Manoj Kumar, 45, a farmer from Taraori village of Karnal district, is supervising his paddy harvest through Super-SMS (Super straw management system) equipment attached to Combine Harvester. He is happy with the performance of the new machine, which cuts paddy straw into pieces, spreading it on field.
“It has solved the straw problem forever,” says Kumar, one of the largest landholders of the district, having an area of 80 acre. “Now I can use my Happy seeder machine to sow wheat seeds directly without having to remove of the straw or burn it,” says Kumar.
Kumar has hired this machine from nearest Custom Hiring Centre (CHC) named Progrowers Producer Company Limited (PPCL)—a farmer producer company. A CHC is a machine bank which the Centre has created to offer equipment to individual farmer at reasonable rate.
Few kilometers away, a small farmer, Jasmit Singh of Nilokhari village, has been waiting for super-SMS machine for the last 15-days. He has a landholding of 5 acre. “There is lack of super-SMS machines and CHC prefers to offer them to big farmers,” says Jasmit. “I am also afraid as many are of the opinion that this new machine can cause yield loss and consume lots of diesel, which is now costly,” he adds.
Vikas Chaudhary, director of PPCL says that FPO has developed its business model in which it lends equipment to larger farmers first. “In the end we have to run our organisation, which get substantial fee from large landholders,” says Chaudhary. “It is easier and quicker to use the machine on large lands, than moving the machine on smaller holdings which are also scattered,” he adds.
The other small farmers also validate his claim. “It is one of the reasons why burning of straw has not reduced in Haryana,” says Rajinder Singh of Haryana Vigyan Manch, which is engaged in spreading awareness and education among farmers and students on the need to refrain from burning of straw.
Haryana government proposed 900 CHCs across the state where Karnal and Kaithal are at the top followed by Kurukshetra, Jind, Ambala, Sonipat, Yamuna Nagar and Panipat and Fatehabad.
District-wise targets for Establishment of Custom Hiring Centres under New Scheme in Haryana “Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States” for 2018-19
Proposed CHCs in 2018-19
The availability of machines in CHCs is limited and also inaccessible of small landholders. Either they have to wait or burn the straw.
“Within the window of 25 days, these machines, if used to their fullest potential, cannot cover more than 20 per cent of 1.3 million hectare of paddy area in the state,” says a senior government official at state department of agriculture, Haryana. “Farmers were not consulted in planning process but decision has been imposed on them to buy or hire costly and limited machines,” he adds.
There is also apprehension that new machines are only suitable only for those farmers who choose to grow wheat in the Rabi season. Farmers who choose to grow vegetables, potato, mustard, pulses do not stand to benefit because the design of the machines is not suitable for these crops.
Gurnam Singh Chaduni, a state farmer leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Haryana unit, claims that these are costly machines and only favour wheat crops. “If one chooses to grow potatoes or mustard, which requires different system of farming, cannot accept these machines. It only promotes wheat farming,” says Singh.
How equipment gets costly
The new equipment get costly as government announced Rs 1,152-crore subsidy for the next two years. A senior government official says, on the condition of anonymity, that most of the specifications of these machines were made needlessly complicated. Flawed tendering process also made equipment costly.
Centralisation of the tendering process also increased the cost. For example, farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are buying Happy Seeder machines manufactured by an Amritsar-based Agro-Equipment company and paying Rs 20,000-30,000 more than what the farmers in Punjab are paying.
“Had the tender process been decentralised, these companies would have certainly quoted less in order to find a place in the government’s list of manufacturers,” says Balvinder Singh Sidhu, commissioner (Agriculture), Government of Punjab.
“Besides, there is also high cost due to 18 per cent GST,” he adds, urging the government to waive off or reduce GST for equipment used under this scheme.
Government has empanelled 81 manufacturers for supplying equipment under the central sector scheme. “When government announced subsidy, these companies started to draw the subsidy amount fast into their pockets and make equipment cost higher in the name of high demands,” says a senior official.
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