all BJP-ruled), Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal and Kerala are among the worst performers.

Karnataka is supposed to, by the end of next March, distribute 9.21 million soil health cards.

Yet, till May 10, it had fulfilled 0.7 per cent of that target. MP had to give nearly 13 mn by the same date; it has currently done a little less than a tenth of this. In UP, 26.4 mn cards have to distributed; 5.4 per cent has been done. 

In Assam, Haryana, Punjab, J&K and Bengal, less than 10 per cent has been fulfilled, with 10 months to go (see chart).

 
 

In all, of the 140 mn cards that need to distributed to by March 2017, around 33 mn had till the first week of May been given or were in the process.

Many more soil samples have been collected. Normally, it takes four to six weeks for cards to be generated once a sample is collected.

The Centre says much of this delay has to do with the states being slow in releasing their share of grants, setting up of test laboratories, appointing technicians and scientists, and also in spreading awareness among farmers. It now plans to have a joint secretary to monitor each slow moving state.

To fulfill the target, close to 100 mn cards will have to distributed in the remaining 10 months and much of the work must be done by states.

"From the Centre's side, there is no laxity. We've already released all (our) Rs 500 crore but this is only 60 per cent of the total requirement, while states have to contribute their share of 40 per cent. Fund flow for setting up of labs, etc, would only come after states make their matching contribution," said a senior official. 

The soil samples for the cards have to be collected twice from each field, once before the kharif season and another before rabi.

"The samples have to be collected when the fields are empty," the official explained.

Once the soil is tested on its chemical composition, the results are valid for two years.

Then, the sample has to collected from another part of the field.

With the soil health cards, a recommendation on the chemicals and fertiliser to be used will be attached, plus a suggestion on six crops which can be grown in that field, based on the composition of the soil.

The cards will also act as an identity for the farmer or land owner.

It will have the name, mobile number, khasra number, irrigation details if available, latitude and longitude details, last crop sown and the like.

However, this would not be available for those sowing on leased land.

Photograph: Reuters

Sanjeeb Mukherjee in New Delhi
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