Today is Hal Shashti, the Birth Anniversary of Lord Balarama. Wishing all the countrymen, especially the farmer friends, a very happy Hal Chhath!
On this very auspicious occasion, a special fund of one lakh crore rupees has been launched to develop agricultural facilities in the country. This will help in creating better warehousing and modern cold storage chains in the villages. Moreover, many employment opportunities will be created in the village.
Besides, I am also very delighted to transfer 17 thousand crore Rupees in the form of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi to the accounts of 8.5 crore farmer families. It is satisfactory to see that the goal of this scheme is being achieved.
This scheme has been successful in delivering direct assistance to every farmer family and that too in the time of need. In the last one and a half years, 75 thousand crore rupees have been directly deposited in the bank accounts of farmers through this scheme. Of this, 22 thousand crore rupees were transferred to the farmers during the lockdown declared because of corona.
For decades, there has been a demand and discussion about, why the villages do not have industries? Just as industries have the freedom to fix the price of their produce and sell it anywhere in the country, why can't the farmers get such a facility too?
It does not happen that, if the soap industry is set up in a city, then the soap will be sold only in that city. But till now this used to be the case in the farming sector. The farmer had to sell the produce in the local mandis, in the regions where they produce the grains. Similarly, there was a demand that if there are no middlemen in the other industries, then why should there be middlemen in farming business? If the infrastructure is readily available for the development of industries, then the same modern infrastructure should also be available for agriculture.
Under the 'Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, solutions are being sought now for all these issue related to farmers and farming. 'One nation, one Market' Mission which was underway for the last 7 years, is now being completed. First, a technology-based system was created through e-NAM. Now, by making laws, the farmer is freed from purview of the market and market tax. Now the farmer has many options- If he wants, he can now to make a deal of his produce in his field itself or the farmer can sell his produce directly from the warehouse to the merchants and institutions associated with e-NAM, depending upon whoever gives him the best price.
In the same way, another new law has been framed, under which the farmer can now have a direct partnership with the industries. For example, now the farmers can directly collaborate with the manufacturers of chips and juice, marmalade and chutney industries. This will give the farmer assured prices at the time of sowing the crop, which will give him relief from the fall in prices.
There is no problem of production or yield in our farming, rather the wastage of the yield after production is a big problem. It adversely affects the farmer as well as the country. To overcome this problem, on the one hand the legal hurdles are being removed while on the other hand direct assistance is also being given to the farmers. When there was a severe shortage of food grains in the country, we had enacted essential commodities Act. But the same law was still in force, at a time when we became the second largest food producer in the world!
This law was the major reason why good warehouses could not be built in the villages and the agro-based industries were not getting encouraged. This law was being frequently misused. It was used more to intimidate the traders and investors in the country. Now the agriculture business has also been freed from this fear mechanism. Now the traders and businesses can come forward to build storages and make other arrangements in the villages.
The Agriculture Infrastructure Fund launched today will enable farmers to create modern facilities for storage in their villages. Through this scheme, 1 lakh crore rupees will be provided to the groups of farmers in the village, farmers’ committees, FPOs to build warehouses, cold storage and for setting up food processing industries. The money that will be provided to the farmers to turn them into entrepreneurs will also have 3 per cent concession in interest rate. I also had a discussion with some of the farmers' associations a little while ago. This new fund will immensely help the organizations across the country, which are helping these farmers for years.
This modern infrastructure will provide a huge help in setting up of agro-based industries. Under the 'Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan', a major scheme has been chalked out to facilitate popular products in every district reach the national and global markets. Under this, clusters of agricultural industries are being developed close to the villages in various districts of the country.
Now we are moving towards the situation where food based products from the agricultural industries of the village will reach the cities and other industrial goods from the cities will reach the villages. This is the resolve of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan for which we have to work. Now the question arises, who is going to run agro-based industries? In this too, the greater share will go to the large groups of small farmers, which we call as FPO, or Farmer Producer Organisations.
Therefore, efforts were undertaken in the last 7 years, to build a large network of FPO or Farmer Producer Organization. Work is in progress to ensure that 10,000 such FPOs are formed nationwide in the coming years.
On the one hand, work is underway on the network of FPOs while on the other hand start-ups related to farming are being promoted. Almost 350 start-ups are being extended support. These start-ups are related to food processing, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of things, manufacturing of smart farming equipment and renewable energy.
Small farmers are central to all these schemes and reforms related to farmers. It is the small farmer, who has been facing most of the problems. And it was the small farmer who could not fully access the government benefits. For the past 6-7 years, an effort is underway to change the condition of the small farmers. The small farmer is also being linked to the development of agriculture in the country and he himself is being empowered.
Two days ago, a major scheme involving small farmers of the country was launched, which is going to be of great benefit to the entire country in the coming days. The country's first Kisan Rail has been flagged off between Maharashtra and Bihar.
Now this train will leave Maharashtra, transporting many fruits and vegetables like oranges, grapes, onions and will return from Bihar carrying several products like Makhana, Litchi, Paan, fresh vegetables, fish, etc. Small farmers from Bihar will be directly connected to big cities like Mumbai and Pune. This first train will also benefit the farmers of UP and Madhya Pradesh, as it will pass through those places. The specialty of this train is that, it is completely air-conditioned. That is, in a way it is cold storage running on the track. It will benefit all types of farmers i.e. those producing milk, fruits, vegetables, fish, as well as the consumers who use these products in cities.
The farmer will benefit because he will not be compelled to sell his crop in local mandis or markets at low prices. It will free the farmers from the wastage problem, faced due to transporting the products in the truck. The transportation cost will be several times less as compared to the trucks. Those living in cities will be benefited now because there will be no shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables due to the vagaries of weather or other crises, and the price will also be lower.
Moreover, it will improve the condition of small farmers in villages. As the small farmers are reaching the big cities of the country now, they will move towards growing fresh vegetables, and will be encouraged towards animal husbandry and fisheries. This will pave the way for more income from less land, and will open up many new opportunities for employment and self-employment.
All these steps will not only change the rural economy scenario of the country in the 21st century, but will also increase the income from agriculture manifold. All the recent decisions are going to create extensive employment opportunities in and around the villages in the near future.
For the past 6 months we have been watching how the village and the farmer can support the country even during a crisis. It was our farmers who did not let the country face any shortage of food during the lockdown. When the country was under lockdown, our farmers were harvesting in the fields and setting new records of sowing. We are able to deliver free ration to more than 80 crore countrymen for 8 months from the first day of lockdown to Deepawali and Chhath. It is being made possible only due to farmers.
The government also ensured that there was a record purchase of farmers' produce. Due to this as compared to last time over 27 thousand crores rupees more has reached the farmers. Be it the seeds or manure, this time there was a record produce even in difficult circumstances and was delivered according to the demand. This is the reason why even during these trying times our rural economy is strong and the troubles in the villages have lessened.
May this strength of our village play a leading role in speeding up the pace of development of the country! With this belief, many congratulations to all the farmer friends!
Keep continuing the commendable work you have been doing to keep Corona out of the village.
Keep following the mantra of 'do gaz doori' or social distancing and masks.
Stay alert, stay safe.
Thanks a lot!!