ATMA scheme for farmers on deathbed
The centrally-sponsored Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) scheme has almost been lying on deathbed with no activities being carried out for the last five months under the scheme in the entire state as the state government failed to submit utilisation certificate of financial grants of previous years worth crores with the central government.
As the utilisation certificate has not been submitted, the central government has not been releasing further grants under the scheme to the state.
The situation is much worse as the staff, recruited by the department concerned under this scheme, has not received their salaries for the past four months. They got some part of their salaries on Diwali, but no money has not been released to run the scheme.
According to information, the ATMA scheme was launched in 2000 for farmers to facilitate them to upgrade technology and adopt better cultivation practices in four districts of Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Faridkot and Sangrur initially and, later, it was to be implemented in other districts.
Under this scheme, farmers undergo demonstration, training and visits, and are educated about agricultural techniques, seed treatment, soil testing, and land treatment by agriculture experts.
As per details gathered from the agriculture departments of various districts, this year most of departments have sent a budget of `2 crore for running the scheme in their districts to the state government to achieve set targets, but they have not received any amount so far.
As the budget has not been allocated to district offices, all plans of holding camps, seminars, exhibitions of new seeds, machines for farmers have not materialised.
Sources said that, at present, when new inventions are coming up every day and knowledge has become a a necessary asset, the state government has failed to do anything in this respect.
They said that the most important benefit of this scheme is that information from labs to land and land to labs is communicated, but due to the shortage of funds, nothing is being communicated to the farmers.
State agriculture minister Tota Singh said he was not aware of the fact that the ATMA scheme was not being run due to shortage of funds and claimed he had been out of the the country for a month.
Singh added that he would talk to officials in this regard and then say something on the scheme.
State agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu was unavailable for comments though HT tried to contact him.
ATMA's state nodal officer and joint director of agriculture department Dr Gurdial Singh said that the problem has been resolved and within a few days, salaries and funds will be released under the ATMA scheme.