When he was growing up as a farmer’s son, Narsibhai Patel, now aged 66, remembers heading over to the nearest house that had a television every evening and sitting down to watch a show about farming that included the latest on new crops, pesticides and agricultural methods.
Now a farmer himself in the western state of Gujarat, Mr. Patel still watches the show, when he gets the time.
Since 1967, Krishi Darshan, or Agriculture Television, a 30 minute show produced by the state-run network has been keeping India’s vast flock of farmers up to date with the farming practices, the potency of seed varieties and ways to enrich soil to get the most out of the ground.
Now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has decided to add to the pastoral programming with a round-the-clock operation to create a channel for farmers and rural dwellers – called the Kisan TV (or Farmers’ TV.)
It will feature everything from water conservation and organic farming to how to get credit through government agriculture programs. Around two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion population are involved in agriculture.
The idea for a dedicated channel for them was mooted by Mr. Modi when he allocated one billion rupees ($16 million) to Prasar Bharati – the country’s public service broadcaster — during last year’s budget in July. Under the Prasar Bharati Act, the public broadcaster is required to pay special attention to agriculture and rural development as well as areas like education and spread of literacy, environment, health and family welfare and science and technology.
India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley said the new farmers’ channel, would “be an improved version” of the archaic television show Krishi Darshan. “It will showcase how food goes through the processing and supply chain,” Mr. Jaitley said during a news conference in New Delhi earlier last month.
A programming official at the state-run Prasar Bharti, who did not wish to be named, told India Real Time, that the idea behind the channel was to “overcome the limitations of farm broadcasts” that can be interrupted by erratic power supply and hampered by limited slots for agriculture-related programs.
Besides, farmers have limited free time in which to watch television. “For the farmers what is crucial is a daily five-minute news bulletin which gives them the prices of agricultural commodities in their farm belt,” the official said.
“The demand and potential are huge, but power cuts and scheduling issues are a deterrent,” the official added.
Mr. Patel, the farmer in Gujarat, said the current timing of Krishi Darshan program is such that they “mostly don’t get to watch it.” Krishi Darshan airs every day at 5:30 pm on DD National, when many farmers are still out in their fields.
“We are busy with our cows and buffaloes and looking after the crops throughout the day. Then there is power for just six to eight hours. There is nothing much on agriculture during the time we watch from 7 to 9 p.m.,” he said. “It would help if there’s a 24-7 channel on farming.”
Kisan TV is expected to start broadcasting in the coming weeks and to feature farm scientists, agricultural experts and success stories for other farmers to follow as well as films on farming techniques.
But it won’t be all bucolic broadcasts. In addition, reality and cookery shows and soaps are expected to fill the schedule. A ticker from the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange with market prices for different commodities and regular weather updates will also be part of the channel’s programming.
“The channel would be a one-stop shop for our kisans (farmers),” the Prasar Bharti official said.
Kisan TV will initially broadcast in Hindi.