BHUBANESWAR: AFTER wavering for over eight years on establishment of Agro Service Centres (ASCs) in selected primary agriculture cooperatives (PACS), the Cooperation department has finally decided to call off the plan and surrender the funds allocated in 2013-14.
The decision to abandon the plan after piloting the project in 31 PACS/large area multi purpose cooperative societies (LAMPS) comes at a time when farmers need support of such ASCs the most due to acute shortage of agricultural workers during the extended lockdown triggered by Covid pandemic.
As shortage of labourers and increasing labour cost forced farmers to look for farm machinery, the State Government decided to establish ASCs in 150 selected PACS and LAMPS in the State in order to transform the societies as professional organisations to extend all services required by farmers under one roof.
The Government decided in March 2014 to equip the ASCs with machinery and implements like tractor, trolley, thresher, power sprayer, pump set and power tiller and provide these on hiring basis to PACS members to enable them improve their agriculture practices.
Estimating the unit cost at Rs 8.60 lakh, Government allocated Rs 9 crore to the Cooperation department in 2013-14. The funds remained unutilised till end of 2018.Government approved a modified proposal of the department in January 2018 for setting up 100 ASCs with a revised unit cost of Rs 32 lakh.
The Government subsidy of Rs 9 crore and a NABARD loan of Rs 5.42 crore was placed with the Odisha Agro Industries Corporation (OAIC) in June 2018 for supply of farm implements to 31 PACS in first phase.
OAIC supplied machineries and farm implements to the 31 PACS during January-February of 2019. The corporation could not supply machineries to the remaining 69 societies due to non-sanction of loan by NABARD.
Curiously, of the Rs 9 crore allocated to Cooperation department in 2013, only Rs 2.79 crore was utilised towards subsidy to 31 PACS where the centres were opened. The balance Rs 6.21 crore has remained unspent till date.
In a recent communication to the Government, Registrar of the Cooperative Societies (RCS) has suggested to drop the plan as the scheme is not running well in the 31 ASCs. The RCS has sought permission of the Government to surrender the unspent balance of Rs 6.21 crore.