New Delhi, May 15 : Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday announced a slew of reform measures for the agriculture sector, which have been lauded for their likely long-term impact, but sector experts are of the opinion that the farmers need immediate relief which the latest announcements would not provide.
Along with the announcement of Rs 1 lakh crore agri infrastructure fund for post-harvest infrastructure among other funds, Sitharaman also announced few major reform measures including amendment to the Essential Commodities Act allowing farmers to sell their produce ‘wherever’ and to ‘whoever’ without any restrictions on selling only to licencees in Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) or mandis.
Speaking to IANS, agriculture expert Devinder Sharma said that announcements made on Friday are long-term measures and farmers instead need immediate direct income support.
“The Finance Minister doled out a number of measures that need be taken in a long term period but, farmers need immediate relief now. The pandemic is (ocurring) now, they cant wait for another one year or two years for the infrastructure to be laid out,” he said.
Observing that farmers are suffering huge losses, due to wastage or perishable products, Sharma said that each farmer should have been provided Rs 10,000 and wheat cultivators should have been provided Rs 100 per quintal as bonus for wheat procurement.
He said that the support would have entailed a total expenditure of about Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
Notably, under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, the government has provided each farmer with Rs 2,000 in April, as the advancement of first instalment payment from the Rs 6,000 per annum PM Kisan Yojana, which the Centre says would benefit 8.7 crore farmers and the total distribution with a total distribution of about Rs 16,000 crore.
Agriculture expert Vijay Sardana also told IANS that although the administrative reforms were necessary but what farmers right now needed was money in their hands.
“They (farmers) have already taken the money from moneylenders and paid for the labour and then there was the lockdown…. and they were not able to sell. It was a net loss for them,” he said.
Sardana added, “When you are talking of kisan credit card, Digital India, then you should also at least give the farmer some relief, what was his fault?”
He noted that the government can give a condition to farmers to open Jan Dhan accounts within two or three months where the money should have been transferred, but emphasised that the need of the hour was to provide money to the farmers.
On the reforms allowing farmers to sell their produce wherever they want, and deregulation of food stuff, Sardana said that they were due for long and would help in the long term.
Sharma, however, said that the administrative decisions were not required now and should have been deliberated upon.