On the occasion of Environment Day, which coincides with the arrival of monsoon to India, a general call for the public for taking care of the many aspects of environment including the water conservation fits well. But is there any particular call of action for farmers in this regard? Perhaps it may be an unpopular approach to follow.
Now, consider this fact. Globally, agriculture accounts for the withdrawal of 70% freshwater.
Here comes a scheme from Haryana government- mera paani meri virasat. It is not just asking the farmers to diversify crop to stop groundwater exploitation; it also incentivises the farmers to do so.
What the Scheme is About?
In May this year the Haryana government launched the programme mera paani meri virasat in which ₹7,000 per acre will be provided to those farmers who will diversify more than 50% of their kharif season (2019-20) paddy area. The obvious rationale behind the move is that paddy is a water intensive crop and the country is already producing it in sufficient quantity.
Added to this, the farmers will not be allowed to cultivate paddy in any new areas where paddy was not grown the preceding year. The scheme aims at replacement of paddy by maize/cotton/bajra/pulses in 1 lakh hectare in targeted blocks having water table more than 40 meters.
Water-scarce Blocks Are Identified
The blocks where groundwater table is more than 40 meters in the state of Haryana are Ratia in Fatehabad district, Siwan and Guhla in Kaithal district, Pipli, Shahbad, Babain and Ismailabad in Kurukshetra district and Sirsa in Sirsa district.
Thanesar and Pehowa in Kurukshetra district and Fatehabad and Jakhal in Fatehabad district have been identified as the blocks where water levels are above 35 meter.
In the blocks where ground water level is 35 meters, the Panchayat will not be permitted to grow paddy. Additionally, all those farmers who are operating their tube well with 50 HP electric motor will not be allowed to grow paddy.
Incentives & Nudging
While the opposition Congress in the state seems to be trying to create a political issue out of it, the Haryana government is nudging the farmers to adopt crop diversification.
The government is also facilitating the availability of high productivity maize seeds, and bringing awareness among the farmers about the benefits of low water utilising crops. The best agricultural practices are widely publicised in the targeted blocks.
The farmers who will diversify more than 50% of their paddy area in the identified blocks will be able to sell all their diversified crops to the government at Minimum Support Price (MSP). The state government has also provisioned for the installation of ‘Maize Dryer’ in grain markets for reducing moisture content of maize grain produced by the farmers. On top of it, 85% subsidy is provided for installation of Drip Irrigation System for the alternate diversified crops.
The Reception Among Farmers
A UNI report on June 2, 2020 quoted the officials and noted that 33,183 farmers have registered on ‘Mera Pani Meri Virasat Portal’ to diversify their crops instead of paddy in 37,109.23 hectares of land. Instead of paddy, 6,951 farmers have decided to grow Maize, 5,803 farmers have decided to sow Bajra, 16,520 farmers have decided to sow cotton, 861 farmers have decided to sow pulses and 3,048 farmers have decided to grow horticultural crops.