The Ministry of Agriculture has been taking several initiatives to introduce and revive the existing pro-farmer schemes for better livelihood and organisation of the farming sector. The revival of the existing Soil Health Card Scheme by the BJP government was launched soon after came to power. Dr Vandana Dwivedi, Additional Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture, spoke to The Sunday Guardian on the revival story of the soil health card scheme.

“Before these 18 months, soil health and fertility management lacked regularity, uniformity and lack of proper analysis. This made it very difficult to understand the nutrient deficiency of the states, because of which sustainability in agriculture was not being achieved and this increased the cost of cultivation,” she said.

“However, the Prime Minister relaunched the scheme with a slogan, Swasth dhara, Kheth hara,” she added.

Under the revived soil health card scheme, the soil health would now be analysed under 12 new and essential parameters by extracting 15 inch of samples soil from both rainfed and irrigated lands. The sampling is now GPS enabled for better monitoring and “benchmark sampling”.

“We have trained the soil samplers on how to collect soil using GPS. There is a lot of micro-nutrient deficiency in the soil across the country and after the analysis of the soil we recommend the fertilizer to the farmers, so that the farmers can get a balanced soil health,” added Dwivedi.

The Ministry also aims to provide 14 crore Soil Health Card to farmers within a span of two years, out of which 1.3 crore has already been issued and 2.15 crore is ready to be issued.

The soil would also be re-sampled every two years for better management and monitoring of soil health. The laboratories for analysis of soil health are also being revamped and states are being sensitised to make time bound delivery. “The farmers are being educated about the importance of knowing the health of the soil by organising awareness camps at the panchayat and block levels. We are issuing advertisements in all leading newspapers and also educating them through the Kisan channel,” Dwivedi said.

The government has also been taking several E-initiatives through the Digital India scheme to attach farmers to the Internet and technology. The toll free Kisan helpline number (18001801551), which is available from 6 am to 10 pm and has been under operation since 2004, is a hit amongst the farming community. This number connects to 14 different locations across the country, depending on the region of the call and is available in all different languages. It receives almost 10,000 calls per day. The call centre keeps a track of the village, district, state and the questions asked by the caller for future reference.

Shilpa Mehta, senior consultant, information and communication technology, Government of India, told The Sunday Guardian, that “The call centre executives who answer calls are all either agricultural graduates or agricultural post graduates. Weather, types of crops, pest management and fertilizers are amongst the most asked questions. But if the graduates are not able to help the farmers with their queries it is escalated to the Krishi Vigyan Kendra of the district  or to the state Agricultural University scientists. However the process should be completed in two days.” Apart from the call centre, the ministry also has e-portals as a one-stop-destination for farmers to access all information related to farming, harvest, storage as well as nearby markets and its prices.

“We have launched the farmer’s portal to combine all information on one platform and make it convenient for farmers as they are unable to hop from one site to another. The M-kisan portal can help farmers get themselves registered for advisories through SMS. Apart from this, is another portal where all information related to farming is combined on one platform for easy, quick and hassle free access.” Shilpa said.

The portal provides information on seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, farm machineries and its dealers. It also lists the nearby cold storage, its charges and capacity along with the information on risk management and contingency plans. The Prime Minister during the recently concluded Krishi Unnati Mela, also launched the kisan mobile application called Suvidha available for download at the Google Playstore.

“The application has been launched keeping in mind the increasing use of smartphones, where farmers can now choose to download the app for all information related to weather, crop, fertilisers, nearby mandis, etc among many others,” Shilpa added.

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