Modi govt sets stage for ‘structural reform’ in agriculture
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today spelt out his government’s vision for future at the Niti Ayog’s fifth governing council meeting in New Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech to the governing council of the Niti Ayog focused on the need to bring about structural reform in the agricultural sector by opening it up to corporate investment.
Modi, began his speech by saying that the goal is to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024, which was challenging but achievable.
“Reiterating the Union Government's commitment to doubling incomes of farmers by 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this requires focus on fisheries, animal husbandry, horticulture, fruits and vegetables. Noting that there is need for structural reform in agriculture, the Prime Minister spoke of the need to boost corporate investment, strengthen logistics, and provide ample market support. He said the food processing sector should grow at a faster pace than foodgrain production,” a release by the Prime Minister’s Office after the meeting said.
Sources in Niti Ayog confirmed to Asiaville that as a first step towards ‘reform’, concerned ministries have been asked to explore ways to do away with some of the laws relating to procurement, production and purchase of agricultural products.
“Essential Commodities Act, 1955 could come under scrutiny as it is now being seen as an impediment for free market play in agriculture sector. The government feels that the laws were framed when there was food dearth and now it is a state of self-sufficiency,” an advisor to government on agricultural issues told Asiaville.
Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities (PBMSEC) Act and some other laws would also be done away with in due course, he added.
“Structural reform in agricultural sector is impending and it has to happen. The nature of it could be debatable but has to be well thought out and amply deliberated,” Vijay Sardana, agri-market analyst told Asiaville.
While market analysts believe structural changes in the agricultural sector are urgently required, farmers' unions remain sceptical about the government’s intent. They have called on civil society and the Opposition to safeguard the interests of the farmers of the country against moves, which will “leave the farmers at the mercy of the market.”
Farmers' unions seem sceptical of the government’s move, but are keeping their cards close to their chest for fear that a “futile protest” will not serve any purpose.
“We are yet to study the government plan but we are sure that it is all targeted to give free access to money bags to take control of the farms in India. We will resist it tooth and nail. But cannot put anything on record now because our strategies will have to be well coordinated. This government has been insensitive to protests and dharnas,” an All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader told Asiaville in anonymity as he is not authorised to comment on behalf of the organisation.
The meeting was attended by all chief ministers, except from West Bengal, Punjab, Telangana and Himachal Pradesh. This was the first meeting of the body after the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance formed a new government at the Centre.
Lieutenant governors of Union Territories, Union ministers and senior government officials also attended the meeting today.
Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, stayed away from the meeting protesting that the Centre should be ready to discuss issues brought up by the states as well and not set the agenda on its own.