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August 24, 2022

No GST on the service of educating and training farmers in agro forestry

by CA Shivam Jaiswal in Legal Court Judgement

No GST on the service of educating and training farmers in agro forestry

Facts and Issue of the Case

The applicant, under the service contract supra, will appoint Mara Mitras who are Agriculture Extension Workers (AE) for providing agricultural extension services, including but not limited to farmers education and training with regard to agro forestry by applying scientific research and knowledge. Isha Outreach trains rnara mitras, who use a specially curated state of the art Information Technology platform through which they disseminate technical and scientific information on how to grow timber, horticulture and sericulture trees on their land.

Mara mitras also collect farmer information including land details and species-wise details of trees that farmers wish to plant. liandholdmg of farmers is done for pickup of saplings from the nursery. After plantation, proof of plantation and survival of trees is collected through geo-tagged photographs and geo-locations of every tree planted. The applicant also appoints Taluk Managers, District Managers and the Project Managers for the State for the project.

Isha Outreach has conducted / collected research on scientific ways of conducting agro forestry to effectively plant / cultivate and to reap maximum benefits from the same. The said scientific information and research is being passed on to the farmers through the Mara Mitras, under the aforesaid service act.

The entire activity of agriculture extension services for agro forestry is being carried out by Isha Outreach in collaboration with the Forest Department, Horticulture Department, Rural Development & Panchayati Raj Department and Sericulture Department of Government of Karnataka. Mara Mitras actively enroll farmers to take benefit of various schemes of the Central & State Government which promote agro-forestry like Krishi Aranaya Protsaha Yojane (KAPY), Raising of Seedings for Public Distribution (RSPD), Farm Forestry under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA), National Bamboo Mission (NBM) etc.

The scope of work, commercials and payment details are contained, in Annexure-I to the service contract, under “Village Agriculture Extension Workers Scope and Commercials” and hence the applicant furnished the copy of service contract.

Observation by the Court

At the outset the court would like to make it clear that the provisions of COST Act, 2017 and the KOST Act, 2017 are in pari-materia and have the same provisions in like matters and differ from each other only on a few specific provisions. Therefore, unless a mention is particularly made to such dissimilar provisions, a reference to the COST Act would also mean reference to the corresponding similar provisions in the KGST Act.

The court had considered the submissions made by the applicant in their application for advance ruling. The court  also considered the issues involved on which advance ruling is sought by the applicant and relevant facts along with the arguments made by the applicant & the submissions made by their learned sentative during the time of hearing. The applicant entered into a service contract with NI/ s Isha Outreach, Coimbatore to provide services for promoting tree based agriculture by educating and training farmers of Cauvery River Basin and sought advance ruling whether the said services are exempted, in terms of the Notification, as Agriculture Extension Services.

The applicant furnished a copy of service contract with Mis Isha Outreach, Coimbatore, from which it is observed that the applicant appoints Mara Mitras who are Agriculture Extension Workers (AEW), to educate & train farmers with regard to agro forestry b applying scientific research and knowledge. They also appoint Taluka Managers, District Managers and the Project Managers for coordinating and supervising the works under the project.

The Mara Mitras, appointed by the applicant are initially trained by M is Isha Outreach on all domain related aspects including Agro forestry / Tree Based Agriculture. They are also trained in farmer outreach, farmer engagement and are equipped with scheme details. Thereafter, the applicant trains the mara mitras on the technical aspects including IT systems. Mara Mitras use a specially curated state of the art Information Technology platform through which they disseminate technical and scientific information to farmers on how to grow timber, horticulture and sericulture trees on the their land.

In terms of service contract the applicant allocates the Mara Mitras to the taluka or gram panchayat on need basis. Mara Mitras, then visit the farmers in their allocated jurisdiction to enroll them into CC promoted agroforestry schemes, register demand for saplings and document the data. They also coordinate with nursery to obtain information with regard to availability of saplings; work with the farmers to ensure pick up of the saplings; make follow up visits to the planting location; gathers required details and documents about the status of saplings after planting; addresses or escalates the problems, if any, that the farmer may face, to the call center; verify the saplings and document the surviving plants etc, The tons Manager, District Managers and Taluk Managers supervise and address lems escalated to their level.

Thus from the scope of work it is seen that the applicant through their mara mitras not only educate and train farmers with regard to agro forestry through scientific research and knowledge, but are also involved in hand. holding the fanners from recording demand for saplings, picking up the samplings from nurseries to their plantation and also monitoring post plantation survival.

Now the court proceed to examine whether the activities of the applicant are covered under Agriculture Extension services. The court  invite reference to Explanation 2(C) appended to the Notification, wherein the term “agricultural extension” is defined to mean application of scientific research and knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education or train irzg. In the instant case, the applicant, through mara mitras, provides education and training to the farmers for cultivation of plants / trees, by applying scientific research and knowledge. All the other activities of the applicant carried out through mara mitras from selection of saplings to assisting in transportation 8t, planting, to monitoring the survival of plants are related to agricultural extension activity. Thus the services of the applicant are covered under agricultural extension services.

Conclusion

The services being provided by the applicant as contained in annexure to the service contract between the applicant and M/s Isha  Outreach are covered under “agricultural extension services”.

The second question is redundant, as the first question is answered in affirmative.

In-re-Avani-infosoft-Private-Limited-GST-AAR-Karnataka

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