Express press service
BENGALURU: With the onset of the monsoon in Karnataka, farmers might rejoice as the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted good rains for this year. But what may shock many is the serious crisis facing the National Department of Agriculture. The department is facing a severe staff shortage with less than 50% of employees working. This had a negative impact on the functioning of the department and the parties concerned are mainly the beneficiaries and the farmers who did not receive allowances.
The department’s sanctioned strength of various cadres is 9,007 positions, of which only 4,020 positions have been filled. This means that there are only 44% of staff working in the department. Among them, Group B and Group C play important roles, and most of the vacancies belong to these two cadres. In Group B executives, of the 4,091 sanctioned positions, only 1,781 have been filled.
The state government’s decision to recruit 300 people makes little difference as it is far below the actual number required. In Karnataka, there are almost 750 Raitha Samparka Kendras (RSK), with at least one each at the Hobli level. Each RSK should have an assistant agricultural officer and an agricultural assistant who are crucial in reaching the final beneficiary in the villages.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, in his first budget speech, had announced the allocation of 33,700 crores to agriculture and related sectors with the aim of increasing farmers’ incomes. He had also announced the Raitha Shakti scheme allocating Rs 500 crore to encourage the use of agricultural machinery.
“Agricultural schemes do not reach the beneficiaries”
The CM had even sanctioned a diesel subsidy of Rs 250 per acre for small farmers.
A senior government official, on condition of anonymity, told TNSE: “There are many agriculture-related programs that will benefit a large number of farmers and their family members. Government officials on the ground are the ones who play an important role in reaching beneficiaries in the villages, including providing fertilizer subsidies. With a shortage of staff, how can we be expected to meet deadlines.”
Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture sent a proposal to hire 3,000 graduates of agricultural universities as agricultural assistants, one person for every two panchayats, but the Ministry of Finance rejected the proposal citing additional financial burden for the public treasury. “We need people to reach out to farmers to educate them about substandard seed, help them double their income, educate them about soil conservation and advance many other initiatives. We have no staff in the RSKs so a lot of people are neglected,” another official said.