Friday, September 26, 2014

Various Recent topics: Soil Health Cards; Technology Development Fund

Various topics: Source:

Soil Health Cards !!!
Farming as an activity contributes nearly 1/6th of our Gross Domestic Product and a majority of our population is dependent on it for their livelihood. Deteriorating soil health has been a cause of concern and that has been leading to sub optimal utilization of farming resources.  Imbalanced use of fertilisers, low addition of organic matter and non-replacement of depleted micro and secondary nutrients over the years, has resulted in nutrient deficiencies and decrease in soil fertility in some parts of the country
Soil health needs to be assessed at regular intervals so as to ensure that farmers apply the required nutrients while taking advantages of the nutrients already present in the soil.
Government has launched a scheme to provide every farmer a Soil Health Card in a Mission mode. The card will carry crop wise recommendations of nutrients/fertilizers required for farms, making it possible for farmers to improve productivity by using appropriate inputs.

  • Central Government provides assistance to State Governments for setting up Soil Testing Laboratories for issuing Soil Health Cards to farmers. 
  • State Governments have adopted innovative practices like involvement of agricultural students, NGOs and private sector in soil testing, determining average soil health of villages, etc., to issue Soil Health Cards.

A Soil Health Card is used to assess the current status of soil health and, when used over time, to determine changes in soil health that are affected by land management. A Soil Health Card displays soil health indicators and associated descriptive terms. The indicators are typically based on farmers' practical experience and knowledge of local natural resources. The card lists soil health indicators that can be assessed without the aid of technical or laboratory equipment.

Though quite a few states including Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Haryana are successfully distributing such cards, Centre plans to make it a pan India effort. According to the data, up to March 2012 over 48 crore soil health cards have been issued to farmers to make them aware about nutrient deficiencies in their fields. Tamil Nadu has started issuing soil health cards from the year 2006 onwards. There are 30 Soil Testing Laboratories (STLs) and 18 Mobile Soil Testing Laboratories functioning in the State. 

The Laboratory at Kudumianmalai, Pudukottai District has been declared as central laboratory and it monitors quality of analysis in all laboratories.
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University has developed software – DESSIFER which is used by the STLs for online issue of soil heath cards and also in formulating fertilizer use recommendations.

Technology Development Fund

Technology Development Fund was established in 2011 as follow up to the twin funds recommended by Kelkar committe.

What is the objective of Technology Development Fund ?
TDF objective:  It aims to provide necessary resources to public and private sector companies, including SMEs, as well as academic and scientific institutions to support research and development of Defence systems that enhance cutting-edge technology capability in the country.

What actually did the Kelkar Committee recommend ?
Kelkar committe recommendations : The committee was set up 2005 to suggest measures for acquisition procedures and private participation. It recommended setting up two funds which are:

(a) Strategic Defence Industry Fund(SDIF)

(b) Defence Technology Product Development Fund(DTPDF)

SDIF  got initial disapproval from Finance ministry due to its not lapsable nature. It also created burden on already stressed revenue budget of defence sector. But the pronouncement of Defence procurement policy of 2006, calling for upto 80% investment from MoD served the raison d’etre of SDIF.

  • TDF  was delayed due to absence of any scheme to utilise it. 
  • A similar technology fund is available with DRDO, a principal arm for technology development for defence sector, thus creating confusion and overlapping. 
  • It also suffers from the problem of its control i.e. the fund dispersal need legislative approval everytime. 
  • It has to be distributed among three services, each getting a token amount insufficient to meet its purpose.

This fund however remained unutilised for which purposefully it is hence relaunched in 2014 budgetwith a sum of Rs 100 crore. It is a non-lapsable fund which will require the approval of parliament to utilise the sum of money.

(A similar effort made more than five years back ran aground because it was not found feasible to create a 'fund' and, more importantly, framing the scheme proved to be a greater challenge.The new proposal should also not end the same way as the effort to make budgetary provisions for assistance to small and medium enterprises for technology development. A budget head was opened for this purpose several years back but efforts at formulating a scheme to operationalise the idea did not succeed.The past experience would come in handy while formulating the scheme for the proposed Technology Development Fund. )

The Kelkar Committee had recommended the following regarding the acquisition procedures and enabling a greater participation of Private sector in defence production

Acquisition Procedure 
1. Prepare a 15 year long plan as the base of acquisition programme

2. Setting up professional agency for defence acquisitions
3. To promote transparency in decision making

Participation of Private Sector 
1. Information sharing between Armed forces and Industry

2. Identification of Entry points for Private sector in acquisition process
3. Policy framework for SME participation in defence production
4. Providing funds to Private Companies and SMEs for developing cutting edge technologies
5. Awarding the Private companies for developing technologies

The acquisition procedure suggested will certainly help avoid lobbing and futuristic acquisition, however, setting up a separate professional agency for acquisition can be avoided by involving experts in acquisition at MoD level with transparent process in place.

The Private participation is already in place, companies like Godrej, L&T, Tata do provide lots of key component to DRDO. However, they should be encouraged to pursue R&D instead of just manufacturing.The Technology development fund does so to some extent but its just meager amount to bring about any big leap in ‘Make’ Policy of India.

Miscellaneous !!





  1. Nice Blogs and this post is really nice and interested to read. Thanks for sharing this type of postings.

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