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FM Nirmala Sitharaman drives stimulus tractor, attempts to revive farm sector

FM proposes 11 steps to boost agro and allied sectors in third tranche of Rs 20-lakh-crore stimulus

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Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi, May 15 : Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday came out with a slew of fiscal measures along with regulatory reforms to revive the agriculture and allied sectors under the mega Rs 20 lakh-crore economic package for the ‘Self-reliant India Movement’ announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently.

The minister detailed eight unique steps backed by fiscal support to build local brands, cold-chain and warehousing infrastructure and promote animal husbandry and fisheries in the country.

Not just fiscal measures, three more measures dealing with regulatory reforms among others will also be carried out, Sitharaman said.

She pointed out that amendments to the Essential Commodities Act will be made and a legal route would be taken to free the farmers to sell their produce in any market that provides remunerative prices, rather than restricting such sales only to the licensee in the APMCs.

At present, under the APMC Act, farmers are required to sell their produce only in designated mandis at prices that are often regulated, and many times lower than the prevailing market price. This restricts the farmers’ earnings and curbs their ability to take their produce for further processing or exports.

Detailing the measures, Sitharaman announced that Rs 1 lakh crore would be spent to create warehouses and cold-chains for the agriculture sector. Besides, she announced a Rs 20,000-crore scheme for fishermen through the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) for integrated, sustainable and inclusive development of marine and inland fisheries.

Composition-wise, the scheme will include Rs 11,000 crore for promotion of activities in marine, inland fisheries and aquaculture, while the rest Rs 9 ,000 crore will be spent for creating infrastructure such as fishing harbours, cold-chain and markets.

Sitharaman also announced the launch of a National Animal Disease Control Programme for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and ‘Brucellosis’ with a total outl ay of Rs 13,343 crore.

The minister further announced an Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund worth Rs 15,000 crore to encourage the establishment of processing plants for export of niche products. Besides, a Rs 10,000-crore cluster-based manufacturing scheme for nutritional products was also announced by the minister.

She said the scheme is in line with the Prime Minister’s call for ‘Vocal for Local’ with global outreach. It is expected to help 2 lakh MFEs attain FSSAI gold standards, build brands and boost marketing. Further, Operation Greens scheme whereby subsidy is provided on transportation and storage of tomato, onion and potato will be extended to all fruits and vegetable produce in the country.

Terming the decision as “TOP to TOTAL”, Sitharaman said that the government will shell out Rs 500 crore for the scheme.

Promotion of herbal cultivation also got a boost with an outlay Rs 4,000 crore. This is expected to add 10,00,000 hectares under cultivation of these plants in the next two years. Additionally, a Rs 500-crore beekeeping initiative has been instituted. This is expected to increase the income for 2 lakh beekeepers and provide quality honey to the consumers.

Confederation of Indian Industry’s Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said: “A combination of big-ticket reforms together with allocation of money for agricultural infrastructure and logistics is a welcome move to strengthen the sector that provides the highest share of employment in the country”.

Another industry body Ficci President Sangita Reddy said: “The ‘Essential Commodities Act’ had outlived its utility and by bringing a change in this, the government has ensured that investments in the agri-value chain get a boost.”

“Additionally, the announcement on introducing a central law to free up inter and intra-state trade of agri-products will help farmers in getting a better price for their produce and we hope that all states will adopt this in right earnest.”

Similarly, Assocham’s Secretary General Deepak Sood said: “The Rs 1 lakh-crore fund for strengthening post-harvest agriculture infrastructure with the help of aggregators, Farmer Producers Organisations (FPOs), cooperatives and even the start-ups in the farm sector would go a long way in modernising Indian agriculture, connecting more with the value chain of food processing. “

“The government must also be complimented for walking on a twin-track of providing immediate relief to the farmers who are distressed due to lockdown, and ushering in landmark reforms like deregulation of sale of produce like cereals, edible oil, oilseeds etc.”

Trade Promotion Council of India’s Chairman Mohit Singla said: “The amendment in the Essential Commodities Act is the first welcome step by the government in deregulating the agri sector which will save the farmers from artificial price management activities by different forces. The prices will now be governed by market demand only and in the long term, bring better value to the far mer.”

PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s President D.K. Aggarwal said the allocation of Rs 20,000 crore for fishermen under PMMSY will provide significant impetus to production and exports of marine, inland fisheries and aquaculture. The announcement on setting up of ‘Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund’ will tremendously support private investments in dairy processing, establishment of plants for export of niche products, strengthen value addition and cattle feed infrastructure, said Aggarwal.

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Previous govts worked without Metro policy, lacked modern vision: PM Modi

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Narendra Modi

While carrying out the the virtual ground breaking ceremonies of the the Surat Metro project and the second phase of Ahmedabad Metro project, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that due to lack of modern vision and any metro policy in previous governments, works of only 225 kilometre Metro network were operational, while the present government’s modern vision had helped complete more than 450 km of Metro line and work was in progress in more than 1000 km in 27 cities.

PM Modi said, “The difference between the work of previous governments and our government is clearly seen. In the 10 to 12 years of previous governments, only 225 kilometres of Metro line were operational, while in 6 years of our government, more than 450 kilometres of Metro line in 27 cities is operational. There was a time in the country when there was no modern thinking, no policy even for Metro. There was no uniformity between various Metros being developed across the country and there was no coordination with other modes of transport in the cities.”

“Now, we are approaching Metro work with an integrated approach, where the other modes of transport like bus and railways will work in unison with the Metro in an integrated approach. The National Common Mobility Card launched in Ahmedabad is another feature which will help in this integration in the future. We are working with not only looking at the current requirements but the requirements 10 years later,” said Modi.

