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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.

Cities

Uttar Pradesh: 6-yr-old brutally raped, accused on the run

Dr S.K. Garg, the principal of the Meerut Medical College where the girl is admitted, said that she will need treatment for a long duration and more surgeries.

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Minor Girl rape

Hapur (UP), Aug 10 : A six-year-old girl, who was kidnapped and brutally raped in Hapur district on Thursday, remains in a critical condition even as the police continue to hunt for the accused.

The police have released three sketches of the accused on the basis of the statements of the girl’s parents and neighbours.

The girl was kidnapped from outside her home in the Garh Mukhteshwar area, reportedly by a man on a motorcycle.

The police launched a hunt for the girl after her parents lodged a missing complaint.

She was found the next morning, unconscious and soaked in blood, behind bushes not far from her village. The girl was rushed to a specialised hospital in Meerut where the medical examination confirmed rape.

She has already undergone one surgery and doctors say she is stable but not yet out of danger.

The doctors said that the girl was brutalised in a manner that is shockingly similar to the Nirbhaya gang rape case of 2012.

Dr S.K. Garg, the principal of the Meerut Medical College where the girl is admitted, said that she will need treatment for a long duration and more surgeries.

Hapur SP Sanjeev Suman said that they have not yet been able to record the victim’s statement because of her medical condition. He said that six police teams have been formed to arrest the accused.

Meanwhile, protests are being held by the Samajwadi Party and Congress over the incident.

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India

Deception, disinformation part of China’s game plan with India

The former diplomat predicted that Beijing will insist that it is on its own territory and defend its position at all cost while accusing Indian troops of being the aggressors.

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India China Galwan Valley

New Delhi, Aug 10 :: China’s game plan for the stand-off along the Line of Actual Control with India in Ladakh will include a combination of pressure, deception, disinformation and continuation of its long-term expansionist policies.

This was deduced by the Delhi Policy Group (DPG), one of India’s oldest think tanks on strategic and international issues of critical national interest, from the statements from a series of meetings between senior Army commanders, foreign ministers and ministries and the special representatives on the border question of the two countries.

In his paper on ‘China’s post-Galwan Posture’, former ambassador Nalin Surie, distinguished fellow for diplomacy at DPG, said that over six weeks after the brutal, unprovoked, illegal and fatal attack by Chinese troops on Indian soldiers in East Ladakh, the situation there remains tense and fragile.

“Chinese obduracy has ensured that the rebuilding of confidence, let alone trust, in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is in serious doubt,” he said.

India and China have made no headway in de-escalation in the Pangong Tso lake region of Ladakh, where both sides have built up forces and are preparing to dig in for the long haul.

Surie in his paper said that the “Chinese game plan to extricate itself from a situation of its own creation which has won it no friends except Pakistan” would contain “a mix of pressure, deception, disinformation and not having to abandon its long term and long held objectives”.

The former diplomat predicted that Beijing will insist that it is on its own territory and defend its position at all cost while accusing Indian troops of being the aggressors.

China will also insist that India should compromise its position and “meet the Chinese side halfway”, Surie said.

The third line of attack, Surie said, will be to repeatedly “warn India not to misjudge or make a strategic calculation of the current situation and not underestimate China’s firm determination to safeguard its territorial sovereignty”.

The Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong warned of this on July 10, and reiterated his advice at a public forum in New Delhi on July 30.

China has concerns at the growing congruence of interests in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean region between India and the US and other QUAD countries, particularly post the Chinese attacks in East Ladakh, the DPG paper said.

Besides, the growing distrust between the Trump administration and China, Beijing may also be worried about Russia’s neutrality.

As a result, Surie said that the Chinese will also put pressure on New Delhi by claiming that India will greatly suffer from economic decoupling.

“India’s decisions on Chinese Apps, Chinese tenders for projects and investments in India have undoubtedly caused considerable disquiet. Given the state of the world economy and the future prognosis, loss of one of the largest and fast growing markets in the world is not going to be easily digested by China,” the former Ambassador said.

Part of China’s response will be to strengthen its economic assistance and cooperation with our neighbours and other economic partners, Surie said.

Incidentally, the Chinese embassy in New Delhi threatened Strat News Global, an independent media portal of “severe consquences” if it did not “delete a video” comparing Xi Jinping with the Nazi tyrant Adolf Hitler.

Strat News Global founder and editor-in-chief Nitin Gokhale revealed this on Twitter, confirming Surie’s analysis that China will use pressure, deception and disinformation in the long haul with India.

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India

Preparations on to resume anti-CAA, anti-NRC protests in India

The unlock stage has reached to an advanced level in the country and the Central an state governments are permitting every kind of activities in the countryand there is no reason that protests can’t be started.

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Resolution against CAA

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Mehmood Pracha said that Government has allowed unlock India and is now implemented across the country which is now in advanced stage, therefore the CAA-NRC protests can be re-started from August 15.

The process to resume anti-CAA protests has started.The efforts have gained momentum to re-start anti- CAA, anti-NRC protests which were cancelled due to coronavirus in Aligarh. Senior Supreme Court lawyer Mehmood Pracha reached Aligarh on Sunday and during an interview to news18, he said that preparations are in full swing to re-launch protest against (Citizenship (Amendment) Act, (National Register of Citizens).

The unlock stage has reached to an advanced level in the country and the Central and state governments are permitting every kind of activities in the country and there is no reason that protests cannot be started.

He said that people of Aligarh are demanding that to save the Constitution of India the protests can be started. The protests which were stopped due to coronavirus can now resume.

All types of activities have started and the state and central governments have issused guidelines for the work to resume.

Moreover, how a Muslim community can do the religious activities during Muharram under the ambit of legal guidelines are also to be discussed.

The Lawyer said, “the people of the country knows that the Supreme Court gave permission for the Jagannath Puri Rath yatra and the guidelines that were issued for the Jagannath Puri Rath yatra, should be given for all the religions. The permission should be granted for religious activities of Muslims and protests can be started during Aug 15.

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