parliamentary panel has recommend that the government should strive hard to promote agricultural mechanisation for small and marginal farmers, and pitched for use of “tiny robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI)” for Indian farm operations in future to deal with the problem of fragmented land.
The panel – standing committee on agriculture that submitted its report in Parliament on Friday – also felt that the opening of National Institute of Agricultural Robotics & Artificial Intelligence is required to keep pace in development in agriculture at national and international level. It said a “concerted effort with multidisciplinary approach” is needed for timely development in the direction of use of AI and robots in the farm sector.
In India, there are 86% small and marginal farmers having less than two hectares of land holdings. Noting the ground realities, the Committee headed by BJP member, P C Gaddigoudar, said, “Unless machines appropriate for small holdings are made available or substantial farm amalgamation takes place, it is difficult for the small and marginal farmers to purchase their own machinery.”
Currently, the overall agriculture mechanisation level of the country is 47% which is comparatively lower than that of other developing countries such as China (60%) and Brazil (75%).
Underlining importance of farm mechanisation in India as it plays a key role in improving agricultural production, productivity and efficiency, the panel in its report flagged how the current use leads to saving in seed (15-20%), fertilizer (15-20%), improvement in germination rate (7-25%), saving in time (20-30%), in weed (20-40%) and in labour (20-30%) besides increase in cropping intensity (5-20%) and increase in crop yield (13-23%).
It, therefore, sought the government to strive hard to achieve a level of 75% in farm mechanisation from the present level of 47% in a much shorter period, instead of doing it in the next 25 years.
“The Committee desires the government to follow up with other allied government departments and try to find portability of farm equipment suitable to small and marginal farmers as they are not in a position to buy huge farm equipment and cannot use these equipment in a cost effective way as their land holdings are very small,” said the report.
The panel also recommended that to monitor and implement the government policy and programme of mechanization more effectively and efficiently, a ‘Directorate of Agricultural Engineering’ is needed in each state. It said instead of a sub-scheme on submission of Agricultural Mechanization, the government should have a full-fledged Agriculture Mechanization Scheme to accelerate the process.
Currently, the government is implementing “Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)” for which 40-50% of the cost of the equipments is being provided to the small and marginal farmers for the purchase of Tractors, Power Tillers, Combine Harvesters, Rotavators and Rice transplanter. One of the major objectives of SMAM is to promote custom hiring of farm machinery centres and Farm Machinery Banks (maintain a set of required equipment and use on sharing basis), so that small and marginal farmers can get the benefits of agriculture mechanization.
Total 37,097 Custom Hiring Centres have been established under SMAM since 2014-15. Similarly, a total of 17,727 Farm Machinery Banks have been established at village level. Besides, 403 Hi-Tech Hubs have been established over the years.
Though the Committee appreciated these efforts, it felt that in spite of the best efforts of the government, the benefits of Farm Machinery Banks have not percolated to Districts, Talukas, Panchayat and Gram Sabha levels.