The Prime Minister virtually carried out the groundbreaking ceremonies of the Surat Metro which consists of 40.35 km Metro line consisting of two corridors, between Sarthana and DreamCity and Bhesan and Saroli lines. He also carried out the groundbreaking ceremony of the second phase of Ahmedabad Metro, which also comprises two corridors, one from Motera to Mahatma Mandir and the second from Gujarat National law University (GNLU) to GIFT City.

The PM said that Surat and Ahmedabad are cities which will strengthen Atma Nirbharta (self-reliance). “Earlier, two decades back, Surat was known more for disasters such as plague, rather than its development. Now, Surat is the fourth rapidly developing city in the world. 40% of the man-made fabric production in the country comes from Surat and about 30% of man-made fibre is also from Surat. Today, Surat is the second cleanest city in the country. All this has been possible due to better planning. Earlier, 20% of the population lived in huts and shanties, now due to affordable housing schemes only 6% live in shanties. Surat is the best example of Ek Bharat, Shreshth Bharat, where aspiring people from across the country have made it home,” added the PM.

Similarly, the PM said that Gandhinagar’s image has also transformed in recent years. “Gandhinagar, earlier had the image of a town of Government employees and retired persons…It could not even be called a city. Now, we have seen transformation of its image in recent years and we see youth everywhere nowadays. Today, Gandhinagar is known for the IIT Gandhinagar, GNLU, the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (PDPU),Indian Institute of Teachers Education, the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Communication and Technology, the National Institute of Design , Bhaskaracharya Institute of Space Application and Geo-informatics (BISAG) … Company campuses have increased here, raising employment. New modern infra projects have livened up Gandhinagar and in a way made it a dream City,” the PM added.

“Today India is taking decisions with confidence. It is not only doing things bigger but also better. India is coming out with the largest affordable housing program and the biggest healthcare services. More than six thousand villages will be connected to the internet shortly,” the PM further said.

The PM talked about a program which was rarely discussed and that was the Pragati program. “n the Pragati meetings, I discuss with the government and administration officials, in detail about all the various projects which have been stalled, lingering on for decades. Projects worth 13 lakh crore have been discussed, where we are trying to solve the glitches,” added the PM.

The Ahmedabad Metro Rail Project Phase-II is 28.25 Kms long with two corridors. Corridor-1 is 22.8 Kms long and is from Motera Stadium to Mahatma Mandir. Corridor-2 is 5.4 Kms long and is from GNLU to GIFT City. The total completion cost of Phase-II project is Rs 5,384 crores.

The Surat Metro Rail Project is 40.35 kms long and comprises two corridors. Corridor-1 is 21.61 kms long and is from Sarthana to Dream City. Corridor-2 is 18.74 kms long and is from Bhesan to Saroli. The total completion cost of the Surat Metro project is Rs 12,020 crores.

–IANS

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BJP candidates file nomination for UP Vidhan Parishad

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All ten BJP candidates for the biennial elections to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council on Monday filed their nomination papers.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was present when the candidates filed their nomination papers.

Among the candidates are state BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh, Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma, former bureaucrat Arvind Sharma, Laxman Prasad Acharya, Salil Bishnoi, Govind Shukla, Kunwar Manvendra Singh, Ashwini Tyagi, Dharamvir Prajapati and Surendra Chaudhary.

Earlier, all the candidates reached the BJP’s state headquarters where they were given a warm welcome by party workers to the beating of ‘dhols’. The candidates offered prayers at a temple and then went together to the Vidhan Bhawan, located across the road, to file the nomination papers.

Elections are being held for 12 seats in the Vidhan Parishad.

The BJP has put up 10 candidates and the Samajwadi Party has fielded two candidates.

Elections are likely to be held unopposed unless a 13th candidate enters the fray.

–IANS

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AK Antony to lead Cong poll campaign in Kerala

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AK Antony

The decision was taken at a meeting between the state Congress leaders and the party high command in New Delhi on Monday morning. 

The big three leaders of the state Congress, Kerala unit chief Mullappally Ramachandran, former Chief Minister and CWC member Oomen Chandy and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala met the party president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, general secretary in-charge of the state Tariq Anwar, general secretary (Organisation) K.C. Venugopal and CWC member A.K. Antony. The meeting decided that both Oomen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala will contest the elections, and in accordance with the Congress style of functioning the Chief Minister candidate will be finalised only after the party and the UDF wins a majority. 

The state Congress is in a spot following the drubbing it faced in the recent local body elections, even after the ruling Left front was in a quagmire of several controversies, including corruption charges and gold smuggling case. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary and senior Congress leader Manacadu Suresh told IANS said,

“Antony taking the lead in the campaign will bring in a lot of goodwill to the Congress party in the state. With the high command deciding on a collective leadership and the high command taking the reins of the electioneering in its hands, will take the party to great heights.” 

Highly placed sources in the Congress told IANS that Antony is scheduled to arrive in the state after February 15 and will stay put in the state till the elections are over. With the high command pushing in the candidature of Oomen Chandy also in the next Assembly elections, the major constituent of the UDF, the Indian Union Muslim League is elated. 

IUML national organising secretary and Member Parliament, E.T. Mohammed Basheer told IANS,

“Oomen Chandy is a leader who knows the pulse of the grassroots and is contesting the elections, and a collective leadership for the Congress will give the front a major fillip. The presence of former Chief Minister A.K. Antony will be the much needed relief for the front as this will be a fight against the corrupt and the anti-people LDF government.

Antony who is considered as the Mr. Clean of the Indian politics will do a lot of good for our election prospects.” A.K. Antony while speaking to IANS said, “I will be in Kerala during the election as always but there will be a campaign committee chairman for the Congress party in the elections. I will be in the state after the Budget session of Parliament”.

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