Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar tells NewsX’s Political Editor on what all steps the government is taking to ensure that the interest of the farmer is protected.
Q. What is the plan of this government, especially the agriculture ministry, to ensure that the condition of farmers doesn’t get worse due to Covid-19?
A. The whole world is worried because of Covid-19 pandemic. The entire nation is under lockdown but despite that the government is aware that issues related to farmers are very important and that is why the government has taken several steps to ensure that their losses can be kept at minimum. For example, this was the period where crops had to be cut. People were forced to stay inside their house and worried how it would happen as any kind of travel was forbidden. But we gave permission to farmers and labourers. Cutting of pulses and oilseeds has been completed and 70% wheat has also been cut. Once this is done, then the biggest worry in the mind of a farmer is that he gets good price for his crop. Ever since the Modi government has come to power, we give oneand-a-half times more than the cost. Today Nafed for pulses and oilseeds and FCI for wheat, along with states, have started procuring the farm produce. States have made elaborate arrangements for social distancing.
Q. Transportation was one big issue faced by farmers. What steps did you took to solve that?
A. Transport was indeed one issue which was faced by farmers due to lockdown. The agriculture ministry did two things: first, it formed a call centre so that whenever our farmers faced any issue related to transportation they can call on this number and our officers would help them find a way out. Apart from this, we also formed a Kisan Rath mobile app where more than 50 thousand vehicle of various sizes have registered and due to this app it has become very easy for the farmer to move his produce from farm to mandi and from mandi to warehouse or Intra-state travel. I am confident that despite natural calamity, we will be able to reach our intended target.
Q. What about perishable food items? Several instances have come to light where farmers didn’t have storage facility and was forced to leave his product on road.
A. We are trying our level best to ensure that minimum loss happens to farmers. I agree that the life of fruits is very less and losses have been incurred by farmers. But we have introduced an MIS scheme in which both the Centre as well as the state pay for losses and this has been announced 10 days back and farmers are benefiting from it. We also have to understand that this is not an ordinary situation. We are battling on many fronts and any assumption that this is normal would be completely wrong.
Q. What steps are your ministry taking to make farmers safe from coronavirus?
A. Whether you are farmer or not, one of the most effective way to tackle this virus is to ensure social distancing, wear mask and use sanitizer regularly. There are guidelines issued by both Home Ministry as well as health ministry and everyone has been thoroughly sensitised about it. And I must say that it is extremely commendable the way people in the rural setup have followed social distancing and other guidelines.
Q. How much will Covid-19 pandemic impact the agriculture sector in India?
A. I don’t think lockdown will impact agricultural growth much because the crop is good this season and sowing of crops in summer is 36% more this season. We are very confident and are also in regular touch with states to ensure that all their demands are met and whatever they require is available on time.