New Agri Acts catalysts for doubling farmers' income: Anurag Thakur
SME Times News Bureau | 18 Dec, 2020
| Top Stories
Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur, who
comes from Himachal Pradesh, has an understanding of farm issues. In an
exhaustive conversation, he provides the government's point of
view on the contentious farm laws which have seen farmers laying siege
Excerpts from the interview:
apprehensive that the government will withdraw completely from
purchasing farm produce and leave it entirely open to the private
sector. The corporates, n turn, will purchase a small portion of the
total produce "as per the high standards which can be manipulated" and
the remaining crop will get paid only a pittance...
Anurag Thakur: The
government is not going to withdraw purchasing farm produce and we are
not doing away with the Minimum Support Price (MSP) scheme. This has
rightly been called as the 1991 moment for the agricultural sector in
Under The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion
and Facilitation) Act, 2020, farmers will be freed from the grip of the
middleman, and they will be able to sell their produce to the buyers
from across the country at a price they deem to be fair and at a time of
Meanwhile, under The Farmers (Empowerment and
Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020,
farmers can opt for contract farming with agriculture trade firms,
wholesalers, big retailers and exporters. The provision of market
linkages at the sowing stage itself will insulate them from production
and price vagaries.
Through these Acts, we are enabling the
farmers to produce as per their will and convenience and that they
should not be bound by selling only to the APMCs. The farmer should have
the control over his crop and he should have the right to decide the
price of the crop. These Acts will be the catalysts to the promise we
made to the nation of doubling farmer's income by 2022.
sugarcane farmers particularly were upset, thousands committed suicide
and successive governments have promised assistance, but nothing
happened. Is Modi government simply doing lip service?
Anurag Thakur: The
Modi government is not only committed to increasing farmers' incomes,
but also their welfare. The last Cabinet Committee headed by the Prime
Minister approved an assistance of about Rs 3,500 crore for sugarcane
farmers. This will benefit five crore sugarcane farmers and their
In addition to this, there are about five lakh
workers employed in the sugar mills and ancillary activities; and their
livelihoods depend on the sugar industry.
Farmers sell their
sugarcane to the sugar mills. However, the farmers are not getting their
dues from the sugar mill owners as they have surplus sugar stock. To
address this concern, the government is facilitating the evacuation of
surplus sugar stock. This will enable payment of dues of the sugarcane
farmers. The government will incur about Rs 3,500 crore for this
purpose, and this assistance would be directly credited into the
farmers' accounts on behalf of the sugar mills against cane price dues
and the subsequent balance, if any, would be credited to the mill's
This subsidy aims at covering expenses on marketing
costs including handling, upgrading and other processing costs and costs
of international and internal transport and freight charges on export
of up to 60 LMT of sugar limited to Maximum Admissible Export Quota
(MAEQ) allocated to the sugar mills for sugar season 2020-21.
You claim to ensure farmers' welfare, yet farmers are on the streets.
Either they are misled or your schemes and assurances are like hollow
promises. What do you have to say?
Anurag Thakur: A few farmers have been
misled by the opposition parties. The majority of the farmers have
benefited and understand our various initiatives. Since 2014, Soil
Health Card has increased productivity levels, provided e-NAM facility
to sell produce and set up cold storage facilities apart from opening
mega food parks.
We have also provided PM Kisan Maandhan Yojana
with an assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000. This is a voluntary pension
scheme, where the government will match the monthly contribution and it
will also be payable to the farmer's spouse in case of death. Already
over 21 lakh farmers have registered for this.
PM KISAN is
another flagship initiative that has already benefited around 11 crore
farmers with a disbursement of over Rs 95,000 crore. Besides this, the
Fasal Beema Yojana, increase in MSP rates and procurement -- all these
have immensely increased farmers' welfare, income and productivity. Will
the opposition explain why they did not do any of these while in power
or in the states they are in power? Clearly, facts speak louder than the
opposition's myth mongering.
