Palakkad: The Kerala government has slashed the funds for the Sustainable Rice Development Assistance Scheme, which seeks to encourage farmers to take up paddy cultivation, by a whopping 40 per cent. The cut has been implemented reportedly considering the increase in paddy cultivation and yield over the years.
However, the decision has led to dejection among the farmers, who are preparing for the first harvest of the year. Following the new move by the government, the assistance would be available for a mere 35,000 hectares of paddy fields in Palakkad district, where rice cultivation used to take place on 88,000 hectares in two seasons every year.
The sustainable assistance scheme was launched 10 years ago to support farmers in purchasing fertilizers, seeds, pesticides and related items, along with meeting the costs involved in planting. Under the scheme, an amount was directly transferred to the farmers’ bank account.
The rate was Rs 5,500 per hectare for one crop and farmers who cultivated two crops a year found receiving Rs 11,000 a hectare as a big relief. In Palakkad district, paddy is cultivated on around 75,000 hectares a year during good seasons.
According to farmers, the funds have been reduced by the government citing financial crunch. However, they have demanded that the funds for the scheme should be restored by avoiding non-profitable projects.
The farmers also alleged that though their groups at the ward, block and district levels have been meeting regularly over the last five years and making suggestions, the authorities had not included these recommendations in the agricultural projects implemented by the government.
Another issue haunting paddy farmers relates to the labour charges for ploughing which is given as an incentive. The farmers point out that several local bodies are not in a position to pay the amount. Moreover, there is a long delay in paying the bonus of Rs 1,000 per hectare given for high yield.