The crisis has been converted into an opportunity and it will have a very positive impact for the farmers as private investments come in and the markets get opened.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today announced major reforms in the agricultural sector, which are being considered as landmark decisions by converting the ongoing coronavirus crisis into an opportunity. In a major move, FM Sitharaman announced amendments to the Essential Commodities Act, enabling better price realisation for farmers. Various food products like edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions, and potatoes will be deregulated, and no stock limits will be imposed on the food producers. She also proposed to bring in a central law to provide adequate choices for the farmers to sell their produce at attractive prices by removing barriers to inter-state trade and providing a framework for e-trading of agriculture produce.
Better late than never
“The government deserves all the compliments. The crisis has been converted into an opportunity and it will have a very positive impact for the farmers as private investments come in and the markets get opened,” Ashok Gulati, Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture at ICRIER, told Financial Express Online. What could not be done by any Prime Minister of India has been done by Coronavirus, he added. Though agriculture experts believe that these reforms will take some time to reach on ground, they say that it is never too late to take such bold steps. Also, it is expected that the fruit will start to appear after the gestation period is over.
“Today’s announcement of FM Sitharaman is pro-farmer and pro-labour. She has addressed many issues and this will be very helpful. It is a landmark and a very comprehensive package. Sometimes, there is a difference between policy and governance. The policy is good, I hope that the governance remains good too,” Ashok Vishandaas, former chairman of the commission for agricultural cost and prices, told Financial Express Online. Albeit, there is expected to be some lag as there is no system to identify the needy people. However, the Finance Minister assured that she will definitely take care of it and there is always a possibility to improve technology and data systems anyday, he added.
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What more could government do
Even as the government tried to address most of the farmers’ problems by giving them more freedom and facilities, there are a few things that were expected and remained unfulfilled. One such point is including the agricultural activities under the ambit of MGNREGA as it could have helped the labourers and the farmers together to a large extent. Since other works of MGNREGA are stopped, those workers should be employed for farming and related activities and the wages should be given as per the MGNREGA scheme, Ashok Vishandas added.
(This story was published on Friday, May 15, 2020, on www.financialexpress.com)