since ages is the mainstay of the Indian population. The story of Indian
agriculture has been a spectacular one, with a global impact for its
multi-functional success in generating employment, livelihood, food,
nutritional and ecological security. Agriculture and allied activities
contribute about 30 per cent to the gross domestic product of India. The green
revolution had heralded the first round of changes. India is the second largest
producer of wheat, rice, sugar, groundnut as also in production of cash crops
like coffee, coconut and tea.
is now eyeing second Green Revolution in eastern India. The need for enhanced
investment in agriculture with twin focus on higher quality productivity and
welfare of farmers is rightly emphasized from time to time by the Prime
Minister Narendra Modi.
the entire scenario, importantly the Narendra Modi government has laid emphasis
on the awareness campaign and enhanced agri-knowledge for the farming
community. But besides the measures to improve minimum support price and assistance
like improved irrigation and rural electrification, the incumbent NDA regime
has laid emphasis on the Soil Health Card Scheme.
by the central government in February
2015, the scheme is tailor-made to issue ‘Soil card’ to farmers which
will carry crop-wise recommendations of nutrients and fertilizers required for
the individual farms. This is aimed to help farmers to improve productivity
through judicious use of inputs.
In the words of the union Agriculture Minister Radha
Mohan Singh, this path-breaking initiative would create a golden opportunity for
the farmers to improve the productivity of their crops and also go for
diversification. This will certainly contribute significantly to ensuring food
security of the country.
Awareness of soil health position and the role of
manures would help in higher production of foodgrains in eastern India too and
this would help tackle the decline in production in central and peninsular
India. The growth in foodgrains, rice and wheat, from eastern India would
provide an opportunity to procure and create foodgrain reserves locally. This
would reduce the agricultural pressure on Punjab and Haryana as well.
Essentially, the Soil Health Card scheme is modeled on
a successful programme launched by Prime Minister Modi during his tenure as
Chief Minister of Gujarat.
In fact from 2003-04 itself, Gujarat has been the
first state to introduce Soil Health cards, according to government sources, to
initiate the scientific measures for Soil Health care. In Gujarat, over 100
soil laboratories were set up and the result of scheme was found quite
satisfactory. To start with, the agriculture income of Gujarat from Rs 14000
crore in 2000-01 had gone up to staggeringly high Rs 80,000 crore in 2010-11.
In July 2015, the union Agriculture Minister Radha
Mohan Singh said that for the first time, a massive agricultural population of
14 crore card holdings will be covered once in a cycle of 3 years to promote
soil management practices and restore soil health.
To state a truism, this is a timely intervention as
aggressive farming coupled with absence of any concrete step to bring new lands
under cultivation has already affected yields and deprived farmlands of
valuable nutrients. Experts and agri scientists have often said that a likely
famine and drought stare various parts of India.
Thus it goes without saying that if necessary
corrective steps are not taken, there could be food shortage in next 10 years
also talk about the importance of genetic food cultivation calling for lot more
variety in the land. The Agriculture ministry maintains that the emphasis
should be to develop more and more pulses and green vegetables as this can
bring in inherent resilience in the land. According to renowned expert and the
‘father of Green Revolution’, M S Swaminathan, there is need to opt for wide
range of crops cultivation. The awareness of soil health conditions would only
make these operations easier and more result oriented. The studies of soil
across the states also show that there’s need to promote alternate crops like
pulses, sunflower, bajra, or fodder and vegetables.
Thus we realize that the Soil Health Card mechanism
definitely aims to help herald some essential revolutionary changes and
salutary effect in country’s agricultural scene. There are actually many
path-breaking initiatives associated with the scheme. Under this, the
government can help farmers adopt crop diversification. Farmers would
understand the fertility factor of the land better and can be attracted towards
value added newer crops. This would help reduction in risk in farming and also
the cost of overall cultivation process would get reduced.
Some states are already issuing Soil Health Cards but,
it was found that, there was no uniform norm for sampling, testing and
distribution of Soil Health Cards across the states. Taking a holistic view on
these, the central government has thus rightly taken measures like launching of
a Soil Health Card portal. This would be useful for registration of soil
samples, recording test results of soil samples and generation of Soil Health
Card (SHC) along with Fertilizer Recommendations.
a single, generic, uniform, web based software accessed at the link www.soilhealth.dac.gov.in,” the
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said on the completion of one-year of
office of the Modi government in May 2015.
official sources in the Agriculture ministry say that the Soil Health Card portal aims to generate and issue Soil
Health Cards based on either Soil Test-Crop Response (STCR) formulae developed
by ICAR or General Fertilizer Recommendations provided by state Governments.
scheme has been approved for implementation during 12th Plan with an outlay of Rs.568.54
crore. For the current year (2015-16) an allocation of Rs.96.46 crore –
only for the central government share-has been made. The scheme is to be
otherwise implemented on 50:50 sharing pattern between Government of India and
order to improve quality of soil and ultimately for better nutrient values and
higher yields, experts say while at present, general fertilizer recommendations
are followed by farmers for primary nutrients, the secondary and micro nutrients
are often overlooked. “We have often come across deficiency of nutrients like
Sulphur, Zinc and Boron. This has become a limiting factor in increasing food
productivity. The Soil Health Card scheme will address these,” says Agriculture
Radha Mohan Singh.
The government is
effectively marching in quite ambitiously for a grand success of the Soil
Health Card scheme and proposes to ensure that all farmers in the country have
their respective Soil Health Cards by the year 2017. In the first year of NDA
regime 2014-15, a sum of Rs 27 crore was sanctioned and in 2015-16, there is an
allocation of Rs 100 crore to all the states to prepare soil health cards.
* Nirendra Dev is a Delhi based journalist