Modi's pet schemes face challenges within

Modi's pet schemes  face challenges within
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet schemes to put agriculture in the high-growth trajectory are facing challenges from within. The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, which seeks to irrigate every farm in the country, has seen a reduction in budgetary allocations for two successive years, while the soil health card initiative is moving at a slow pace for lack of adequate facilities.

The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, chaired by BJP leader Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, has expressed concern that Modi’s ambitious farm irrigation scheme may be adversely affected for want of funds. “The committee is displeased to note that budgetary support for the scheme was reduced at the revised estimate (RE) stage during the last two years,” said a report presented in Parliament recently.

In 2015-16, the budget estimate (BE) of Rs 1,800 crore was reduced to Rs 1,550 crore at the RE stage. In the current financial year of 2016-17, the BE of Rs 2,340 crore has been reduced to Rs 1,990 crore at the RE stage, the committee said. The contrary was true in the case of the soil health card initiative. At the BE stage for 2016-17, the initiative was allocated Rs 360 crore, which was increased to Rs 418 crore at the RE stage. But the agriculture ministry could spend only Rs 198.08 crore.

The government informed the committee that 2.65 crore soil samples have been collected, on the basis of which 14 crore soil health cards were to be issued to farmers. “So far, 5.50 crore soil health cards have been distributed,” the report said, adding that the government had informed the committee that the remaining cards cannot be issued by the end of the month. The government has cited inadequate soil-testing facilities as the main reason for the slow progress in distribution of the cards.

Modi had extensively referred to the two schemes in his election speeches as a means to turnaround the agriculture sector, which was in the doldrums on account of two successive droughts.

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