Since the change of guard in 2011, the Bengal government has taken a series of steps to extend support to farmers. It ensured their average income increases threefold compared to that of the erstwhile Left Front regime.
Besides financial support, adequate measures were taken to improve infrastructure to help farmers with agri-machinery that is considered necessary to ensure an increase in yield of crops.
The Mamata Banerjee government is now taking a step ahead in further strengthening the state’s position in terms of making heavy agri-machineries easily available for farmers. This gains significance as major sections of farmers in the state are marginal.
It was Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s brainchild to set up Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs) across rural Bengal. CHCs are the centres from where farmers can hire heavy agri-machineries at a minimum cost. The state government, on the other hand, also provides heavy incentives to set up CHCs.
The state government has taken steps to set up another 145 CHCs across Bengal to help more farmers avail the benefit of the initiative. At present, there are as many as 1,845 CHCs in the state. With the setting up of the new ones, the total number of CHCs would go up to nearly 2,000.
The state agriculture department had carried out a survey and identified the blocks where CHCs are yet to come up. As a result, farmers from these blocks need to depend on CHCs of neighbouring blocks. Hence, a decision has been taken to set up CHCs in these blocks as well.
Machinery, including combined harvester and heavy transplanters, remain available at each of the CHCs. Setting up of each CHC costs around Rs 2.5 crore. The state government either provides 40 percent of the entire cost or Rs 1 crore, whichever is lesser. The state government also ensures necessary support to get bank loans to set up the same. For further improvement in the agri-machineries sector, the state government has allocated Rs 120 crore. With natural calamities becoming quite regular in the South Bengal districts, the need to ensure an almost overnight harvest of paddy has become necessary. It is not possible to ensure the same with human labour. But the state government had made it possible twice — during Super Cyclone Amphan and Cyclone Yaas – by engaging combined harvesters. With the state often getting impacted, the Bengal government had considered setting up more CHCs, the work for which will be completed at the earliest.