What a waste

What a waste

as a part of a centrally-sponsored scheme non-recommended pesticides were being distributed to farmers in Rajasthan. Farmers were being forced to buy unnecessary pesticides as a part of the subsidy package under the National Horticulture Mission (nhm). These chemicals have not been approved for use in the crops that were being cultivated in the area.

Pesticides like endosulfan, monocrotophos and malathion were distributed in areas where crops like coriander and fenugreek were grown. According to the information available on the website of Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee, the apex pesticide regulatory body, on July 7, 2008, none of these chemcials has been recommended for both the crops.

Six litres of a pesticide along with 40 kg of urea per hectare came with a 75 per cent subsidy under this scheme, which is part of the National Horticulture Mission (nhm). Seeds too were given to the farmer. The farmer was free to buy whatever pesticide he chose from village cooperative stores by paying only 25 per cent of the cost. He was to receive a bill for his payment. The scheme allows for subsidy on inputs to support cultivation over a maximum of four hectares.

nhm was launched in 2005 across the country to double India's horticultural production and take it to 300 million tonnes by 2012. There are several schemes under the programme which are designed to enhance output. Each state horticultural mission introduces government scheme according to the land-and-climate profile of each district. This particular scheme was introduced in 17 of Rajasthan's 32 districts, mostly in the eastern part. The preferred horticultural crop choice of farmers here were spices, herbs and flowers.

Even though the choice of seeds and pesticides was the farmer's under this scheme, rules were disregarded. The end result was an agriculture input subsidy scam in the state. While farmers, who availed of this scheme, chose the seed for crops grown conventionally in his area, he was at a loss when it came to the array of pesticides now presented to him. It thus became easy for vested interests to influence his choice of the chemicals.

This is clearly in violation of procedure stipulated by the government. Specific pesticides can only be distributed to farmers by the government if there is a report of an epidemic or disease outbreak in the crops in that area. Use of pesticides other than those recommended by the agriculture department is illegal. "No permits were issued by the agricultural officer regarding any outbreak," says Ranjeet Singh Gathala, the then state horticulture secretary. It is not clear who recommended the package of pesticides and fertilizer for this scheme. "A farmer will buy anything when made to believe that it will increase production. So when they were giving us all these products at just 25 per cent of the rate, who would have refused," said Bhawarlal Gujjar, sarpanch of Baluheda panchayat of Kota district.

Coriander and fenugreek
More than 50 farmers in Baluheda bought pesticides, seeds and fertilizers for coriander and fenugreek cultivation at subsidized rates under the scheme in 2006. But these ostensible beneficiaries of the centrally funded scheme suffered heavy losses last year as the seeds were of very poor quality and the pesticides unnecessary.

Premchand Devishankar normally grew more than 18 quintal of the spice, coriander, on his one hectare piece of land in a season.


"We had such a good yield that we did not even need to buy any seed from the market. We hardly needed pesticides. I wish I did not get misled by the subsidy scheme."

--Chandra Prakash Rathi, A fenugreek farmer of Baluheda
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