Soil Health Card scheme at a glance after two years

T​he soil health card scheme which was launched by the government on 17 February 2015 with all big pops does not seem anywhere even close to the targets which were set initially after the end of initial two years. It was estimated by the government to distribute approximately 14 crore Soil Health Cards (SHCs) till the end of first cycle which is supposed to end by 2017. As very less time is remaining now in the completion of time frame provided by the government, let us have a look at some important aspects of the scheme:

What is Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme?

It is a Government of India’s scheme promoted by the Department of Agriculture & Co-operation under the Ministry of Agriculture. It will be implemented through the Department of Agriculture of all the State and Union Territory Governments.  A SHC is meant to give each farmer soil nutrient status of his holding and advice him on the dosage of fertilizers and also the needed soil amendments, that he should apply to maintain soil health in the long run.

What is a Soil Health Card and how does it aid farmers?

A Soil Health Card is used to assess the current status of soil health and, when used over time, to determine changes in soil health that are affected by land management. A Soil Health Card displays soil health indicators and associated descriptive terms. The indicators are typically based on farmers’ practical experience and knowledge of local natural resources. The card lists soil health indicators that can be assessed without the aid of technical or laboratory equipment.

How was the scheme implemented?

An amount of ₹568 crore (US$84 million) was allocated by the government for the scheme. In 2016 Union Budget of India, ₹100 crore (US$15 million) has been allocated to states for making soil health cards and set up labs. National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) will be implemented during 12th plan with the objectives to make agriculture more productive, sustainable and climate resilient to conserve natural resources; to adopt comprehensive soil health management practices; to optimize utilization of water resources; etc. “Soil Health Management (SHM) is one of the most important interventions under NMSA. SHM aims at promoting Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) through judicious use of chemical fertilizers including secondary and micro nutrients in conjunction with organic manures and bio-fertilizers for improving soil health and its productivity; strengthening of soil and fertilizer testing facilities to provide soil test based recommendations to farmers for improving soil fertility; ensuring quality control requirements of fertilizers, bio-fertilizers and organic fertilizers under Fertilizer Control Order, 1985; up gradation of skill and knowledge of soil testing laboratory staff, extension staff and farmers through training and demonstrations; promoting organic farming practices etc. Fertilizer Control Order, 1985; up-gradation of skill and knowledge of soil testing laboratory staff, extension staff and farmers through training and demonstrations; promoting organic farming practices etc.In the union budget of 2017, however very little heeding was paid and this scheme got subsided by the newly launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, and on the soil health card scheme, the finance minister just said that mini labs for soil testing will be set up in all 648 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (farm research institutes) across India. These will be run by rural entrepreneurs who will be assisted by the government.

Performance and data:

Now moving to the most important point, one should know what exactly is the condition and situation of this ill scheme now, has it been performing at par the desired and expected levels or just like many come and go attention seeking schemes, this scheme is going to be another failure of the center government.

The following bar graphs show the progress of the scheme so far in terms of no. of samples taken, tested and dispatched. Source: http://www.soilhealth.dac.gov.in/

As is evident from the above shown charts that the number of soil samples collected is astonishingly more than targeted but the real worry is about the number of samples tested, printed and dispatched. The following graph further illustrates the complete picture of exactly what is the situation statewise:

​One can easily figure out that in most of the states/UTs the number of samples tested is very less in comparison to the number of samples collected. It is more to worry about that the states which rely heavily on agriculture are worst performers. States like Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal, Bihar, where more than 80% of India’s food grain is produced, show worst performance when considered about the printing and dispatching of soil health cards to farmers.Here are some figures relating to comparison of number of the Soil Health Cards for the above mentioned states which were needed to be printed against the actual number which were printed in the last 2 years:

STATE Total Target of Printing and distribution (2015-16 &16-17) No. of SHC distributed upto 14-2-2017 percent progress
Uttar Pradesh 263.61 67.76 25.67
Rajasthan 127.61 28.69 22.48
Punjab 46.20 5.91 12.79
Haryana 43.61 4.41 10.10
West Bengal 71.91 16.47 22.91
Bihar 72.36 26.13 36.11
Madhya Pradesh 127.94 41.05 32.08

All figures in lakhs, Source:http://www.soilhealth.dac.gov.in/

As is evident from the above given figures that all of the above states who are major producers of crops are lagging behind when it comes to the number of SHCs prepared and distributed, one should be eager to know why this trend is there. What are the factors behind such a less number of SHCs printed and dispatched in major states. In fact, overall just 5.12 crore SHCs have been distributed against the targeted value of around 14crore with almost no time to spare now.

What are the reasons for this poor performance?

Many reasons can be there which can account for this poor performance of these major crop dependent states; notable ones are:

1.) All those states which are lagging behind in the printing and distribution of SHCs are doing so because the number of Soil Testing Laboratories (STL) is not enough in those states. Let’s have a look at the number of STLs in the states discussed about earlier. (Source: http://farmer.gov.in/stl.aspx?SCode=17&DCode=1713)

 UP:                102

Rajasthan:    29

MP:                 56

Bihar:             64

West Bengal: 15

Punjab:           79

Haryana:        60

These numbers can be compared with those showing good figures in respect to number of SHCs printed and dispatched like Tamilnadu, Uttarakhand, and Andhra Pradesh etc. One can easily find that lack of STLs is a major reason behind the delay in testing and hence distribution of SHCs.

