More than three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced to provide drones to women self-help groups (SHGs), the Cabinet has approved a scheme with an outlay of ₹1,261 crore for two years under which each such group will be eligible to get up to ₹8 lakh financial support for purchase of drones.

The scheme will help provide drones to 15,000 selected women SHGs during 2024-25 and 2025-2026 for providing rental services to farmers for agriculture purpose.

Financial assistance

Financial assistance will be provided by the Centre to each SHG at 80 per cent of the cost of drone, including accessories/ancillary charges but up to a maximum of ₹8 lakh. As one drone costs around ₹10 lakh, the government has allowed SHGs to take loan from banks under the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) at lower interest rate since the Centre bears 3 per cent interest costs through subsidy.

Releasing the details of the scheme, the Agriculture Ministry said the representatives of women SHGs, qualified and elected by the State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM) and lead fertilizer companies (LFCs) will have to undertake a 15-day training that includes 5-day mandatory drone pilot training and 10 days on nutrient and pesticide application.

Members of the SHGs with inclination to take up repairs of electrical goods, fitting and mechanical works will be selected by the SRLM and LFC and will be trained as drone technician/assistant. The government guidelines have also made LFCs to act as a link between drone suppliers and SHGs in purchase of drones as well as their repair and maintenance.

Spraying activities

The government has also asked LFCs to work with SHGs for promotion of spraying activities for nano-urea and nano-DAP through drones.

“It is envisaged that the approved initiatives under the scheme will provide sustainable business and livelihood support to 15,000 SHGs and they would be able to earn additional income of at least ₹1 lakh per annum. The scheme will help infusing advance technology in agriculture for improved efficiency, enhance crop yield and reduced cost of operation for the benefit of farmers,” the Agriculture Ministry said.

Currently, drone service providers in North charge ₹300-600/acre as rent depending on crop and chemical sprayed. At least 2-3 drones are required to cover a village having about 2,000 acres as they need 4-5 rounds of spray every crop season.

In his Independence Day address this year, Modi had said that there were 10 crore women already involved in SHGs. “My dream is to create a base of 2 crore lakhpati didis (members of women SHGs) in the villages...I am thinking of a new scheme that will provide training to the sisters of Women SHGs with the integration of technology in our agriculture sector thereby strengthening our agritech.

“We will give skill training to women and train them to operate as well as repair drones. The Government of India will provide drones to thousands of such Women SHGs. We will initiate making drone services available for our agricultural work. To begin with, we will start building 15,000 Women SHGs which will give flight to the dream of enabling a robust drone training mission,” Modi had said.