New Delhi: The agriculture ministry plans to offer cash incentives to farmers who take up yogik farming, gou mata kheti and rishi krishi, obscure methods of cultivation that have little scientific evidence to prove they are beneficial.
According to revised guidelines of the centre’s flagship scheme to promote organic farming, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), farmers will be eligible for an assistance of Rs48,700 per hectare for a three-year period for adopting these traditional methods of cultivation.
The guidelines were issued on 2 April and the government has budgeted Rs360 crore for the scheme in 2018-19. Some of these cultivation techniques were also displayed at the Krishi Unnati Mela organized by the ministry in March in New Delhi.
An official from the National Centre for Organic Farming, an arm of the ministry that promotes organic cultivation, said that despite objections raised by it, the ministry included the non-scientific cultivation methods for financial assistance.
According to the revised guidelines, farmers practising traditional methods of organic farming like yogik farming, gou mata kheti, Vedic farming, Vaishnav kheti, Ahinsa farming, Adhvoot Shivanand farming, and rishi krishi will be eligible for financial assistance, in addition to those adopting standard organic farming practices like zero-budget natural farming and permaculture.
“We do not intend to take farming to the Vedic era but are promoting low-cost environment-friendly methods of farming which certain groups are already practising... it is too early to say anything more," said an official at the integrated nutrient management division of the ministry who did not want to be named.
While the revised guidelines do not elaborate on the package of practices associated with these little-known methods of farming, yogik farming refers to a system where it is believed that farmers can channelize cosmic energy to their fields by performing yoga. Rishi krishi is based on pre-Vedic, Vedic and medieval texts like Vishvavallava, Kashyapiyakrishisukti, and Surapala’s Vrikshayurveda. Gou mata kheti is a system of farming which uses cow dung and urine from indigenous breeds of lactating cows.
“The nomenclature of these farming methods does not matter as long as these follow standard principles of agro-ecology and are scientifically proven, and provided they are not used to promote a particular school of religious and cultural thought," said Kavitha Kuruganti, convener of Association for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, a agriculture policy advocacy body.
The decision comes at a time when farm incomes across India have been hit following a crash in crop prices.
A Delhi-based agriculture technology policy expert who did not want to named said that the revised PKVY guidelines “seem to be promoting religious organizations and babas (religious gurus) working at the grassroots level", at a time when public agriculture research institutions are lacking funds and stewardship.