The Union Government has approved a Central Sector Scheme for providing drones to at least 15,000 women Self Help Groups (SHGs) with a funding of Rs 1261 Crores for the period from 2024-25 to 2025-26, according to a press release by the Agriculture Ministry. The government will be identifying clusters of areas where usage of drones is economically feasible and SHGs from such clusters will be selected for providing drones to farmers.
What does the scheme offer?
- According to the press release, the scheme will consider facilities and converge resources from the Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (DA&FW), Department of Rural development (DoRD) and Department of Fertilizers (DoF), Women SHGs and Lead Fertilizer Companies (LFCs).
- The SHGs will mainly rent out the supplied drone services to the farmers for Nano fertilizer and also for pesticide applications.
- “Central Financial Assistance @ 80% of the cost of drone and accessories/ancillary charges up to a maximum of Rs. Eight Lakh will be provided to the women SHGs for purchase of drones. The Cluster Level Federation (CLFs) of SHGs may raise the balance amount (total cost of procurement minus subsidy) as loan under National Agriculture Infra Financing Facility (AIF). Interest subvention @ 3% on the AIF loan will be provided,” the Ministry stated.
- Further, a member of the SHGs who is identified to be well-qualified and is 18 and above years of age will be selected for a 15-day training programme, comprising of a five-day mandatory drone pilot training and a 10-day training for agriculture usage for nutrient and pesticide application.
- Other members of the SHG, who are interested in electrical and mechanical works will be selected under the State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM) and LFCs to be trained as a drone technician and assistant. These training shall be provided as a package along with the supply of drones.
- The scheme promised that the SHGs would be able to earn an additional income of at least Rs One Lakh per annum.
Why does this matter:
The Indian government is already investing a huge amount of money on the promotion of Kisan drones, under the ‘Kisan Drone Yatra’ programme that seeks to introduce the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) in the agriculture sector for spraying pesticides, digitisation of land records, crop assessment, etc. In March 2023, the Agriculture Ministry had announced that funds amounting to Rs. 129.19 Crores have been released for the promotion of Kisan Drones. This also included funds released to various State Governments for supply of more than 240 Kisan Drone to farmers on subsidy and establishment of more than 1500 Kisan Drone Custom Hiring Centres to provide drone services to the farmers.
Why is that the government is investing additional funds for providing drone services through SHGs? To add to the ambiguity, the government had failed to provide answers to MediaNama’s RTI questions in March regarding the practical application of drones for crop assessment and digitisation of land records. The latest press release on the scheme for SHGs does not elaborate on how exactly will the scheme facilitate better income for women or increase employment opportunities for them.
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