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Call centre to give information to farmers proposed

By B.S. Ramesh

BANGALORE Oct. 8. A non-governmental organisation, which is concerned over the suicide by farmers in the State and the apparent inability of the Government to prevent it, has come forward to set up a call centre-cum-helpline to help farmers in distress.

The Urban Research Centre (URC) has written to the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, offering its services in setting up an agriculture and a horticulture call centre which could not only counsel farmers in distress but also offer professional guidance on seeds, cropping pattern, soil, land use, and irrigation potential.

Call centres catering to the software industry's needs have already made a mark in Bangalore and the URC has borrowed this idea for setting up a professional call centre to cater mainly to the needs of the agricultural and horticultural sector.

The idea of setting up a call centre took shape when the URC found that lack of adequate information was the major cause of suicide by farmers. It found that while people living in urban areas were faced with "information explosion", the rural populace was bereft of any information, including Government announcements.

A survey conducted by the URC found that farmers did not have adequate or correct information about the relief and rehabilitation measures taken by the Government. Nor was there sufficient information in the villages and taluks about waiver of interest and other farmer-friendly measures.

The URC Director, Mr. Narendra, says the Government will not incur any expenditure in setting up the call centre. All that is needed is a room and telephones lines manned by experts from the Agriculture and Horticulture departments. The call centre, he says, could be set up in Bangalore to cater to the needs of farmers across the State.

Since telephones are available even in remote villages, it will not be difficult for villagers to call the centre. If a toll-free number is provided, farmers can speak about their problems in length, he says.

Moreover, the State Government gets information regarding markets and market products, prices in different markets, grain requirement, availability of agricultural inputs, status of soil, and rain and water facilities on a regular basis. All that is needed is to collect all the information and feed it to the call centre.

Since the Government has no expertise in setting up such a centre, the URC is prepared to train people and also help establish such a helpline. If the centre proves to be effective, its activities can be expanded to cover fisheries, animal husbandry, tourism, and other sectors, Mr. Narendra says.

The Chief Minister has sent the proposal to the Agriculture and Horticulture departments for perusal.

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