Apr 28, 2013

The slow death of Krishi Vigyan Kendras. Killing public sector farm extension.

These were launched with a great fanfare. Successive Agriculture Ministers had appreciated the role of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs). In fact, there was so much of demand for setting up KVKs, that I remember political representatives making a beeline. These farm extension centres, set up in almost all the districts of the country, were expected to be the outreach arms of the State Agricultural Universities.

The first KVK was set up by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research at Pondicherry in 1974. The KVKs had the mandate for on-farm testing to identify the location specificity of agricultural technologies under various farming sustems; frontline demonstration to establish its production potentials on the farmer's field; training of farmers to update their knowledge and skills in modern agricultural technologies and training of extension personnel to orient them in the frontier areas of technology development.

A news report by intrepid journalist S P Singh in the Hindi daily Dainik Jagran (April 28, 2013) exposes the shocking plight and neglect of these important farm extension kendras. The 632 KVKs are not only gasping for breath but for all practical purposes have been left to die. Gung-ho on private agri-clinics, perhaps the government has no space left for the public sector extension outlets. These have been rendered irrelevant.

Consider this:

1) Over 100 KVKs do not have office buildings. Agricultural scientists sit and work from under a tree.
2) 175 KVKs do not have the basic soil testing facilities.
3) 1,500 jobs of KVK scientists are lying vacant.
4) Scientific equipment and machinery is lying unused and rusting at a number of places.
5) 234 KVKs do not have facilities of demonstrate improved technology, and that includes research farms.
6) No KVK has residential facilities for its staff.
7) The annual budget for agricultural extension has been drastically reduced from Rs 10,000-crore to Rs 4,000-crore. This is bare enough to meet the salary requirements.
8)  In the name of contingency, each KVK can get only Rs 5 lakh a year.

The modus operandi is the same. To promote privatisation, the first step is to starve public sector institutes/bodies of funds. Once the financial lifeline is disconnected, the end is nearer. It is happening across the board in India, and KVKs are no exception. The death-knell for KVKs is being sounded because the government is keen to pass on farm extension into private hands. Agri-clinics are now being promoted (of course with government subsidies).

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