Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday made a strong case for modernising the country’s farm sector by using technology so that it can become self-sufficient in more crops, including pulses and oil seeds.
Noting that half of the country’s edible oil demand is met through imports resulting in annual import bill of Rs 1 trillion, he called for steps, including a shift in cropping pattern by states to cut this dependency to 25% in the next few years.
Addressing the meeting of the 7th Governing Council of the Niti Aayog, which was attended by 23 state chief ministers, three lieutenant governors of Union Territories and many Union ministers, Modi said rapid urbanisation can become India’s strength instead of weakness by leveraging technology to ensure ease of living, transparent service delivery, and improvement in the quality of life.
Modi said even though goods and services tax (GST) collections have recently improved (monthly average of Rs 1.5 trillion in April-July, FY23), the potential is much more. “Increasing GST collection requires collective action by the Centre and states. It is crucial for strengthening our economic position and becoming a $5 trillion economy,” he said.
Amid the schism between the Centre and some Opposition-ruled states over an alleged interventionist role of the former in their constitutionally guaranteed powers, Modi stressed the importance of ‘collaborative relationship’ between the two to further the objective of inclusive growth.
Niti Aayog vice-chairman Suman Bery told media later the discussions on the National Education Policy, 2020 (NEP) in the council saw some states wanting to accord high priority to elementary education, and others to higher education. He also underlined the the think tank’s role as an ombudsman in addressing issues concerning the Centre and states.
VK Paul, member of the think tank, said there was a ‘strong consensus’ on NEP among the state chief ministers.
The Prime Minister asked the states to monitor the progress in the implementation of the policy closely and conduct monthly reviews.
The think tank, Paul said, would be facilitator of systematic engagement between the Centre and states to push implementation of policies and programmes being laid out to address the challenges concerning the nation.
Ramesh Chand, another member of the think tank, said some chief ministers made a case for making minimum support prices (MSP) for pulses and oil seeds more effective.
Since 2018-19, MSPs for groundnut and mustard, key oilseeds, have been hiked by around 19%. Similarly, MSPs for arhar and moong have been hiked by around 16%. However, market prices are ruling at higher levels than the MSP, prompting demand for further increase in MSP.
With India set to assume the presidency of the G-20 in 2023, Modi asked states to set up dedicated teams for G-20 to derive maximum possible benefit from the initiative.
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel reiterated his state’s demand for a five-year extension of the GST shortfall compensation mechanism, which ended on June 30.
Noting that his state is impacted by natural disasters almost every year, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik urged the Centre to make it a special focus state and allocate funds for disaster proofing. “We all accept that the state and central governments are political entities and sometimes there are disputes in the implementation of central schemes. Niti Aayog can resolve these issues like an ombudsman,” Patnaik said.
Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar were notable absentees in the meeting. Rao boycotted the meeting to protest against ‘the Centre’s discrimination against states’.