The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a dedicated Rs 5,000-crore fund to bring more land area under micro-irrigation, as part of its objective to boost agriculture production and farmers income.
The Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF), set up under the National Bank For Agriculture And Rural Development (NABARD), seeks to provide states financial assistance on concessional rate of interest to promote micro-irrigation – currently, 10 million hectares is under micro-irrigation as against the potential of 70 million hectares.
The lending rate under the MIF has been proposed at three per cent lower than the cost of raising the fund by NABARD, an official statement said. The dedicated fund would supplement the efforts of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) and help bring about 10 lakh hectares under micro-irrigation, it added. For the current fiscal, Rs 2,000 crore has been allocated, while Rs 3,000 crore has been earmarked for 2019-20.
The fund will facilitate states to mobilise resources for their initiatives, including additional (top up subsidy) in implementation of PMKSY-PDMC to achieve the annual target of about two million hectares per year during the remaining period of 14th Finance Commission. The states can access this fund for innovative integrated projects, including projects in the public private partnership (PPP) mode and also for incentivizing micro-irrigation.
In another decision, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, doubled the budget for laying an alternative communications network for defence services to Rs 24,664 crore. The budget for the Network For Spectrum (NFS) project has been raised by Rs 11,330 crore, an official statement said, adding that the project will be implemented by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and completed in 24 months.
The project seeks to boost the communication capabilities of defence forces, leading to enhanced national operational preparedness.
The cabinet gave its ex post facto approval for the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India and Morocco in the field of mining and geology, the Ministry of Mines said in a statement. The MoU will provide an institutional mechanism between India and Morocco for cooperation in the field of geology and mining, it said.
National Biofuel Policy
A National Policy on Biofuels, which allows doping of ethanol – produced from damaged food grains, rotten potatoes, corn and sugar beet with petrol – to cut oil imports by Rs 4,000 crore this year alone, was approved by the Union Cabinet. Till now only ethanol produced from sugarcane was allowed to be mixed in petrol. The new policy categorises biofuels as First Generation (1G), which produce bio-ethanol from molasses and bio-diesel from non-edible oilseeds; Second Generation (2G), which can be produced from municipal solid waste; and Third Generation (3G) fuels like bio-CNG.
Freight Village in Haryana
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs also approved the development of trunk infrastructure components for the integrated multi-modal logistics hub, known as ‘Freight Village’ at Nangal Chaudhary in Haryana, under the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Project. The trunk infrastructure components include roads and services, building complex, water, sewage and common effluent treatment plant. The Freight Village will be developed on 886.78 acres, which will be implemented by the project Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in two phases. A financial sanction of Rs 1029.49 crore for development of Phase I and in-principle approval for development of Phase-II of the project has also been given by the CCEA, the statement said.