February 09, 2013

Part 3 of my series on progress in Bengal

Part three of my series on positive news from West Bengal is on what the Trinamool Congress government has done for farmers and the agricultural sector, the bedrock of our state. As always, only facts here – no analysis, no spin.

  • Farmers have begun to be paid the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops through account payee cheques. For the first time, more than 20 lakh tonnes of paddy has been procured at the MSP against cheque payments to farmers. Also, cereal production is 20 lakh tonnes higher than in the previous year.
  • The state government has issued over 10 lakh (one million) Kisan Credit Cards (KCCs) to farmers. A KCC helps the farmer access bank credit at seven per cent interest. Prompt repayment and a good credit history can lead to the interest rate going down to as low as four per cent. This means the farmer can potentially take multiple crop loans in a year.
  • Farmers in West Bengal don’t have to pay the premium for crop insurance. The state government has become the first in India to pay the entire premium on their behalf. It now bears 95 per cent of the premium for insuring non-commercial crops. This programme started in the rabi or dry season of 2011-12. Wheat, mustard, boro (dry) paddy, linseed, sesame, rapeseed, gram, masur (lentil) and tur are some of the crops being covered by insurance in the current rabi season.
  • The Department of Agriculture has been able to move 15 lakh metric tonnes of fertiliser into the state in the past 200 days. To ensure there is no pilferage and fertiliser is not sold at higher than the MRP, 7,142 different inspections have taken place. This has led to the suspension of 347 individuals who were part of the fertiliser distribution chain.
  • The government has set aside Rs 310 crore for a project to build 500 rural marketing complexes or Kisan Mandis. The West Bengal State Marketing Board has begun to construct 36 multipurpose cold storages. The first of these is already operational in Champadanga (Hooghly district).
  • The Trinamool Congress government provides a one-time grant – Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 30,000 – to poor farmers to help them purchase agricultural tools and implements. In addition, 30,000 farmers have been given Rs. 8,000 each to get a power connection and move away from diesel pumps, following the recent hike in fuel prices. A further 30,000 farmers have been provided Rs. 45,000 each to purchase a vehicle to carry produce from the farm to the market.
  • The West Bengal Tribal Development Cooperative (WBTDC) has trained 4,380 persons in 2012 under tribal development schemes related to agriculture.
  • 11 new Primary Milk Cooperative Societies, with 500 farmer-members have begun functioning with support from the state government.
  • The rainwater harvesting scheme - Jal DharoJal Bharo, has secured a Rs. 1,150 crore loan from the World Bank. To complement this, the state government has earmarked Rs. 100 crore for the project in 2012-13.