Ground reality of soil health card scheme: No field sample taken, but reports reach farmers

The ambitious scheme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for checking the soil from the field is facing glitches. The concerned officials send reports to farmers without even collecting samples. Not just this, a single field gets multiple and varied reports

Mithilesh DharMithilesh Dhar   1 Oct 2019 7:48 AM GMT

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Ground reality of soil health card scheme: No field sample taken, but reports reach farmers

How seriously the ambitious scheme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for checking the soil from the field is taken by officials can easily be judged by the fact that without even samples being collected, soil health cards are sent home. Not only this, a single field is getting multiple and varied reports.

Recently a scam had surfaced concerning soil health card in Aakhlora village of Charthawar block in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar. The villagers here had alleged that they have been duped in the name of soil check-up in fields the soil not even been tested the reports have duly been dispatched to them.

"One day I come home to find a pile of reports in front of my house -- all plastic bound. Tearing them open I saw a soil health card. I never knew when the sample was collected by the officials from my land. Entire village's reports were sent whereas no one had come to the village for sample collection," said Piyush Kumar, a resident of Aakhlora Village.

Piyush added: "Not just this but there are also people who have been given multiple reports for a single field. Even my name has two soil cards with different reports."

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A majority of the population of Aakhlora village of about 200 houses is dependent on agriculture. Arun Sharma of the same village said: "Two cards came in my name. Both had different reports. Who came and who collected the soil from the field I wouldn't know. How had the inspection occur, I even don't know this. The report is for 2016 and 2018. Both reports are same. Many a times I complained to the farmers' aide, but to no avail."

Talking about the process of soil inspection, Nrapendra Chauhan, senior programmer of Uttar Pradesh's soil Inspection said: "We collect the sample on the basis of a grid of about six acres of irrigated land and 24 acres of non-irrigated land. The field/grid area from where the soil sample is to be collected, we dig up 6*4 inched deep holes at 8-10 places the soil from which is sent for the tests in the labs."

Now we look on the basis of the information given by the department at another issue from Aakhlora village of Yogesh Kumar and Sudhir Kumar. Soil health card shows their field as khasra no.247. A single khasra has two different soil inspection cards of two different grids and hence different reports.

In 2015-16 and 2016-17 cycle, these were tested. On March 4, 2016 two reports were made for a single khasra. Grid number is different, but the report is same. When we enquired about it from the senior programmer he said: "Grid number being different, the report is the same, this means that the report is accurate. It is possible that this land may fall outside a grid area."

Yogesh Kumar and Sudhir have a total of 11 bigha land. Since their land is irrigated the grid was taken of 6 acres which is 15.443 bigha. It means that their grid should have been common, but it was not so. When reports are different, how the khasra number can be common?

While kick-starting the Soil Health Card Scheme on May 19, 2015 from Suratgarh in Rajasthan, the prime minister had told that we must care for the health of Mother Earth's health and whatever may be the shortcomings, we must resolve them by adopting scientific methods.

This gave hope to the farmers that their fields are to be transformed. Soil inspection scheme can alter the state of farmers, but due to carelessness and government apathy, the benefit of this ambitious scheme of the PM is unable to benefit the farmers.

Piyush of Aakhlora who has been mentioned earlier has an interesting issue. Entire Aakhlora has a single person named Piyush. Report cards show that the samples were taken from his fields on February 19, 2018 and March 12, 2018. Twelve bigha owner, Piyush had received two reports with different khasra numbers and also different grid numbers. Whereas Piyush maintains that no one in his knowledge had taken a sample from his fields so far.

This village has many such cases which indicate ground level carelessness. Lakshman Sharma is pretty miffed at the scheme. He said: "We thought that the scheme would benefit us greatly, but this one is plagued with frauds. Not only are we ignorant of the time the samples were collected from our fields, but also received two cards for me and my brother and that too with different reports."

To know the reason Gaon Connection talked to assistant director, Soil Inspection and Culture, Ram Jatan Mishra. He said: "Sometimes farmers aren't aware that we do not take soil sample from every field, but from a grid of 2.5 hectare area. Suppose there are 10 farmers in that area, only the farmer whose field sample is taken knows of the sampling. Others farmers come to know only when the reports reach them."

