The coronavirus pandemic has spelt major crisis, literally across Mera Gaon, Mera Desh! On one hand, there is no employment due to lockdown and on the other, farmers are unable to sell their produce following restrictions in transportation of fruits, vegetables and even milk. As a result, the stockpile is gradually rotting. Farmers are also facing problems in harvesting rabi crop due to paucity of labourers and machinery. Amid this mounting crisis, FREE PRESS' Manohar Limbodiya spoke to Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Narendra Singh Tomar to find out what the government is doing. Excerpts of the telephonic interview.
Farmers are facing a major crisis. What is the Agriculture Ministry's blueprint to come out of this situation?
The government is aware of the problems faced by the farmers and is taking steps on a war-footing. Seeds, pesticides, farm equipment etc are being brought under the ambit of essential services. To ensure there is no problem in harvesting, the ministry has given permission to ferry Agri equipment between states.
The harvesting of oilseeds and pulses is complete and 80 per cent of the wheat crop has already been harvested. For procurement, orders have been given to Food Corporation of India and NAFED.
How will the government ensure that farmers get proper price for their produce?
Usually, the state government sends proposals to the Centre to purchase crops under minimum support price which the latter permits but all these take time. Running against time, the Union Government has ordered the state government to purchase 25 per cent of all the lentil and oilseed crops.
Farmers selling fruits, flowers and milk are facing huge problems because they are unable to supply the same to cities. What's the govt's plan of action?
Due to transportation hurdles, there has been a drop in the prices of these products. There is a provision under the FIS scheme to compensate farmers for their losses. The Centre will bear half the cost and the state, the other half. The Centre has already directed the farmers in this regard.
What steps have been taken to boost employment in rural areas?
The Centre has already released Rs 7300 crore to the states and Union Territories under MNREGA which is sufficient to pay all the dues for 2019-2020 financial year, but also pay for the work done in the first and second fortnight of April. To strengthen the rural economy, the Deendayal Antodaya Yojana and National Rural Livelihood Mission are being strengthened.
The Bank Sakhi and Pashu Sakhi schemes are helping rural households in the field of banking and animal husbandry. Also, under the Prime Minister’s Housing project, Rs 863 crore has already been released to the states from the Rs 19,500 crore budgetary provision.
What steps have been taken to protect the farmers from coronavirus?
Over 93,000 self-help groups in rural areas are preparing masks and sanitizers which are being sold thus providing money and employment to the people living in rural areas. Also, for the very poor community, kitchens have been rolled out.