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Vested interests misleading farmers against beneficial reforms, says Modi
New Delhi, September 21, 2020
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said reforms in agriculture were necessary to free the farmers from their shackles and the three Agriculture Bills passed by Parliament yesterday gave new rights to the farmers on selling their products to anyone, anywhere and at a price and terms determined by the cultivators themselves.
The Prime Minister said the earlier system bred vested interests which took advantage of the hapless farmers.
Modi was speaking after laying the foundation stone for nine National Highway projects worth Rs 14,000 crore in Bihar through video conferencing. He also launched a project to provide internet services through optical fibre to all the villages in the state.
On agricultural reforms, he said the farmer will have various alternatives apart from selling his produce at the Agriculture Markets (Krishi Mandis). He will be able to sell his produce wherever he gets the maximum profit.
Citing examples of potato farmers in a state and oilseed farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, he said the farmers reaped in more than 15 to 30% profit under the reformed system. The oil mill owners purchased oil seeds directly from the farmers in these states.
In states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal with surplus pulses, the farmers have got 15 to 25% more prices directly compared to last year since pulses mills have also purchased directly from farmers.
The Prime Minister clarified that "Krishi Mandis" will not be closed and would continue to operate as before. The NDA Government has been working for modernization and computerization of the Mandis for the last six years.
The system of MSP will also continue as before. The same vested interests which were exploiting the farmers had pushed the Swaminathan Committee Recommendations on MSP under the carpet for years. Every season, the Government would announce MSP as always.
“We have more than 85% of farmers who are either small or marginal and because of this their input costs go up and they cannot make profits because of low production. If the farmers form a union then they can ensure better input costs and better returns. They will be able to enter into better contracts with the buyers.
“These reforms will increase investment in agriculture, farmers will get modern technology, their products will reach the international market more easily,” he added.
Recently, five Farmer Producer Organisations in Bihar had entered into an agreement with a famous rice trading company. Under this agreement, 4,000 tonnes of paddy would be procured from the FPOs. Similarly, the dairies and milk producers can also benefit from the reforms, he said.
Reforms have also been introduced in the Essential Commodities Act. Certain provisions of the Act had hindered the farmers' freedom. Pulses, oilseeds, potatoes, onions etc have been removed from restrictions of the Act. Now the farmers can easily store large amounts of their produce in cold storage. When the legal problems related to storage will be removed, the network of cold storage will also develop and expand.
The Prime Minister said some vested interests are trying to mislead the farmers on the historical reforms in agriculture. He said the government procurement of pulses and oilseeds in the last 5 years is about 24 times more than the 5 years preceding 2014. During the COVID pandemic, record purchases of wheat have been made from farmers during the Rabi season.
"Not only the record government purchases were made but also the record payments were made to the farmers. It was the responsibility of 21st century India to create new systems for the farmers of the country with modern thinking," he added.
Referring to the highway projects, he said these would improve the connectivity in Bihar. The projects include the construction of three large bridges and upgrading of highways into 4-lanes and 6-lanes. All the rivers in Bihar will have bridges confirming to 21st century specifications and all major NHs will be widened and strengthened.
Modi termed the day as not only historic for Bihar but the entire country as the Government was taking major steps to make its villages the mainstay of Atma Nirbhar Bharat and that this was starting from Bihar today. Under this project, 6 lakh villages would be provided internet services through Optical Fibre cable in 1000 days. This includes the 45,945 villages in Bihar.
“It was inconceivable a few years ago that the number of Internet users in rural areas would be more than those in the urban areas,’ he added.
The Prime Minister said India was one of the leading countries in the world in terms of digital transactions. In August alone, about Rs 3 Lakh Crore worth transactions were made through UPI. With the increase in internet usage, now it is also necessary that the villages of the country have good quality, high-speed internet.
Because of the efforts of the government, optical fibre has already reached about 1.5 lakh Village Panchayats and more than 3 lakh Common Service Centres. Explaining the benefits that accrue through the speedier connectivity, Modi said it would provide access to best of the reading material to the students, along with access to telemedicine and access to information on seeds, new techniques nationwide markets to the farmers apart from real-time data on weather conditions. Farmers can also easily transport their products all over the country and world.
The Government aimed to provide urban facilities to rural areas in the country. Earlier, infrastructure planning was lopsided and its development was given a proper thrust only when Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, who gave priority to infrastructure over politics.
The Prime Minister said that the approach now was to develop a Multi-Modal Transport Network where each mode of transport was linked to the other. The scale at which work is now being done on infrastructure-related projects, the speed at which work is being done is unprecedented. Today, highways are being built at twice the speed than before 2014. Compared to the period before 2014 there has been a 5-time increase in the expenditure on highway construction.
The Government has announced to spend more than Rs 110 lakh crore on infrastructure in the coming 4-5 years. Out of this, projects worth more than Rs 19 lakh crore is allocated for the development of Highways alone.
Modi said Bihar was also benefiting from these efforts to expand the infrastructure related to road and connectivity. Under the Prime Ministers Package announced in 2015, over 3,000 km of National Highway was proposed. Also, under the Bharatmala Project, a national highway is being constructed. Today in Bihar, the work on the national highway grid was going on at a fast pace. There were five projects underway to connect East and West Bihar with four lanes and six projects to connect North India with South India.
The biggest obstacle in Bihar's connectivity has been due to large rivers. This is the reason that special attention was paid to the construction of bridges when the PM package was announced. Under the package, 17 bridges were being built over the Ganga and most of which have been completed. Similarly, bridges were being constructed on the Gandak and Kosi rivers.
The Patna ring road and the bridge parallel to Mahatma Gandhi Setu and Vikramshila Setu in Patna and Bhagalpur will speed up the connectivity, he added.