Sudurpaschim’s agriculture subsidy plan for returnees falls shortEighty thousand migrant workers have applied for the government grant prepared for only 5,000.
An agriculture subsidy programme targeted at returnee migrant workers in Sudurpaschim Province has received an overwhelming number of applications, so much so that the provincial government does not know how to shortlist the candidates.
According to the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives, it received 80,000 applications for the programme that is supposed to benefit only 5,000 people.
The provincial government had sought applications through all nine district-based offices of the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives. The applications were collected from all 88 local units of the province.
The call for application began in the last week of August. On September 1, the provincial government had also issued a notice directing migrant workers not to return to India in search of jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The ministry now finds itself in a fix with a large number of unemployed youths trying to benefit from the programme.
Dr Hemraj Awasthi, spokesperson of the ministry, said that 80,000 individuals applied for the agriculture subsidy citing plans to start and operate agro-businesses in the province itself.
“Around 70,000 individuals have applied for livestock development whereas the remaining 10,000 have applied for agro-businesses,” he said. “The ministry has allocated Rs 150million for the programme.”
“We have already handed over the fund to the district office of Agriculture Knowledge Centre and Livestock Services Expert Centre to run the programme,” said Awasthi.
The fund, however, will benefit only 5,000 individuals.
“The number of applicants is too high and the selection won’t be easy. We expect the programme to take off by mid-December,” Awasthi said.
The other challenge that has led to the delay in the implementation of the programme is the identification process of genuine farmers.
“It takes time to collect information on the applicant from his/her local units. We also have to go through each proposal. This led to the delay. But now all the districts are ready to implement the programme,” Awasthi said.
According to the ministry, many applications have been registered for beekeeping, goat keeping, pig keeping, and poultry farming.
“We plan to provide Rs 30,000 as seed money for agro-businesses and a maximum of Rs 60,000 for livestock development,” said Awasthi.
Maximum number of applicants are from Kailali district.
According to the data of the Ministry of Social Development, an estimated 300,000-400,000 migrant workers have returned to Sudurpaschim Province since the start of the pandemic. Among them, over 150,000 are from India alone.
Officials say many people who had applied for the subsidy programme have started returning to India with no job prospects in the country.
.“Ten to fifteen percent of the applicants are now out of contact. We believe they might have returned to India in search of jobs,” Min Prasad Jaishi, an official at Agriculture Knowledge Centre in Bajura district, said.
In Bajura, 1,072 individuals have applied for the programme.
“The ministry has provided Rs 5 million for the programme. We are planning to select 130 individuals from among the applications. A majority of the applicants have filed applications to start vegetable farming. The selected individuals will get Rs 30,000 to start their business. This amount can work as seed money to start the business,” said Jaishi.
Livestock Services Expert Centre in Bajura has also received Rs 8 million budget from the ministry.
“The centre has received 603 applications for the programme. We plan to provide Rs 60,000 for buffalo farming, Rs 50,000 for pig keeping, Rs 40,000 for goat keeping and Rs 30,000 for poultry farming,” said Jaishi.
Dinesh Budha, one of the applicants from Ward No. 6 of Tribeni Municipality in Bajura, said he hoped to be selected for the programme, or else he would return to India.
“Some people who had applied for the programme have already returned to India. They waited but it was taking too long. I have also applied for an agriculture subsidy,” he said. “I will wait a couple of days more and if nothing happens by then, I will return to India with other people from my village.”