The Union Cabinet has approved a central scheme to provide drones to 15,000 progressive women Self Help Groups (SHGs) with an outlay of Rs 1,261 crore for two years beginning 2024-25.
A decision in this regard was taken at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur told reporters on Wednesday.
"The scheme aims to provide drones to 15,000 select women SHGs during the period 2024-25 to 2025-2026 for providing rental services to farmers for agriculture purpose," Thakur said.
The women SHGs will be identified from the total 89 lakh SHGs formed under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana, he said.
In various states, appropriate clusters where usage of drones is economically feasible will be identified and progressive 15,000 women SHGs will be selected for providing drones, the government said in a release.
A central financial assistance at 80 per cent of the cost of drone and accessories/ancillary charges of up to Rs 8,00,000 will be provided to women SHGs for purchase of drones.
The Cluster Level Federation (CLFs) of SHGs may raise the balance amount (total cost of procurement minus subsidy) as loan under the National Agriculture Infra Financing Facility (AIF). Interest subvention of 3 per cent on the AIF loan will be provided.
"Around 500 drones will be provided by fertiliser companies. The rest 14,500 drones will be made available through the central assistance in the next two years," Thakur said.
The total expense of a drone and its accessories is about Rs 10 lakh. About 80 per cent of the cost or up to Rs 8 lakh, will be provided by the Centre, he said.
The minister said the drone pilot will get an honorarium of Rs 15,000 and a co-pilot about Rs 10,000, he said.
For use of drones, a cluster of 10-15 villages will be formed and about 1,000 hectare land will be available for drone operation. The importance will be given for commercial crops, he added.
According to the statement, one of the members of women SHGs who is well qualified, 18 and above years of age will be elected for a 15-day training, comprising five-day mandatory drone pilot training and additional 10-day training for agriculture purpose of nutrient and pesticide application.
The other member / family member of the SHG with inclination to take up repairs of electrical goods, fitting and mechanical works will be selected for training as drone technician/assistant. These training will be provided as a package along with the supply of drones.
Considering the difficulties which SHGs may face in procuring the drones, and their repair and maintenance, the lead fertiliser companies (LFCs) will act as a bridge between drone supplier companies and SHGs.
LFCs will also promote use of nano-fertilizers by drones among SHGs. SHGs will rent out the drone services to farmers for nano-fertilizers and also for pesticide applications, the statement added.
Modi had announced empowering SHGs with drone technology from the Red Fort in his Independence Day speech on August 15, while pitching for leveraging the potential of science and technology in rural development.
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