My Priority: Successful implementation of central schemes
From encouraging farmers to go for cashless transactions to reducing input cost and increasing productivity, the Union Agriculture &Farmers Welfare Minister, Radha Mohan Singh, in a candid interview, has told about his government’s resolve for successful implementation of central schemes in 2017.
What have been achievements of your ministry during 2016?
Ans: As far as achievements are concerned, 2016 has been a very good year. During last two and half years, Modi government took a number of steps to strengthen agro-economy. Our government launched Soil Health Cards, Neem coated urea, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sichai Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and National Agriculture Market scheme. Besides, schemes for Agro-Forestry, Blue Revolution and Gokul Mission were also launched during the year. Due to successful implementation of these schemes, agriculture growth is expected at 4 percent this year.
Today agriculture situation is far better. During 2016-17 kharif production is going to touch record high 135.03 MT. It is 11.02 MT more than last year’s production. In fact, it is 7.65 MT more than the average kharif production for last five years (2010-11 to 2014-15). The average production during this period was 127.38 MT. During current year sowing under Pulses and oilseeds in Kharif and Rabi both have increased. It is our firm belief that farmers will achieve target of 270.10 MT food grain production for 2016-17.
The government has increased the allocation this year Rs 15,809 crore to Rs 35,984 crore. Corpus fund of Rs 20,000 crore for long term irrigation has been created with the help of NABARD. This will help to complete 99 irrigation projects in coming years. During 2016-17, 23 irrigation projects will be completed with the spending of Rs 12,517 crore.
Crop Insurance with very less premium has been initiated under PMFBY. It is the highest ever support for crop insurance by any government. Under the scheme there will be uniform premium rate for food grains, pulses and edible oil during a crop season. This will overcome problem of district-wise and crop-wise rates of premium. Under the scheme premium for kharif is 2%, Rabi 1.5 % and for commercial and horticulture crops it will be 5%. These are lowest premium rates for the farmers so far. Remaining financial liabilities will be borne by government, even than it is more than 90%. Farmers will get full protection, there will be no capping on payments and there will be no deduction from claim amount. Farmers will get insurance amount even if they are not able to sow or plant their crop due to bad weather. First time losses due to cyclone, unseasonal rain and local calamities like hailstorm, flood etc, even after 14 days of harvesting, have been covered for insurance. Mobile and satellite techniques will be used for assessment of claims to ensure speedy payments.
The government has changed criteria of National Disaster Relief Fund. People used to get relief after destruction of 50% crop but now they will get the relief after destruction of 30% and more crops. An important decision has been taken to provide Minimum Support Price (MSP) to the farmers for their spoiled, broken and lower quality food grains due to unprecedented rain. Modi government has also increased compensation from 1.5 lakh to Rs 4 lakh for the family of farmers who have become victim of natural calamities.
The Government has decided to provide the additional grace period of 60 days to farmers, whose crop loan dues fall between 1st November and 31st December, 2016. Following the recent demonetization, the Government is seized of the constraints faced by the farming community in repayment of loan dues within the prescribed time limit.
Our government has increased credit flow for agriculture sector to Rs 9 lakhs crore during 2016-17.
The government has committed to provide the soil health card to 14 crore farmers within two years period. During 2016-17, Rs 368.30 crore were provided for this purpose which is 160 % more than last year’s Rs142 crore.
In order to promote organic farming, our government has started “Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yozana . Rs 300 crore were allocated for this scheme during 2015-16 and Rs 297 crore during 2016-17. States have set up 8000 clusters for organic farming. North East states have been allocated Rs 400 crore under organic price series scheme during 2015-16. It will help in promoting organic farming in the region. About 100 companies will be set up in these states; so far 35 companies have been set.
E-NAM Scheme to connect agriculture mandis to a national portal was launched on April 14,2016 as pilot project to connect 23 mandis across 8 states. In the first phase target was to connect 200 Mandis to the portal by September 30, 2016 but 250 Mandis were connected by this period. eNam portal has provision for online payment to farmers after sale of their produce. States have been requested to ensure direct cash transfer to the accounts of farmers. By 2018, 585 Mandis will be connected to this portal. By March 2017, 400 mandis will have connection to the portal.
The govternment has also launched neem coated urea to increase fertility of soil. It has checked misuse of urea. Prices of potash and DAP have also been reduced. DAP fertiliser prices have been reduced by Rs 2500 per ton and MOP by Rs. 5000 per ton.
What are the priorities in Agriculture sector?
Ans: Agriculture Ministry wants to reduce input cost of farming. We want farmers should get better price for their produce which should be at least one and half times more. We are encouraging farmers to practice allied activities like Organic farming, Horticulture, Agro-Forestry, Floriculture, dairy, poultry, bee-keeping and fishing to increase their income. The government gives financial support for this purpose.
The Prime Minister has set a target to double the income of farmers by 2022. My ministry is making all efforts to achieve this within the set time frame. The government is trying to make farmers economically self-sustained. Joint liability groups have been setup to provide financial support to the groups of farmers. In comparison to earlier government’s support to 6.7 lakh joint groups in seven years starting from April 2007 , Modi government has provided financial support to 18.21 lakh groups during last two and half years. These joint groups were provided only Rs 6,630 crore during April 2007 to March2014, while Modi government has provided Rs. 18,005.79 crore during April 2014 to September 2016. The government is providing assistance to farmers through FPOs also. So far 550 FPOs have been registered and registration of 151 is under process.
What are your targets for 2017?
Ans: This year also we will completely focus on the successful implementation of central government schemes in agriculture sectors throughout the country. We request the states to cooperate with us in the interest of farmers.
How your ministry is preparing for cashless transactions?
Ans: My Ministry was working for cashless transactions even before demonetization. After demonetization, we have expedited it. On November 23rd, 2016 all the three departments of the ministry have been directed to stop cash transactions. IFFCO, Kribho and NABARD have been directed to impart training to farmers for mobile banking. Last month, I, Myself traveled to Mumbai, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Haryana to tell farmers about cashless transactions and directed officials to connect farmers to mobile and AADHAR based banking facilities. Cashless transactions are being promoted at government run outlets of milk and vegetables. I visited Mother Dairy and Safal booths in Delhi on December 17th. Now, Mother dairy and Safal are using ‘Mother Dairy Change Card’ and E wallets. Thousand farmers and small traders have adopted mobile banking.