What was the hurry in
introducing farmer-related issues as ordinances in the month of June?
The issues concerning lakhs of farmers deserved to be brought in as
bills for the opposition to debate them before they were passed. Why did
you not allow questions to be raised on the 'anti-farmer' provisions in
Anurag Thakur: Let's go by hard facts. During 2009-2014, the
budget allocation for agriculture increased by a meagre 8.5 per cent.
From 2014-2019, the Modi government took it much higher - an increase of
38.8 per cent. Those people who accuse the BJP government of being
anti-poor have no facts to back their rhetoric. We have been standing
with our farmer brothers and sisters and these Acts are a watershed
moment in India's agricultural history.
After decades of toil and
struggle, our farmers finally have the the option of choice; to choose
what they produce, when they produce, whom to sell, at what price to
sell. This all is in addition to the MSP scheme which will guarantee a
minimum support price for their produce no matter what.
Indian agricultural sector remained malnourished because of the archaic
APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) Acts. The mandis which
were meant to help and protect the farmers instead became monopolies and
benefited only them and not the farmers.
By opposing the
passing of these historic Agri Acts in the Parliament, the hypocrisy and
the duplicitous nature of the Congress gets exposed. Why? Because in
their 2019 manifesto, the Congress had clearly said they "will repeal
the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act and make trade in
agricultural produce - including exports and inter-state trade - free
from all restrictions".
Lastly, on the issue of this
Parliamentary session, it is a fact that this session witnessed 167 per
cent productivity, with 60 hours of sittings, 2,300 questions and 370
zero hour mentions. In fact, the House on multiple occasions debated and
sat late into the night. Why did the opposition parties not participate
in the debates during the session? Why did they create disruption
instead of having a democratic debate?
Farmers apprehend that
the government is making false claims about the provision for the
continuance of the MSP system. Out of the listed 23 crops, in Punjab,
MSP is paid only for wheat, paddy and cotton. Does the government
guarantee that in case farmers do not get the MSP from traders, the
government will buy all the listed crops at MSP?
Anurag Thakur: The 70th
round of NSSO on Key Indicators of Situation Assessment of Agricultural
Households in India shows that only six per cent of farmers gain from
MSPs. The archaic and regressive laws did not allow the markets to
function and thereby only the rich farmers benefited from the earlier
We had recently released the first instalment of over Rs
19,000 crore for paddy procurement in three states under the MSP scheme.
We also announced the MSPs for six rabi crops of 2020-21 which are in
line with the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.
MSP for the rabi crop of 2020-21 has been fixed at Rs 1,975 per quintal
- 2.6 per cent higher than Rs 1,925 in 2019-20. MSP for lentil (masur)
has been fixed at Rs 5,100 per quintal - 6.25 per cent or Rs 300 higher
than in 2019-20.
The MSP for gram has been increased to Rs 5,100
per quintal - Rs 225 or 4.62 per cent higher than last year. MSP for
safflower has been increased to Rs 5,327 per quintal - hiked by Rs 112
or 2.15 per cent over last year. MSP for barley has seen an increase of
Rs 75 (4.92 per cent) from Rs 1,525 per quintal in 2019-20 to Rs 1,600
The increase in MSP for Rabi crops for marketing
season 2021-22 is in line with the principle of fixing the MSPs at a
level of at least 1.5 times of the all-India weighted average cost of
production as announced in the Union Budget 2018-19.
the government ensure that the private sector pays the MSP when even the
government was not doing so in letter and spirit?
Anurag Thakur: In spite of
the rumour mongering and the underhanded tactics of the opposition to
falsely portray fear, the Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister
have clarified that the system of MSP will remain and government
procurement will continue.
