Meghalaya scheme envisions turning farmers into entrepreneurs
Setting an example for other states that social welfare schemes can be implemented within limited funds, the Meghalaya government has started a flagship scheme which focuses on motivating farmers to earn their livelihood within a restricted amount of monetary resources.
The Meghalaya government, led by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, has succeeded in accentuating the income of farmers through the scheme 'Jal Kund' that focuses on motivating farmers to come out of slumber and earn their livelihood within a limited funding from the government, the northeastern state's Development Commissioner Ram Mohan Mishra said.
"With the CM's initiative we have started a flagship Meghalaya State Livelihood Programme, under which we focus on motivating farmers to uplift themselves. Since we do not have enough funds, we do not want grants to be misused by fake beneficiaries," Mishra told PTI.
"We believe that people will not be able to make a living until they become self-sufficient. Thus, we as a government are trying to instill confidence among them that the government will help them financially if they are willing to work hard," the IAS officer said.
To implement their flagship scheme, the government has hired retired government officials and around 1,000 fresh graduates, on a yearly contract basis, to reach out to the villagers and motivate them to start their own agro-based businesses, he said.
"Meghalaya is blessed with a bountiful nature. The flora and fauna can be used to the optimum by farmers to generate their livelihood," Mishra said. "For instance, initially, the state government allots Rs 60,000 to every person willing to construct a 'Jal Kund' (water pond) in their farms. This Jal Kund helps a farmer get more than one source of income, like breeding of fishes, using the water for horticulture purposes," he said.
Around 26,000 such ponds have been created in the last one-and-a-half year, the official informed. "We are also encouraging farmers to produce honey using honeybees. Having multiple sources of income ensures that if one business fails, losses will be covered from elsewhere," he said.
Mishra, however, clarified that money is alloted only to those who are serious about doing a business and said the government expects them to return the money once their establishments are settled. Citing an example, he said while branded honey is sold at a certain rate in the market, the farmers cultivating honey through this programme are selling it at thrice the rate.
"These farmers have created their own brands and we are being approached by several international market players to collaborate with them for this business," he said. The Meghalaya government has also produced a short 10-minute film that is screened before probable entrepreneurs which showcases the successes of the 'Jal Kund' scheme.
"We screen the film on a one-on-one basis and not in a group. About 35,000 people have joined the scheme till date after watching our film and realising that a person known to the one watching the film has benefited immensely from the scheme," Mishra said.
He attributed the state's eight per cent agricultural growth to the 'Jal Kund' scheme. When asked whether the scheme has also contributed to the state's per capita income, he said the government would rather wait for results after consistent efforts than announce numbers in a hurry.
Naphisha Kharkongor, one of the state government's recruits, who left a well paying job in a Bengaluru company, said she decided to leave her company as she wanted to work for the development of 'Khasi' and 'Jayantia' communities.
"Initially we had a tepid response to the government scheme, but gradually people are starting to realise that only financial assistance will not take them anywhere and that they themselves have to work hard to become financially independent," said Naphisha, who has done her doctorate in 'Changing Land in Tenure system in Khasi and Jayantia' from Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.
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