the plan to buy cow dung to boost the rural economy, keep villages clean and solve the problem of stray cattle had initial success, but things didn’t go as planned
We haven’t run it in a while; that’s why it takes time,” said Janak Dhuve, as he pulled the handle to start the high-output generator. ” It’s winter. We don’t need to turn on the fans during the day and there’s no one here to use the lights at night,” he said as he turned the lever again. A few minutes and a few more attempts later, the machine started and turned on the ceiling fan and LED bulbs.
Dhuve is the operator of the biogas power plant of a Gauthhan (cow shelter) in Bancharoda village of Raipur district in Chhattisgarh. The plant’s generator runs on methane produced from dung collected at Gauthhan.
The biogas plant, under the management of Swachh Bharat Mission, in the 3-hectare shelter was inaugurated by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel last October and later became part of the state’s Godhan Nyay Yojana, effective since July 20, 2021.
Godhan Nyay Yojana is the state’s flagship program to ‘facilitate the rapid strengthening of the rural economy’ by ‘boosting the dairy industry and organic farming‘ while ‘improving’ the environment from the village. The government currently operates 7,889 gauthhans statewide.
The work of Gauthhans is the responsibility of the local self-government body. In rural areas, it is run by a 13-member committee whose officers are appointed on the recommendation of the Gram Sabha. In urban areas, the city council appoints the committee.
Those who want to use them must register with the local Panchayat/municipality; after that, they can take their animals to the shelters in the morning. The shelter provides free fodder, takes care of the livestock throughout the day and pays 2 rupees per kilogram for the dung collected. Animals must be brought back in the evening.
The shelters are supposed to use the dung by turning it into compost and making products like dung logs, incense and pots. For this, they employ self-help groups.
With the Bancharoda Biogas Power Plant, the state government has also tried to use manure to generate electricity. Still, the plant is the only one of its kind in the state, although Chhattisgarh is planning five more, said Bharathi Dasan, managing director of Godhan Nyay Mission. Down to earth (DTE).
In February, DTE visited 10 gauthhans in four districts – Raipur, Durg, Bemetara and Kabirdham – to assess their functioning and found that the program which was intended to help the rural economy is now mainly centered on towns.
Of the 6.39 million tonnes of manure procured in the state till 15 Feb 2022, some 3.37 million tonnes (52.7%) was procured from just seven districts – Rajnandgaon, Raipur, Durg, Raigarh , Korea, Dhamtari and Balod – while 47.24% comes from the remaining 21 districts.
Six of these seven districts are in Raipur and Durg divisions, showing that the program is concentrated around the capital.
As of February 15, the state had purchased 6.39 million tons of manure and almost all of it (6.24 million tons) had been used to make 1.6 million tons of compost while the goal was to 2.5 million tons. Worse still, more than 63,252 tons of this compost remain unsold, according to government data seen by DTE.
To Gauthhan At Phundahar in Raipur, most of the compost pits were filled with manure while heaps of manure could be seen outside mixed with decomposer. Bags of ready compost also lined the reserve.
But no work to make manure products was going on. Vikrant Sharma, organizer of the Gauthhan committee, said it has sold 21,000 tons of compost so far, mostly to the forest department, but 70% of the payment has not come. Agriculture and horticulture departments have not bought manure from them, nor have private farmers, because they can get it at a slightly lower price in the market.
The tariff at gauthhans (Rs 10 per kg) is higher because the extra money is used to pay for the purchase of manure. The government has now required that 10% of the compost that farmers buy from cooperatives comes from Gauthhans.
The response from self-help groups (SHGs) to the Godhan Nyay Yojana has been mixed. The Bancharoda gauthhan, for example, has 20 women’s self-help groups, involving more than 200 members. Gita Sahu, who leads such a group in Bancharoda, said she and her eight colleagues had sold 31.6 tonnes of compost, earning Rs 20,000 per head since February 2021.
When DTE visited the shelter, all the compost pits were full but no other work to use the dung was going on as none of the groups were working due to lack of demand.
“Government agencies and farmers only buy the required quantity and our net income is zero,” said Mohan Sahu, secretary of the Gauthhan Committee.
In rural areas, the program has had limited success in addressing the problem of crop destruction. Animesh Mishra, a member of the Basani gram panchayat in Bemetera district, said the destruction of crops continued despite a gauthhan in Jewra in the district.
During her visit, DTE found the shelter without animals or officials. Likewise, the Gauthhan in Motipura, gram panchayat in Durg district is poorly managed, with stray cattle roaming just outside the shelter in large numbers. Devnarayan Sahu, husband of Motipura sarpanch Yogita Sahu, said the shelter was established last November but a samiti has not yet been named, although recommendations have been sent.
The number of people selling dung in Gauthhans is also down. Santosh Chandrakar, a farmer from Bancharoda, said he only earned Rs 4,000 from selling 2,000 kg of manure to the gauthhan in the last year and a half. The DTE analysis also revealed that the average purchase of manure by gauthhans fell from 33,000 tonnes per month in July 2020-November 2021 to 23,000 tonnes in December 2020-February 2022.
Kishor Verma, Head of Bemtera District Unit of Chhattisgarh Gau Sevak Sangh, said if the supply and sale of manure is streamlined and payments are made on time, the scheme can be a success.
“It is necessary to strictly apply the 10% compost purchase rule. If there is a demand for manure products, electricity generation will also increase as the energy generated could be used to run production equipment,” he said.
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