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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Exclusive: Bizarre UPA-Era Figures Revealed 70% Of Delhi Used For Organic Farming In 2012 And Records Can't Explain Where 100 Crore Subsidies Gone?

Believe it or not, almost 70 per cent of the national Capital was used for organic farming in 2011-2012, according to National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF), which comes under the Ministry of Agriculture. 

While the total geographical area of Delhi is 1.48 lakh hectares, NPOF data shows 100238.74 hectares (almost twice the size of Mumbai) was used for organic farming during that period. 

What smacks of data fudging and a gigantic scam took place between 2009 and 2012 when the Sheila Dikshit government was in power in Delhi and the Congress-led UPA ruled at the Centre.

As per the central government scheme, a subsidy of Rs 10,000 per hectare of land is given to a farmer for organic farming. Hence, Rs 100-crore plus subsidies in 2011-12 were given by the Union government for organic farming in the national Capital for 100238.74 hectares. 

And Delhi, on paper, produced 4,765 tonnes of organic products in 2009. The state of Assam produced 2,329 tonnes. In other words, urban Delhi’s output of organic products was 100 per cent higher than that of Assam.

The scam was exposed by the Crop Care Foundation of India (CCFI) through an RTI. 

When INNLIVE asked the Ministry of Agriculture if such gigantic tracts of land inside Delhi had been used for organic farming or if the national capital is such a big producer of organic vegetables, we got no answers. 

Neither did the Commerce Ministry, which is in charge of export of organic products, come up with any answers. Both ministries passed the buck and pointed fingers at each other. 

The Delhi Agriculture department says there is hardly any organic farming done in Delhi. 

“There is no awareness about organic farming in Delhi. We don’t get any specific data on such farming from the government. Neither do we get any subsidy,” an official from the department told INNLIVE. 

Delhi agriculture department records show 30,922 hectares of land were used for overall agricultural activities in Delhi in 2011-12. 

Agriculture activity in Delhi takes place only on six blocks, out of which there is negligible farming in 50 per cent of the area. 

NPOF was introduced by the Congress-led UPA government during the 10th five-year plan as a central sector scheme with effect from 10 October, 2004, with an initial outlay of Rs 57 crore for promotion of organic farming in India. 

Though introduced by the UPA government, the scheme continues to date with a substantially enhanced budget. 

Dr Krishan Chandra, Regional Director, National Center for Organic Farming (NCOF), Ministry of Agriculture, said: “Agriculture is a state subject. The Centre’s role is to help states monetarily so that they can take up organic farming. 

We have different schemes through which we help farmers by providing money to states. But there is no scope of organic farming in Delhi as there is meagre land available for any kind of farming. As far as subsidy is concerned, we give subsidy for the export of organic produce.” 

According to the data available with the Ministry of Agriculture, the annual export value of Agriorganic products for 2012-13 was Rs 1155.81 crore. 

Dr Chandra said he asked for clarification after noticing a major glitch in the data on organic farming in Delhi, provided by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), under the Ministry of Commerce.

“The data regarding land for organic farming is maintained by APEDA and not by our department. They said that earlier they used to enter the data manually but now they are doing it using computers. There may be some data manipulation as it is not possible to carry out such large-scale organic farming in Delhi,” said Chandra. 

“At times the state helps the farmer financially to carry out organic farming. Farmers furnish address details of the national capital, but the land is somewhere else. The responsibility to check such details furnished by farmers lies with the Commerce Ministry,” he said. 

Sources in the Agriculture Ministry said that there is a possibility of embezzlement of funds at the state level because who the beneficiaries would be are decided by the state. The state agriculture department claims to have no information on organic farming in Delhi. 

“We don’t have any information,” said Kaushal Kishore, joint director, agriculture, Development department, Delhi government. 

Rajinder Chaudhry, Director (Media), Ministry of Commerce, said: “We are not aware about the disparity in data from other sources. The data provided by APEDA is sourced from TRACENET – a web-based traceability system operational under NPOP.” 

Sharp decline in area sown under organic farming 
The Centre might have promised to increase the organic food production in the country, but the area under safe food cultivation in some states has come down drastically.

According to the latest figures of the National Centre of Organic Farming, as many as eight states have registered a sharp decline in the area sown under organic cultivation. 

Punjab, the most fertile state, recorded a sharp fall in the area sown for organic produce from 6025.78 ha in 2010-11 to 927.28 ha in 2011-12. 
Gujarat, with 48518.91 ha put under organic cultivation in 2010-11, also recorded a decline, with 41978.94 ha sown in 2011-12. 

The organically sown area in Madhya Pradesh, a major central agriculture state, also fell down from 2866571.87 ha in 2010-11 to just 432129.5 ha in 2011-12. 

Bihar also seemed to have relied heavily on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, with the organically sown area falling down from 1303.62 in 2010-11 to 188.6 ha in 2011-12. 

The North-Eastern states also fared badly in growing organic produce, with Manipur’s cultivated area plunging from 2792.02 ha in 2010-11 to 1296.91 ha in 2011-12, while that of Mizoram came down from 12544.13 ha in 2010-11 to 7023.97 ha a year later. 

The net cultivated area that included the wild farming in Meghalaya fell down from 2419.67 ha in 2010-11 to 288.23 ha in 2011-12. 

At the fifth National Organic Convention in Chandigarh, recently, several states announced to scale up organic farming. 

Kavitha Kuruganti, convener of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), said: “Safe or organic food cannot be called as the food of the elite. The government has a primary duty to assure safe food to the citizens of the country. Sadly, the current budget did not reflect anything on the safety of the food.” 

Directly from the farm to the table 
In a bid to eliminate the exploitative middlemen, the National Project on Promotion of Organic Farming, which is being implemented through the Centre of Organic Farming, Ghaziabad, is developing new ways to facilitate farmers in selling their produce directly to buyers. 

The Centre, through the state government, NGOs, state agricultural universities, the Indian Council for Agriculture Research Institutions, and organic certification bodies is creating awareness about organic farmers among farmers. 

Indrikstakar, a farmer in Karnataka, is now solely practising organic farming. “Earlier, I was using pesticides. However, gradually, I understood that markets are getting inclined towards organic farm produce. I got trained for organic farming and now I make more money than earlier.” 

“I am now my own boss. I sell my produce directly to buyers. A lot of foreigners buy my organic food. Organic farming has helped me earn more money,” said Kaan Singh, a farmer in Jaipur. 

Nine states have drafted recently organic farming policies. Out of these, four states - Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Sikkim and Mizoram - have declared their intention to go 100 per cent organic. 

Sikkim has already converted nearly 40 per cent of its total cultivated area under organic. It plans to go completely organic by 2015. 

“Initially, it was not an easy task to convince farmers to adopt organic farming. It takes a lot of time and patience to make them understand that it is beneficial. Apart from agriculture, these organic farms are also a tourist attraction,” said Mukesh Gupta, a member of the steering committee on organic agriculture in the Ministry of Commerce.
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