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Two-way Learning: Farmers in a Management School
The E-week of the National Entrepreneurship Network has led to flow of creativity at many business and technical institutions in the country. The Jaipuria Institute of Management in Noida in the National Capital Region led the exercise by choosing seven different themes for the week.
One of the most interesting of these themes was the Rural Day on 11 February. Combining the innovative thinking with the goal of social responsibility, the E-cell of the college invited a group of about 45 farmers from the nearby Shergarh village of the Ghaziabad district.
This campaign was spearheaded by the first year student Kamal Rana. He hails from the Kurukshetra district of Haryana and comes from an agricultural family. During this students days, he helped his family in tilling the land and taking the produce to the market. He realised early in life that in a tough profession like agriculture there is a very big information deficit. His university education enabled him to access information on various government schemes that exist for the welfare of farmers. Soon enough, he realised that either the benefits of these schemes did not reach farmers at all or a large part of the benefits are availed by middlemen. He gives the example of subsidy that a sugar-cane farmer is entitled to claim from the government, but because it is disbursed through the sugar mill owners, the farmer cannot avail the full amount.
Once at the Jaipurai Institute, he combined his interest with the E-week programme and with the help of other students from the institute started visiting nearby villages. The team soon found that the concerns and apprehensions of these farmers were not too different from what Rana had discovered as a farmer. They invited these farmers to college and the Agri Cell of the college connected them to Indian Farmers' Fertilizers Cooperative Limited, popularly knows by its acronym IFFCO.
The IFFCO representative Dr Virendra Kumar showed the Shergarh farmers a documentary film on soil nutrients and how they could test soil to find out what they need to add for its health. The practical knowledge of the farmers often clashed with the procedural details of the IFFCO representative, he did not represent any government department. The farmers felt that corruption and casual approach of the government soil-testing agencies makes them lose faith in the government schemes, even if they are meant for the benefit of farmers. The farmers said that there were aware that their soil lacked certain important nutrients, like potash, phosphorus, carbon, zinc and sulphur, but instead of depending on testing reports they used soil observation to replenish it, as not much help came from the above.
Rana and his team saw the obvious gap here and have decided to step in. Taking this interaction to be a base, they want to launch an awareness drive for farmers, where they can tell them more about government schemes and put them in touch with the right government or non-governmental agencies which can address their grievances.