By: Harit Lakhani
The BJP government launched the Soil Health Card Scheme (SHCS) in February 2015.
As per reply submitted to the Parliament by the Ministry dated 12th February 2019, during the first Cycle (2015-17), against the target of 10.73 crore soil health cards, 100% cards have been issued to farmers. However, the numbers don’t match when juxtaposed with the reply given by Agriculture Minister dated 28th March 2017 as reported in by Press Information Bureau the same day, the target by March 2017 was 14 Crores, not 10.73 crore. Also, inconsistent is the achievement numbers. As per the reply given in March 2017, only 6 crore health cards were distributed while the reply given in February 2019 for the same cycle mentions 10.73 crores. It raises serious questions about the authenticity of the data being submitted by the government to the Parliament.
As per the February 2019 reply submitted to Parliament, in the second Cycle (2017-19), against the target of 12.04 crore soil health cards, 8.13 crore cards issued to farmers till 06.02.2019 by States.
Since the inception of the scheme in 2015, financial assistance has been provided to states / UTs for setting up of 411 new Static Soil Testing Laboratories (STLs), 100 Mobile Soil Testing Laboratories (MSTLs), 8752 Mini Soil Testing Laboratories, 1562 Village Level Soil Testing Laboratories. There is no data available on the status of these labs. The Ministry issued guidelines for setting up village level laboratories in January 2017. Further, by June 2018 Haryana Government had not even operationalised the labs. As per news report published by The Tribune dated June 2018, the Haryana government had received 19 proposals for setting up labs
In the absence of data, it cannot be inferred that the labs have actually been established and become operational. However, it must be mentioned that an undated list of 3900 Soil Testing Laboratories can be accessed here. It is also not clear whether these labs existed before 2014.
National Productivity Council (NPC) has done a study on ‘Soil Testing Infrastructure for Faster Delivery of Soil Health Cards in India’ and found that as a result of application of fertilizers as per recommendations of soil health card, there is a decrease in use of chemical fertilizers in the range of 8-10% and increase in yield of crops to the tune of 5-6%.
Considering issuance of Soil Health Cards to crores of Farmers, an independent study indicating improvement in yield and decrease in use of fertilisers, and some progress on the setting up of soil testing labs at different levels, the performance is considered “Adequate”.