Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced formation of a high-powered task force to suggest structural reforms to boost farm productivity and marketing of the produce to boost farmers’ income.
“There is a need to boost corporate investment, strengthen logistics and provide ample market support,” Modi said, addressing the fifth Governing Council of the NITI Aayog. Modi is the chairperson of the think-tank’s governing council, with all chief ministers as its members, among others. He said the Centre and states should work together to promote exports to boost income and employment in the country.
The Centre has been pushing states to enact a model agriculture produce marketing committee (APMC) Act to keep fruits and vegetables out of purview of the mandis, abolition of aarthia commission and permission for hassle-free inter-state trade. Liberalisation of land leasing norms are also a key focus area. “The core agenda items included the need to review the implementation of the APMC Act and possible reform in the form of the Model APMC Act, as well as exploring changes in the Essential Commodities Act, to ensure fair remuneration for the farmers, streamlining of supply, driving more investment into the sector and predictability of policy at national and regional levels,” the government said in a statement.
The Centre is trying to build a consensus on a policy to limit export curbs to only a very few farm items, such as rice and wheat, which are crucial to the country’s food security, and not all the dozen-odd items that are considered essential commodities.
This means the scope for periodic curbs on exports of politically-sensitive items like onion, pulses, cotton and sugar that the government has resorted to in the past will be ended if there is a consensus. These curbs include the imposition of minimum export price, export duty and an outright ban on exports.
To reduce poverty and unemployment, Modi said “a thrust on export promotion at the state level will provide a boost to both income and employment.”
India’s merchandise exports grew just 3.9% y-o-y in May, against 0.6% in April, while imports inched up by 4.3%, inflating trade deficit to a six-month peak of $15.36 billion.
Modi said everyone has a common goal of achieving a ‘New India’ by 2022. He described Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and PM Awaas Yojana as illustrations of what the Centre and the states can accomplish together. The PM also said that empowerment and ease of living have to be provided to each and every Indian. He said the goals that have been set for the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, should be accomplished by October 2, and work should begin in the earnest towards goals for 2022, the 75th anniversary of independence.
Stressing that the focus should be on collective responsibility for achieving short-term and long-term goals, Modi said the goal to make India a $5-trillion economy by 2024, is “challenging, but can surely be achieved”.
Speaking at the meeting, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis said despite unfavourable weather conditions, the state has recorded highest crop production, reducing dependence on rain-fed agriculture. Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy asked the Centre to extend GST compensation beyond five years, saying that the state will face “severe financial crunch” after the recompense period ends in 2022.
Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan said Niti Aayog has not “played the much expected role of a facilitator” in the last four years and perhaps was not a substitute for the erstwhile Planning Commission. Assam’s Sarbananda Sonowal sought enhanced assistance to people affected by natural calamities like floods, which hit the state every year. MP’s Kamal Nath urged the Centre to consider developing a comprehensive drought management plan that can be applicable across states.