- Prices jump from Re. 1 to Rs. 6 per 6×9 cm polybag sapling; from Rs. 3 to Rs. 23 for 8×12 cm polybag sapling
- 16 lakh saplings kept ready in Mysuru for distribution on June 5 World Environment Day; farmers reluctant to buy
Mysore/Mysuru: The Karnataka Government’s decision to increase prices of saplings or plants has come under fire from farmers and environmentalists. While the farmers are not ready to buy the saplings at this high price, the environmentalists say that it will hit the State’s plans to increase its forest cover.
On its part, the Government (Forest and Agriculture Ministries) has decided to adopt a wait-and-watch policy to actually measure the response to the new rates till June 5. Every year, the saplings are distributed en masse on June 5, World Environment Day (Vanamahotsava) and this year, the Ministries have already got reports from the district officers that the steep price hike might backfire.
The Karnataka Forest Department, Mysuru Division, has readied 16 lakh saplings of timber variety to be distributed to the farmers and growers. But due to the high rates, farmers and growers are showing lack of enthusiasm to purchase the saplings.
Hike in popular polybags
Under the Krushi Aranya Protsaha Yojane (KAPY) and Raising of Seedlings for Public Distribution (RSPD) schemes, the prices have been hiked from Re. 1 to Rs. 6 for a sapling in a polybag measuring 6×9 cm and for a sapling in a polybag measuring 8×12 cm it will cost Rs. 23 per sapling from the earlier price of Rs. 3 per sapling. The 6×9 cm and 8×12 cm are more popular among farmers.
Prices have also been hiked for saplings in polybags measuring 5×8 cm that will cost Rs. 5 per sapling, Rs. 72 per sapling for each polybag measuring 10×16 cm and Rs. 111 for a sapling in a polybag measuring 14×20 cm.
Under the KAPY scheme, a farmer can take 160 seedlings per acre and a maximum of 400 saplings for the entire extent of land. Farmers are paid Rs. 35 as incentive for every surviving seedling at the end of the first year. Rs. 40 and Rs. 50 per sapling is provided for each surviving plant after completion of second and third year respectively.
The incentive is given to encourage the farmer not only to plant the saplings but also to nurture them for at least three years. The total amount of money provided (Rs. 125 per sapling) more than compensates the cost incurred by the farmer in procuring and planting the sapling.
Under the RSPD scheme, saplings are raised for distribution among general public, NGOs, roadside tree planting volunteers and resident welfare associations at subsidised rates to plant them in their non-agricultural lands.
Fresh conditions for NAREGA scheme
Saplings are also distributed under the NAREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme where 160 saplings are provided to a farmer per one acre and he can take a maximum of 400 saplings for the entire plantation. Saplings are distributed and transportation is provided free of cost if the farmer has a letter from the local Panchayat.
An incentive of Rs. 90 to Rs. 100 is provided for each sapling. While the prices have been hiked for saplings under KAPY and RSPD schemes, the State Government has imposed conditions for farmers to avail of benefits under the NAREGA scheme.
The Government has introduced mobile-based attendance for all NREGA workers through the National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS) app. Worksite supervisors are responsible for capturing attendance along with the geo-tagged photographs of the workers through the app. Farmers are opposing this move due to technical glitches and poor internet connectivity that were resulting in workers losing out on their wage payments.
In Mysuru, the Forest Department has raised over 8 lakh saplings in polybags measuring 8×12 cm and 8 lakh saplings have been raised in polybags measuring 6×9 cm. In the earlier years, farmers would book the saplings in advance after making payments much before the June 5 date and take away the saplings in trucks and jeeps.
Lack of response from farmers
This year, however there has been no response from the farmers due to the high prices and many conditions. On the one hand, the Government claims to be concerned about the environment while at the same time the prices of saplings have been increased, the farmers said.
While green activists express concerns that the increase in sapling prices will deter farmers, educational institutions and social organisations from engaging in tree planting initiatives, forest officials are also worried about the challenges in implementing afforestation projects. Environmentalists fear that this decision will contribute to the worsening of global warming.
Gurushanthappa, a farmer from Periyapatna, voiced his apprehension, stating, “People will refrain from planting saplings and growing trees and the revised prices will result in soil erosion and silt in rivers. Furthermore, it will exacerbate drought conditions and raise temperatures.”
Environmental activists expressed their concerns about the negative impact on birds and the financial insecurity it may cause for farmers. They noted that even previously, the survival rate of such saplings was low, as many people who purchased them at low prices ended up wasting them. With the increased prices, there is a lack of buyers.
The Government must reduce the prices of saplings or it will directly impact the agro forestry initiatives. The flora and fauna will be hit and it will have devastating effects in the longer run. With steep prices, there will be a drastic drop in the purchase of seedlings and this is an unscientific and farmer-unfriendly move which must be taken back.” — Kurubur Shanthakumar, Farmer leader and Karnataka Sugarcane Growers Association President