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Modi lauds farmers for resilience during COVID pandemic and forming the basis of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’
New Delhi, September 27, 2020
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today lauded the farmers for weathering the biggest of storms like the COVID-19 pandemic and making the villages “the very basis of Atmanirbhar Bharat, a self-reliant India.
Delivering his monthly “Mann Ki Baat” address over All India Radio (AIR), the Prime Minister said, in the recent past, these areas have liberated themselves from many restrictions and tried to break free from many myths.
“I get many such letters from farmers, I have had a dialogue with farmer organizations, who inform me about new dimensions being added to the farming sector and the changes it is undergoing.”
"One such instance is that of Kanwar Chauhan, a farmer in Sonipat district of Haryana. He used to face great difficulties in marketing his fruits and vegetables outside the mandi, the marketplace. Earlier, if he sold his fruits and vegetables outside the mandi, then, many a time his produce and cart would get confiscated.
“But, in 2014, fruits and vegetables were excluded from the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, which, greatly benefited him and fellow farmers in the neighbourhood. Four years ago, he, along with fellow farmers of his village, formed a Farmer Producer’s Organization. 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.
“Today, the farmers of the village are earning rupees two and a half to three lakhs per acre annually by cultivating sweet corn and baby corn. Not only this, more than 60 farmers of this village, through the construction of a net house and poly house are producing various varieties of tomato, cucumber and capsicum and earning from 10 to 12 lakh rupees per acre every year,” he added.
“Do you know what is different with these farmers? They have the power to sell their fruits and vegetables, anywhere and to anyone! And this power is the foundation of their progress.
“Now this power has also been imparted to other farmers of the country not only for marketing of the fruits and vegetables but whatever they are producing or cultivating in their fields -- paddy, wheat, mustard, sugarcane, whatever they are growing they have now got the freedom to sell where they can get a higher price according to their wish,” he said.
Similarly, about three or four years ago fruits and vegetables were excluded from the purview of APMC in Maharashtra. An example of how this reform changed the state of farmers growing fruits and vegetables in Maharashtra is provided by Sri Swami Samarth Farm Producer Company limited - a Farmer Producer’s Organization.
Farmers in Pune and Mumbai are themselves running weekly markets. 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, the Prime Minister pointed out.
Another example is from Theni district of Tamil Nadu where the farmers formed a collective, the Tamil Nadu Banana farmer produce company. It has a very flexible system that evolved about five-six years ago. This Farmer Collective purchased hundreds of tonnes of vegetables, fruits and bananas from nearby villages during the lockdown, and supplied a vegetable combo kit to the city of Chennai.
“You just think, how many youths did they employ and the interesting fact is that, due to the absence of middlemen, not only the farmer profited but the consumer also benefited. One such group of farmers hails from Lucknow. They named themselves the Iraada Farmer Producer and they too during the lockdown, procured fruits and vegetables directly from the cultivators' fields and sold directly in the markets of Lucknow, free from the middlemen, and got whatever price they demanded.
"Ismail Bhai, a farmer in Rampura village of Banaskantha in Gujarat took up the occupation despite his family members trying to dissuade him from taking up what they perceived as a lossmaking activity. using new methods and innovative techniques like drip irrigation he cultivated potatoes which became his hallmark for high quality which he sells directly to big companies, avoiding middlemen and earning handsome profits. Having repaid all the debts of his father, he is helping hundreds of farmers in the region. Yet another example of innovation is Bijay Shanti of Manipur who launched a start-up to develop thread from the Lotus stem. Her efforts and innovations have opened new avenues in the fields of lotus farming and textile," Modi said.
Beginning his address stressing the need for bonding among family members when the two-yard social distancing has become imperative, Modi pointed out the various storytelling traditions in different forms all over the country like ‘Kathakalakshepam’, ‘Villupattu’ and ‘Kathputhli’ puppet shows.
He noted that these days, stories and storytelling based on science and science- fiction was gaining popularity. One such is a website ‘Gathastory.in’, run by Amar Vyas, along with other colleagues. Amar Vyas after completing his MBA from IIM Ahmedabad went abroad and later returned. At present, he lives in Bengaluru and takes time out to pursue an interesting activity such as this, based on storytelling. Many endeavours are popularising stories from rural India. People like Vaishali Vyawahare Deshpande are making this form popular in Marathi.
Srividya Veer Raghavan of Chennai is also engaged in popularizing and disseminating stories related to Indian culture, while two websites named, Kathalaya and The Indian Story Telling Network, are also doing commendable work in this field. Geeta Ramanujan has focussed on stories at kathalaya.org, whereas a network of storytellers from various cities is being created through the Indian Storytelling Network. There is Vikram Sridhar in Bengaluru, who is very enthusiastic about stories related to Bapu.
He also held a live interaction with Aparna Athare and other members of the Bengaluru Storytelling Society during the broadcast.
The Prime Minister said he will be uploading the entire lengthy conversation on to the NarendraModiApp.
During the address, Modi also touched upon several other topics including the story of Seedu Dembele from Mali, a teacher in a public school in Kita, a town in Mali. People call him Hindustani Babu as every Sunday afternoon, he presents an hour-long radio program in Mali entitled ‘Indian frequency on Bollywood songs’ for the past 23 years. He renders his commentary in French as well as in Mali's lingua franca known as Bombara.
He also paid tributes to freedom fighters Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Sukhdev and Rajguru and the sacrifices of soldiers in Independent India.