2.) Due to many vacancies in the handful of STLs which are not filled, the work is sluggish there. Many vacancies like lab technician, testing associates haven’t been filled till now even when the project is near the deadline.

3.) States are also responsible in some cases for such poor performance, as states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal didn’t have coherence and coordination with the  policies of central government, they didn’t release ample fund for the project and hence poor facilities like lack of STLs and unfilled vacancies in labs.

4.) Lack of scrutiny and supervision is also a very important factor behind the poor functioning of STLs and lack of personnel in labs. State functionary should be made accountable to centre for all the activities and performance related data of STLs.

At last, this is another come and go policy of the government which is seeking its end very near in 2017 and still much work is pending in terms of the number of SHCs printed and dispatched. The way central government has shrugged off from its responsibilities of achieving the stated targets, it hasn’t allotted something substantial so that the figures achieved could be somewhere near those estimated. But, like other such schemes let us believe that it will also be dumped after some time. Who knows Fasal Bima Yojana is next as some other mission unveils!

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Indian avalanche in the Space with the launch of PSLV C37

ISRO has created history in the field of space research as it proudly launched PSLV C37/Cartosat-2 series satellite on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. This launch is historic because of unprecedented and unmatched launch of a record 104 satellites will be there from a single rocket from Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The interesting point to take note of is that out of 104, a meagre 3 satellites belong to India and one will be stupefied to transpire that rest 101 belong to the beacons of development, the masters in the field, USA, Germany and many other nations. Earlier, ISRO has successfully launched record by launching 20 satellites at one go. The highest number of satellites launched in a single mission is 37, a record that Russia set in 2014. The US space agency NASA launched 29 from a single rocket, but 104 is too big a number to come up with.

 What are some of India’s remarkable feats in Space research? 
India is among the topmost countries in the world in the field of scientific research, positioned as one of the top five nations in the field of space exploration. The country has regularly undertaken space missions, including missions to the moon and the famed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). There is nothing to hide about the exploits of ISRO. Notable of them are :
1. 27 satellites including 11 that facilitate the communication network to the country are operational, establishing India’s progress in the space technology domain. India is likely to take a leading role in launching satellites for the SAARC nations, generating revenue by offering its space facilities for use to other countries.

2. The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C35 (PSLV-C35) has successfully placed eight different satellites in a single rocket mission, including SCATSAT-1 for weather related studies, five foreign satellites and two satellites from Indian academic institutes into orbit.

3. The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle-F05 (GSLV) successfully launched India’s weather satellite INSAT-3DR into space, which will provide meteorological services and assist search and rescue operations of security agencies including all defence forces, the coast guard, and in shipping industry. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) plans to partner with private firms to jointly build a navigation satellite that it would launch by March 2017, which would allow the space agency to free its resources to focus on research and deep space missions.

4.  The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has completed its mission of developing India’s independent navigation system by launching Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS – 1G), the seventh and final navigation satellite, which will reduce the country’s dependency on US Global Positioning System.

5. India is the first Asian country to successfully place a Mars orbiter and the only country in history to do so in the first attempt. India became the fourth space agency in the world to send a spacecraft to Mars, only behind United States, Russia, and the European Union., Chandrayaan 1 in 2008

6. ISRO has demonstrated its re-entry technology and till date has launched as many as 74 foreign satellites belonging to global customers from 20 countries including US, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, U.K. All of these have been launched successfully by PSLVs so far, gaining significant expertise in space technologies. In June 2016, India set a record by launching 20 satellites simultaneously.

How did PSLV C37 come into picture?

During the 18th SAARC summit held in Nepal in 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi mooted the idea of a satellite serving the needs of SAARC member nations, part of his Neighbourhood first policy. Although the satellite is intended to serve the SAARC region, Pakistan has opted out of the program,while Afghanistan and Bangladesh have not pledged their commitment.The proposed satellite enables full range of applications and services in the areas of telecommunication and broadcasting applications viz television (TV), direct-to-home (DTH), very small aperture terminals (VSATs), tele-education, tele-medicine and disaster management support. India is the only country in the SAARC that has the capability to launch and operate satellites in space.
What are some probable benefits to ISRO and India with the launch of PSLV C37 ?

1. With this launch, ISRO will be able to recover half of the total cost used for the launch of 104 satellites.

2. With the launching of commercial satellites for communication, wealth, atmospheric research etc. in space, India will be commercially benefitted.
3. Other nations cannot afford to launch those satellites and other projects in Space which conflict with those of India’s.

4. Indian scientists will be invited and included in to research projects all over the world.

5. India will hold a place of strategic importance in space.
6. Importance of ISRO will supercede Chinese Space organisation.
7. Last but not the least, ISRO will gain supremacy in Asia and the World in the field of space research and advancements.

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