Day 3: Nirmala Sitharaman announces stimulus for agriculture, allied activities
On the third day of addressing the press on the Rs. 20 lakh crore package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today focused on agriculture and allied activities. Accompanied by MoS (Finance) Anurag Thakur, she announced eleven measures. She underlined the Centre took initiatives, even during the coronavirus-necessitated lockdown, to empower farmers.
At the outset of her address, Sitharaman said, "Large part of our population is still dependent on agriculture. 85% holding is by small and marginal farmers. In spite of all adversities, farmers have stood up. India is the largest milk, jute, and pulses producer in the world." She said measures were taken to support the farmers in the lockdown period as well.
Further, under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana, the Centre announced Rs. 20,000 crore for integrated, sustainable, inclusive development of marine and inland fisheries "As you can see, our focus is on the fact that India starts on its own, it gets help to start on its own, rather than giving entitlements," the minister said.
The first eight steps pertained to capacity building and infrastructure, she said. She said a fund of Rs. 1 lakh crore will be set up for aggregators, FPOs, and primary agri-cooperative societies. For food enterprises, the government will be providing a fund of Rs. 10,000 crore which will be executed with a cluster-based approach. 200,000 enterprises will benefit from this scheme.
"100% vaccination of all cattle to be ensured to eradicate Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) under the National Disease Control Program. Nearly 53 crore animals will be vaccinated. Around Rs. 13,000 crore will be spent towards this," she added.
The government has decided to allocate Rs. 4,000 crore for medicinal plants. As part of the plan, 10 lakh hectares will be purchased for this, and such plants will be grown on both sides of the river Ganga. Thakur said the coronavirus pandemic has shown the importance of herbal medicines. Further, Rs. 500 crore was announced for beekeeping initiatives.
Sitharaman said the Essential Commodity Act, which has been in place since 1955, is being amended. Earlier, farmers couldn't reap profits even when the crop was in abundance, she said. To give them a reprieve, the government has decided to de-regulate cereals, edible oil, onion, potatoes, etc. This will ensure no stock limit is applied to processors or value chain participants, the minister explained.
In a bid to double farmers' income, the government wants to introduce a law that will give them the choice to sell produce at an adequate price. Not only will inter-state barriers be done away with, but a framework will also be established to let the produce be traded online. Currently, farmers can only sell to licensees. Thakur said steps were taken to avoid exploitation.