NEW DELHI:Launched with much fanfare to give farmers the soil nutrient status of their holdings and revive their sagging fortunes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet Soil Health Card scheme has missed the target.
Documents accessed by Express reveal that only 69 Lakh samples have been collected in 2015-16 against the target of 1 crore.
The document said the government was supposed to have distributed five crore Soil Health Cards by March 31, 2016 but it has so far been able to distribute only 79 lakh cards. Given the current scenario, it appears difficult for the government machinery to reach the target figure of 14 crore cards by 2017.
Modi, while launching the scheme at Suratgarh in Rajasthan in February 2015, had called for focusing attention on the health of soil in agricultural areas to boost productivity and bring about prosperity.
The government says the inadequacy of existing labs is the biggest hurdle to achieving the target. The second biggest challenge is the time-bound delivery of the first cycle in 2016-17 -- issuing 14 crore cards and analysing 2.53 crore samples.
Facing the heat over the delay and hit by a policy paralysis, the government is looking to provide lab facilities at the existing retail fertilizer outlets so they can be transformed into testing centres.
The plan is to open 3,000 model retail outlets by fertilizers companies with soil, seed and fertilizer testing facilities at the block level in three years. The government hopes to create at least 500 such facilities in 2016-17.
The government, according to the document, is also planning to develop innovative handheld devices through start-ups to tide over the inordinate delay.
It is hoping that the additional facilitieis will provide employment opportunities for 30,000 skilled samplers and 10,000 skilled technicians and lab assistants.