More than four months after the reforms in agriculture were initiated through ordinances, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday underlined the importance of the mandi system, but assured farmers that the new laws would help them increase their income.
“Here in India, the APMCs (mandis) have been running for years, [and] have their own identity and strength. The government invested Rs 2,500 crore in the last six years to improve infrastructure facilities and [additional] hundreds of crores to create IT infrastructure. These APMCs have also been connected with e-NAM. The amendments in the APMC Acts have been made (by states) with the objective of make these mandis more competitive,” Modi said, after releasing a commemorative Rs 75 coin on the 75th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Modi also expressed the government’s commitment towards procurement of crops at minimum support price (MSP).
“MSP and government procurement are an important part of the country’s food security. It is important that it continues to function with better facilities and in a scientific way. We are committed towards this,” Modi said. He said several steps have been taken to ensure farmers get 1.5 times of their cost of production as MSP.
The PM said that small farmers, who did not have access to mandis, were selling their crop at lower prices to middlemen. With the new alternatives, expected after the reforms, the market will reach their doorstep, he said.
Farmers’ outfits in Punjab on Thursday announced that they would intensify their stir against the new laws, and said they would not allow BJP leaders to propagate the so-called benefits of the new legislations. On Wednesday, representatives of several farmers’ bodies had walked out of a meeting held in Delhi to discuss the farm laws with Union agriculture secretary Sanjay Agarwal after finding no minister in attendance. The farmers asserted that they would not relax their ‘rail roko’ agitation, and said their next meeting will be held on October 20.
Modi also released 17 newly developed biofortified varieties of eight crops developed by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research to mark World Food Day. “Before 2014, there was only one such variety, while 70 biofortified varieties of different crops are available to farmers now,” he said.
Stressing that the government is promoting crops with high nutrition, such as ragi, jowar and bajra, the PM said the FAO’s decision to observe 2023 as the International Year of Millets will help small farmers in India to increase their income.