Rs 17,551 crore has been provided to 8 cr farmers under PM-Kisan Yojna: Narendra Singh Tomar
Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare and Minister of Rural Development speak about the agri-sector health and its ground situation, shortage of migrant labours, the impact of coronavirus, COVIOD-19, pandemic on agriculture and rural areas and measures to deal with it among others during an exclusive interview with Swati Khandelwal, Zee Business
Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare and Minister of Rural Development speak about the agri-sector health and its ground situation, shortage of migrant labours, the impact of coronavirus, COVIOD-19, pandemic on agriculture and rural areas and measures to deal with it among others during an exclusive interview with Swati Khandelwal, Zee Business. Edited Excerpts:
Q: Agri-sector is very important for the availability of food. Update us about the agri-sector health and its ground situation in the country amid COVID-19 pandemic? Also, update us about the steps that the government has taken to deal with the pandemic?
A: The country is going through the coronavirus crisis. It is a time when the works related to agriculture should be carried out a fast speed. This is a reason a commitment towards agriculture was visible in every decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the lockdown was announced in the country. Harvesting is an important subject today when it comes to the agricultural sector. If the crop is harvested then it is necessary to earn from it. This is why the farmers, the workers and the machines which are involved in harvesting were allowed, which helped in completing the harvesting work of pulses and oilseeds across the country. However, wheat harvesting is still going on because sowing is delayed in states like Punjab and Haryana and that's why the wheat harvesting process starts around April 10 in the region and the process has started in these areas. I think, even in adverse circumstances, the harvesting work is going on fast speed in the rural areas of the country. As far as procurement is concerned then NAFED has been directed to buy the pulses and oilseeds and it is in touch with the states and has started with the process of procurement.
Q: What is your view on the migrant labours? Do you think that the harvesting can be completed at a time when there is a shortage of migrant labours, which is not allowing us to either harvest or transportation of the crops?
A: Labours who were working in factories are stuck on the way and they are stuck because they wanted to be back to their homes. These labours were not those who can be used for harvesting purposes. But, those who were associated with harvesting have either left their homes quite before the lockdown was announced and have reached the destination or they haven't left their homes. Indeed, the number of labourers who used to come out for harvesting hasn't been able to reach due to the lockdown. But we know it well that Indian farmers stand with full strength even in adverse conditions and find some alternatives to get rid of the problem.
However, two-three good things have happened in this period. Several people who were working in faraway lands have left back to their homes as soon as they learnt about the problem, created by the coronavirus. Thus, a big population is present in their villages and with their family and are contributing to harvesting at their homes. Secondly, there is an increase in usage of the machines which can be used in harvesting.
Q: What steps are you taking to harvest in states like Maharashtra where coronavirus impact is more?
A: First of all, I want to reassure you that enough food grain is available in India even in the current situation. Thus, the Indian government doesn't have any issue related to a shortage of food grains. The new crops which will be reaching us will not face any problem. Thus, sufficient food grains will be available with the government. As far as states, like Maharashtra, Kerala and other states where several districts are the corona hotspots, is concerned than we have to take care of certain factors like protecting peoples life while taking decisions. Protecting people is the priority of the government as well as the economy. In short, protecting lives is the priority of the government. That’s why every decision related to agriculture, rural development and other areas are taken after ensuring that instructions of lockdown and health ministry to deal with coronavirus are followed while working.
Q: APMC market where several cases of coronavirus came in light due to which the vendors have either thrown the products or they have spoiled. What is your view on this issue that has plummeted the costs?
A: You would have felt that there was not a single person could not get the vegetables despite the strictness that was enforced when the lockdown was announced. But, it is true that the situation is unfavourable and lockdown is in the process when people are supposed to stay at homes and maintain social distancing and that’s why it is not possible to restore the normal conditions. There is no such shortage of vegetables despite such a ban. But it is true that the number of vegetables which could have reached has not reached to the markets, ‘Mandis’, which has hit the farmers partially. However, the second aspect of this is that the vegetable that used to come to the city is being sold in the village itself. Generally, farmers preferred to sell their products in the market of cities instead of the village and their inability to communicate has resulted in the availability of vegetable and milk in abundance in the villages.
