Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Friday announced 11 measures to help agriculture and allied activities as part of the third tranche of India’s economic package to overcome the fallout due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These measures will help the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ (India’s self-reliant mission).
Of the 11 measures, eight were related to strengthening infrastructure, logistics and storage, while the remaining three were on governance administration and reforms.
The eight measures included a Rs 1 lakh crore fund to boost agricultural infrastructure; Rs 10,000 crore scheme for the formalisation of Micro Food Enterprises (MFE); Rs 20,000 crore Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana for development of marine and inland fisheries; Rs 15,000 crore Animal Husbandry Infra Development Fund for the dairy sector; Rs 13,343 crore for National Animal Disease Control Programme; Rs 4,000 crore for the promotion of herbal cultivation; and Rs 500 crore scheme of infrastructure development related to integrated beekeeping development centres.
The last measure was “Operation Greens”, where Rs 500 crore would be spent to ensure not just tomatoes, onions and potatoes (TOP) but all fruits and vegetables (TOTAL) were delivered from market to consumer.
As part of the reforms, Sitharaman said the government would amend the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to enable better price realisation for farmers by attracting investments and making the agriculture sector competitive.
Second, Sitharaman said a law would be formulated to provide adequate choices to farmers to sell their produce at an attractive price, ensure barrier-free interstate trade and a framework for e-trading of produce.
Last, a legal framework would be created to enable farmers to engage with processors, aggregators, large retailers and exporters in a fair and transparent manner. Risk mitigation for farmers, assured returns and quality standardisation would be integral to this framework, Sitharaman said.
In the past two days, the Finance Minister has provided relief for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and migrant labourers, farmers and street vendors with measures worth Rs 5.94 lakh crore and Rs 3.1 lakh crore, respectively.
Of the entire Rs 20 lakh crore package to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have already announced measures worth Rs 9.74 lakh crore. Measures worth Rs 1.22 lakh crore are yet to be announced.
In her address on Thursday, Sitharaman had said the Centre would spend Rs 3,500 crore to provide around eight crore migrants with 5kg of grains each and 1kg chana per family per month, for the next two months. The scheme would be implemented by states.
The government would spend Rs 2.36 lakh crore to help farmers impacted by the coronavirus crisis. At least 2.5 crore big farmers would be provided concessional credit through Kisan Credit Cards, and nearly three crore small and marginal farmers would be given funds from NABARD, state and district cooperative banks, as well as regional rural banks.
Further, the government announced a Rs 5,000 crore scheme to help 50 lakh street vendors gain easy access to credit, which included an initial working capital of up to Rs 10,000.
A day before, on Wednesday, Sitharaman had announced credit guarantees to the MSME sector which employs an estimated 11 crore persons. She made 16 specific announcements for sectors ranging from MSME and Non Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs) to real estate and power distribution and the salaried.
The ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ (Self-reliant India campaign) was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on Tuesday. He said the Rs 20 lakh crore package was 10 per cent of India’s GDP, and would help position the country for the post Covid-19 world.
PM Modi had said self-reliance would be based on five pillars — an economy that takes quantum jumps, not incremental gains; modern infrastructure; a technology-driven system; vibrant demography; and a demand and supply chain.