WITH panchayat elections scheduled to be held in two years, the Bengal government — after allocating Rs 1,728 crore to agriculture department in its annual Budget — has decided to launch mobile vans to reach out to farmers in remote villages in a bid to increase awareness about best practices in farming.
The government’s focus on agriculture and allied activities isn’t unprecedented. In his recent Budget speech, otherwise devoid of announcing new schemes, Finance Minister Amit Mitra listed the state’s achievements — record production of 174 lakh MT in 2015-16, new records in procurement of foodgrains, creation of warehouse facilities and a seven-fold increase in agriculture and the agri-allied sector expenditure — when compared to 2010-11.
Officials said the idea behind introducing mobile vans was a part of the government’s sustained focus on the sector. “The idea is to aid farmers in remote areas and far-off villages. Experts will travel in these mobile vans and share their knowledge with people. They will also be equipped with instruments, which will allow them to examine the nature and condition of the soil and help the farmers accordingly,” said an official.
This is the first time that the state government has taken up such a project. Officials said farmers will no longer have to come to Kolkata for examination of soil.
“The government has sanctioned Rs 175 crore to procure equipment required for farming,” said an official.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has recently announced that 128 kishan bazars have been set up across the state to ensure that farmers can sell their produce directly to markets in New Delhi. “The idea is to increase production of different crops. Farmers will be given specific training at the block level and eventually, the information that they receive will help us to to know what kind of infrastructure is needed,” said a senior official. He added that with the help of audio-video presentations, farmers would be taught about several ongoing projects and how to contact the government for particular projects. “Take for instance, potatoes.
The crop is often attacked by diseases. The same holds true for paddy cultivation. But using modern methods of farming, alongside age-old traditional methods, such losses can be avoided,” said the official.