The second subject is fruit and the fruit farmers who invest a lot in fruit cultivation have faced huge losses due to a fall in prices which was caused by the unavailability of proper movement of their products. Keeping the same in mind, I spoke with the farmers of Maharashtra, a few days ago, where I felt that the cost of fruits is going down, which is causing distress for the farmers. After which, I announced the implementation of Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) of the central government with immediate effect and passed on the instructions to the state governments. The scheme empowers the states to buy fruits from farmers in case of a glut in production and fall in prices and then store them in cold storage. Then the stored fruit is sold when the prices return back to its normal. MIS is a mechanism to reduce the losses in which the loss is shared between the central and state/UT governments on 50:50 basis.
Q: Can you tell us about the guidelines issued by the state government asking them to directly buy the crops from the farmers?
A: States has the responsibility of procuring the food crops, pulses and oilseeds on the MSP but pulses and oilseeds are purchased by NAFED, while wheat and rice are bought by FCI. However, these purchases are made at the state level with the support of the officers of the states. The payment is made to the farmers after the products are brought to the warehouses and an undertaking is provided. Even I have conducted a video conference (VC) with the agriculture ministers of the states and our executives are in continuous touch with them. This is an annual process and that is a reason that the states were aware of the same. The entire process was completed by keeping the guidelines to fight against the coronavirus, like social distancing, wearing masks, use of sanitizers, washing the hands at regular intervals among others, in mind. This is a reason that he states have decentralized the purchase. In the process, they have increased the number of places where the farm products were brought to ensure that fewer farmers reach a site without travelling long distances like every time. Less gathering will help in following the guidelines of social distance. This is a reason that we didn’t face any problems buying the products at MSP across the country.
Q: In a bid to provide relief to farmers, the government, earlier in April 2020, released Rs 15,000 crore under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) to benefit around 8 crore farmers. Have the farmers received the first instalment, if yes then tell the time by which they will receive the second instalment? Also let us know about other plans, if any, to benefit the farmers?
A: The government has already provided around Rs 17,551 crores under the PM-Kisan Yojna to more than around 8 crore farmers amid the lockdown. Apart from this, Rs 10,000 crore has been provided in the form of instalments of Rs 500 to around 20 crores 40 lakh women holding Jan Dhan Bank accounts. Rs 7,300 crore in the form of wages have been credited into the accounts of MGNREGA workers. Rs 3,242 crore has been distributed among farmers under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna. Thus, a huge sum has been credited through DBT into the accounts of farmers in rural India.
Q: Brief us about the government’s plans regarding the farmers’ debt and repayment as we are seeing that there is a pressure its payment? How much more time will be provided to them?
A: The country is facing a crisis of coronavirus. That’s why we have tried to ensure that the rural economy remains fine and To make sure that the farmers don’t face any hardships while working, harvest their Rabi crop and sell them at reasonable prices and Kharif crop remain good, and they have started working on the front. For the purpose, a Video Kharif Conference was held on April 16, which saw participation by people from across the nation. So, we have tried to ensure the availability of fertilizer, seeds and pesticide for them and make sure that there is no shortage of the same.
Earlier, the farmer repaying their loan by March 31 were supposed to pay an interest of 4% and a subsidy of 3% was offered to him from the government. This March 31 deadline has been extended to May 31 because the farmer was not able to either sell his produce till March 31 or were in a condition to go to the bank. So, we have tried to help them. Apart from this, we are also trying to solve each and every problem that is occurring in the sector.
Q: Tell us the kind of impact that corona has had on the agriculture sector and its influence on agri-economy? Besides, do you think that the government will be able to meet the deadline for doubling the farmers’ income by 2022?
A: I think it’s too early to talk about the kind of impact it will have on the GDP in time to come. But to make sure that it doesn’t have any impact on the farmers in the rural area, the Modi government has tried to do everything that is necessary for the purpose. If you have a look at the decisions with respect to agriculture than you will find that it ensures that farmers’ don’t face any problem. It looks forward to opening employment opportunities in rural areas. It also ensures development works are carried in the rural areas of the country, homes are constructed under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana, roads are developed under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and loan up to Rs 20 lakh is provided to self-group without any guarantee so that they can expand their work further. So, the government of India has taken decisions to support the rural economy.
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As far as doubling farmers’ income is concerned then the Prime Minister has had announced his plans to double their income by 2022. And for the purpose, we have constituted a task force and we are working on mission mode on different fronts of agriculture.
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