What would the report be like when the sample would be collected from the same area? They will have one report. In case of irregularities, concerned person would be sent across to ascertain the cause," said Ram Jatan Mishra.

As per the government records of Uttar Pradesh, state's 75 districts and 182 tehsils have the facility of soil testing. In the state, during the first phase, 2015-16 and 2016-17 about 1.70 crore and during the second phase 2017-18-2018-19 1.90 lakh soil samples were tested.

Dr Satyendra Singh, Uttar Pradesh's joint director, Agricultural Research and Soil Region, said: "The government is now providing for tests at individual field level ruling out such complaints. Every farmer will get a report for his own field. Every report shall be tagged. There would be absolutely no scope for any incorrect report. Whatever you have informed, how it happened we shall investigate it all."

Irregularities in soil card distribution were exposed in November 2018 when the state government had suspended Moradabad's deputy director, agriculture, Dr Ashok Kumar Teotia. Several farmer organizations had alleged that Teotia had presented falsified information regarding soil inspection and soil card distribution.

Working towards the farmers' betterment for the past four decades, Mau district's Dev Prakash Rai had staged a protest last year against the irregularities in soil testing.

Dev Prakash Rai informed Gaon Connection over phone, "I represent the farmers of my district. Thousands of farmers are associated with me. No farmer has ever told me that someone had come to him for soil collection. The entire list is crested at the district office. I received a plastic bound report. I have land at five different places. Nowhere was the sample taken. The whole scheme was a sham and the issue is not being conveyed up."

As per the Soil Health Card Report of Agriculture, Co-operative and Farmer Welfare Department, during 2015-16 and 2016-17 (I soil testing cycle) all over the country total 2,53,49,546 sample were collected and tested.10,73,89,421 were thereafter printed and sent to the farmers.

Whereas during the II cycle (2017-18, 2018-19) 2,70,75,939 samples were collected out of which 2,66,43,033 were tested. 11,24,01,205 soil health cards were printed and 10,94,88,418 were dispatched.

The state of soil testing scheme is not any better in the adjoining states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh either. Village Govind Sitaunjha of Sitamarhi district in Bihar has been shortlisted for the implementation of PM Organic Farming Scheme.

About 35 km away from the district-headquarter and falling under Runisaidpura Police Station, this village has 60 houses and 71.91 hectare of arable land. The village is chosen for the promotion of organic farming, but its farmers opt for private labs in order to test the soil.

Radhey Shyam Yadav of the same village tells Gaon Connection over phone, "Agriculture officer had come eight months ago. They even took sample from the field, but no report came. My son resides in Patna and so got the soil tested in a private lab there. I now do the farming on the basis of those results. I have benefited from it."

Radhey Shyam had to spend money for the testing although he did not inform of the charges. The government scheme, however, provides free of cost testing facility

Agriculture official of Sitamarhi, Bihar, Mohan Chaudhary tells Gaon Connection over phone, "My district has 17 blocks. Every block has thousands of farmers. How many field samples can we take? There is but a single lab. There were talks of labs at tehsil level but none came to pass. We can hardly be blamed in such a situation."

Changes in the testing policy since June 2019

The Union government has brought some changes for the III cycle 2019-20 in the soil testing methods. Henceforth, one model village per each block will be selected wherein soil sample from every farmer's field will be tested on the basis of khasra-khatauni and soil health card be distributed accordingly. Model villages will have soil testing not on the basis of grid but on individual field basis.

Under this 16,71,222 samples have so far been collected across the country and 8,15,497 samples have already been tested. 6,15,521 cards have been printed and 5,49,844 cards have been dispatched.

The situation of Madhya Pradesh's chief minister Kamal Nath's previous parliamentary seat, Chhindwada is not good either. Farmer Santosh Rakeshiya of Mohakhar block's Chargaon Karbal told Gaon Connection over phone, "Last year in October, every village from my block had 15-20 individual sample given for testing. Report also came, but everyone had the same finding. We demanded retesting and entreated district magistrate and agriculture officer, but no action was taken. We have not benefited at all form this scheme."

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