These Acts, meanwhile, empower the
farmers to do business with those private companies that they want and
they have no compulsion to accept any contracts which they do not agree
with. The imperfectness of the markets was a reason for the poor growth
of the agricultural sector. We are giving options to the farmers, no one
is compelling them to choose one or the other. If a farmer thinks the
APMC mechanism is good, he can opt for it; if he wants to sell his
produce to a private company, he should be free to do so. These Agri
Acts have empowered the farmers with the power of choice.
removing the barriers, farmers all across the country can sell their
produce wherever they want. This will promote inter-state trade and the
farmers will get the right price for their produce. We are also
strengthening the agricultural infrastructure and we have announced a Rs
1 lakh crore fund for the same. This fund will facilitate the
development of agricultural infrastructure, that includes collection
centres, warehouses, storage centres, cold chains, and pre-processing
facilities, among others. Funds for the development of the animal
husbandry and fisheries sector have also been launched to diversify the
sources of farmers' income.
Can the protests of the farmers all across the country be termed unjust? Shouldn't the farmers be given a patient hearing?
Do not underestimate the intelligence of our farmers. We have had
several rounds of discussions with the Agriculture Minister and we will
clarify all the concerns being raised by the farmers.
We have our
ears to the ground and have been listening to the farmers. Farmers
across the nation are happy and pleased with these Acts. Visit any part
of rural India and you will get the real picture.
These are Acts
which will alter the agricultural sector as we know it and will bring a
paradigm shift in the way the farmers have been doing their business.
With the emergence of agri-tech startups and the government being
committed to improving the infrastructure side by side, the focus is
solely now on increasing the farmers' income and improving their
standard of living.
Our doors are always open for our farmer
brothers and sisters and we will always pay heed to their concerns as
these Acts are for their prosperity and for their benefits. They are the
biggest stakeholders in our 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' vision and their
interests are Modi government's priority.
Farmers feel that
they have not been involved at any time during the decision-making
process on an issue which affects their lives. They say before
formulation of the policies, they were not consulted at all. Your
Anurag Thakur: Again, let's go by facts. We have at every stage
been in touch with the farmers. In fact, the Prime Minister has spoken
about them around 25 times! The total number of training and webinar
sessions conducted with farmers were over 1,30,000 reaching out to over
92,00,000 farmers between June and November 2020.
We have been in
touch with the farmers across the nation. Moreover, as I shared
already, the Acts were passed after hours of discussion in both the
Houses of the Parliament. The farmers all across the country have
suffered because of their inability to produce and sell independently.
We have already created 2,000-plus Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO)
and 10,000 more are in the works with a budgetary allocation of Rs 5,000
Over 1,000 agri startups, driven by young technology
graduates, have been created and over 20,000 agri clinics have been made
possible by agriculture graduates. We need these reforms now more than
ever before for these start ups to prosper which will benefit the
farmers the most.
No amount of scare mongering will take away
the fact that it is the government led by PM Narendra Modi that
dismantled monopolies of the APMCs and began a new era for the farmers.
Why are electricity and fertiliser subsidies being taken away and
farmers being told that they will be compensated later? Can the
government deny that the state and the Central finance departments
struggle for funds? So, what is the guarantee for farmers getting
refunded later? Many subsidies like those on polyhouses have not been
Anurag Thakur: We have not taken away any electricity and
fertiliser subsidies. Instead, since 2013-14, MSP for wheat and paddy
has increased by 41 ore cent and 43 per cent, respectively, while there
has been up to 65 per cent rise in MSP for pulses and oilseeds.
quantity of wheat and paddy procured has also increased by 73 per cent
and 114 per cent, respectively, compared to 2014. In the case of pulses,
the increase has been a staggering 4,962 per cent.
agriculture credit, higher loan subsidy, and soil health card to 16.38
crore farmers have benefited farmers across the nation. The Modi
government has also provided security cover to 13.26 crore farmers under
the PM crop insurance scheme and direct cash benefit of Rs 94,000 crore
to 10.21 crore farmers through the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi.
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