The central government provides subsidies for micro-irrigation facilities, but the subsidy is not enough in the face of rising debt and the lack of awareness.
Farmers in Bihar’s West Champaran are perpetually at the receiving end of nature’s wrath and unrestricted industrial activity. In such situations, seeking insurance and security for the loss of livelihood, they would have ideally turned to the government. Instead, Babulal, an affected farmer says that “everything is left up to the gods.”
The central government, through district and block-level administration, runs its Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, a scheme exclusively aimed at subsidising irrigation facilities like borewells and sprinklers. A billboard spelling out the provisions of the scheme sis installed in Semri-Dumri village, where Babulal lives. But farmers in the area claim that there are no irrigation facilities in all of Gaunaha, the block where Semri-Dumri is.
“Almost 350 households have been affected”, says Babulal. Community Correspondent Tanju Devi, who also belongs to the same agrarian community, says that her family is also facing the same problem.
Tanju spoke to Ravi Kumar, the Block Agriculture Officer, to seek an explanation. According to him, farmers are reluctant to register for the scheme because it requires them to invest some capital towards the irrigation machinery, depending on the prevalent market prices. This is an amount that many farmers may not be able to afford, considering that many are already in debt owing to cycles of floods and droughts. Awareness about the scheme is also poor, says Tanju.
Moreover, it is a long and twisted procedure. Once the farmer submits the form, it is reviewed by the Block Development Office which then refers it to the Block Agriculture Office. After the block- level offices approve of the application, an engineer and an agricultural expert are sent to assess the feasibility of the installation; only then is the subsidy amount deposited in the farmer’s account.
The lack of irrigation facilities is not only affecting the farmers’ source of income from cash crops but their very sustenance. “If there is no harvest, what will we eat?” asks Babulal.
The state government of Bihar has recently announced a heavier subsidy for micro-irrigation projects to complement the centre’s subsidy. The government is partnering with Axis Bank to carry out the plan as a DBT (Direct Benefits Transfer) scheme. While it is to early to tell whether a DBT scheme will work in a place where many still resort to traditional and informal banking methods like local moneylenders, for any scheme to succeed, the first will be informed awareness.
Support Tanju and her community by calling the Block Agriculture Officer of Gaunaha, West Champaran, on +91-8987089570 and requesting him to ensure affordable and efficient irrigation facilities in the block.
Video by Community Correspondent Tanju Devi
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team