The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and India’s simultaneous graded and pro-active approach that made the country “Atmanirbhar” found a place in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the Nation on the 74th Independence Day, as he highlighted the strides made by the country in the field of agriculture. Following is the extract regarding agriculture from the Prime Minister’s Independence Day address from the ramparts of the Red Fort –
“My dear countrymen,
The priority of a self-reliant India is a self-reliant farming sector and self-reliant farmers. And we cannot ignore them. We have seen the condition of farmers. Various reforms have been undertaken since independence. We have to free them of all the shackles and we have done that.
You can’t even imagine this. If you make soap, fabric or sugar in one corner you can sell it in any part of the country. But not many people know that our farmers could not sell their produce anywhere in the country and according to their will. He had to sell his produce at a notified area. We have eliminated all those restrictions.
Now India’s farmer will be able to breathe free by selling his produce in any part of the country or the world according to his own terms. We have emphasized on several alternative measures to increase the income of the farmer. We are constantly working to reduce the input cost of the farming. How can he be provided a solar pump instead of a diesel pump, how can the producer of food become an energy producer? We are working in a direction so that avenues like bee farming, fisheries, poultry, etc should be made available to him so that his income gets doubled.
Time demands that our agriculture sector becomes modern and there should be value addition, there should be food processing, food packaging. And it needs better infrastructure.
You must have seen that the Indian government has sanctioned 1,00,000 crore rupees for agriculture infrastructure even during the Corona pandemic. This infrastructure will be for the welfare of the farmers and they will be able to get better prices of their produce, and will be able to sell their produce in foreign markets. They will have greater reach to foreign markets.
There is a need to strengthen rural industries. Special economic zones will be created in the rural areas. A web of agriculture and non-agriculture industries will be created. We have tried to create FPO (Farmer Product Association) which will go a long way in their economic empowerment.”
In keeping with the vision and priorities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Union Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare has taken several initiatives and spearheaded key reforms in agriculture in the recent past, which is reflected in the performance of India’s agricultural sector.
India’s agriculture sector presently contributes around 15.9% of the country’s GDP and 49% of the total employment (2018-19). Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have affected most of the sectors of the economy. However, agricultural sector has performed better with 2.9% growth rate during 2019-20, as against 2.74% achieved during 2018-19. Farmers have toiled against all adversities during COVID and provided food security, ensuring continuous supply of agriculture commodities, especially staples like rice, wheat, pulses and vegetables. They have been our COVID warriors and their silent efforts, coupled with timely intervention by the Central and State Governments, ensured that there was no disruption to harvesting activities.
While COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging around the world, because of the reforms over the last 6 years, India’s agricultural systems have been able to cope. Government has continued to appreciate the need for reform to pave the way for long lasting changes in the sector for the benefit of the farming community. Towards this end, two major Ordinances have been passed recently to empower the farmers, namely, the Farming Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, both promulgated on 5.6.2020.
In line with the continued commitment and resolve of the Government towards improving the agriculture and the financial status of farmers funds have been released under two major initiatives – Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna (PM-KISAN) and Agriculture Infrastructure Fund. Under the PM-KISAN Scheme, financial benefit of Rs.6000/- per year is provided to the eligible beneficiary farmers, payable in three equal 4-monthly instalments of Rs.2000/- each. On 9th August 2020, with the push of a button, an amount of more than Rs. 17,000 crores have been transferred to about 8.5 crore beneficiary farmers’ families. Post this huge transfer of funds in the sixth quadrimester of the scheme, more than Rs 90,000 Crores have been transferred to more than 10 crore beneficiaries since its inception.
In addition to the direct cash support under PM-KISAN, to create an ecosystem for farmer welfare and support them to build community farming assets and drive greater investment in the agriculture value chain, a new Central Sector Scheme of financing facility of Rs. 1 lakh crore under “Agriculture Infrastructure Fund” has been approved by the Government. The objective is to drive investment across the agriculture value chain. The scheme will benefit farmers by improving marketing infrastructure and for building community farming assets that will allow them to store their produce till they can get a better price, reduce wastage and access affordable post harvest infrastructure.
The scheme provides farmers collectives and entrepreneurs access to Rs. 1,00,000 Crore over next 4 years with Rs. 10,000 Crore in the first year and Rs. 30,000 Crore each over next 3 years. Farmers and other ecosystem stakeholders will now have access to financing with 3% interest subvention and credit guarantee from govt. This will enable them to invest more profitably in assets that enhance the value of their produce.
Farmer Welfare Programme Implementation Society under Department of Agriculture Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare will lead the administration of the fund. State Level Monitoring Committee will steer the implementation in state. District Level Monitoring Committee will identify the beneficiaries, prepare project reports, monitor progress. NABARD has taken a lead in facilitating Agri Infra projects through grass-root level cooperative institutions.
Within 1 month of launching of the fund, more than Rs. 1,000 Crore have been sanctioned to more than 2,280 farmer societies. In addition to fast track implementation, all public sector banks and financial institutions have been on-boarded by signing MoUs to increase uptake.
Collectively the reforms will herald a new dawn for agriculture in India, transforming farmers into vibrant producers, integrated with the national and global economy.