With farmers’ organisations and Opposition and regional parties stepping up protests against the farm Bills passed by Parliament this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said his government’s agriculture sector reforms have given farmers the power to sell their produce “anywhere and to anyone… where they can get a higher price according to their wish”.
“Our farmers, our villages are the very basis of Atmanirbhar Bharat”, and “in the recent past, these areas have liberated themselves from many restrictions and tried to break free from many myths”, Modi said.
In his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio address, the Prime Minister sought to illustrate with examples how farmers stood to benefit from the changes.
He referred to Kanwar Chauhan, a farmer from Sonepat in Haryana, who would earlier often have his produce and carts confiscated if he tried to sell outside the mandi.
“But in 2014, fruits and vegetables were excluded from the APMC Act, which greatly benefited him and fellow farmers… Four years ago, he along with fellow farmers of his village, formed a Farmer Producers’ Organisation (FPO). Today farmers in the village cultivate sweet corn and baby corn. Their produce is being supplied directly to Azadpur Mandi, Delhi, big retail chains, and five star hotels,” the PM said.
“Today, the farmers of the village are earning Rs 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh per acre annually by cultivating sweet corn and baby corn. More than 60 farmers of this village… are producing varieties of tomato, cucumber and capsicum and earning Rs 10 lakh to 12 lakh per acre every year.”
Modi asserted that “the one who is rooted to the ground is equally firm during the course of the biggest of storms”, and that “in this difficult period of Corona, our agricultural sector, our farmers are living testimony to this”. At a difficult time for the economy, the farm sector had been resilient, he said, and “if our farmers, our villages… remain strong then the foundation of Atmanirbhar Bharat will remain strong”.
Modi cited the example of the Sri Swami Samarth Farm Producer Company Limited, an FPO in Maharashtra, that had used the reform to improve the situation of many farmers.
“Farmers in Pune and Mumbai are themselves running weekly markets,” Modi said. “In these markets, the produce of about four and a half thousand farmers, of nearly 70 villages, is sold directly without any middleman!
“The rural youth are directly involved in the process of farming and selling to this market. This directly benefits the farmers and the youth of the village are gainfully employed.”
Modi also mentioned the Tamil Nadu Banana Farmers’ Produce Company, a farmers’ collective that purchased hundreds of tonnes of vegetables and fruit from nearby villages during the lockdown, and supplied a vegetable combo kit to Chennai.
“Just think, how many youth… they employed, and the interesting fact is that, due to the absence of middlemen, not only did the farmer profit, but the consumer too benefited,” he said.
In Lucknow too, the Prime Minister said, a group of farmers called the ‘Iraada Farmer Producer’ had procured fruits and vegetables directly from cultivators during the lockdown, and sold it directly in the city’s markets without the involvement of middlemen.
In Rampura village of Gujarat’s Banaskantha, Modi said, farmer Ismail Bhai had used drip irrigation to cultivate potatoes. “Today… he is growing potatoes that are of very high quality. Ismail Bhai directly sells these potatoes to large companies, the middle men are just out of the question. And the result: he is earning handsome profits. He has now repaid all the debts of his father… he is helping hundreds of farmers in his region (and) changing their lives too.”
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