By Pramod Kumar Jha
New Delhi, April 4 (IANS) The government has allowed harvesting, sowing and allied activities during the 21-day nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus outbreak in the country because harvesting of Rabi crops is in progress and it cant be delayed, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said on Saturday.
The government has taken all necessary steps and has given relaxation to harvesting of Rabi crops, their transportation and selling so that the farmers don’t suffer, he added.
As an effective measure to break the chain of coronavirus transmission, a 21-day nationwide lockdown has been enforced from the midnight of March 24, but the supply of essential goods has been allowed during the lockdown.
Speaking to IANS over phone, Tomar said that the supply of all essential goods, including food products, have been allowed during the lockdown period and a slew of exemptions and relaxations has been provided for agriculture and allied sectors.
The government is also taking care of the poor as Rs 500 is being transferred to the bank accounts of every woman account holder under the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) as declared by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently under the PM Garib Kalyan Package, he added.
In a bid to face the economic challenges and help the poor in the battle against coronavirus, Sitharaman has announced a Rs 1.70 Lakh crore relief package.
The government has granted a slew of exemptions and relaxations to the farm and allied sectors and if needed, further measures will be taken for the farmers who feed 130 crore countrymen, said the minister.
Tomar, who launched a slew of new features at the National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) a couple of days ago as a step to make the electronic platform more effective in agribusiness, said that with these new features, farmers will be able to sell their produce at better prices from near their farm lands in the current circumstances.
The electronic platform has been equipped with three new features, namely Negotiable Warehouse Receipt (e-NWRs) module, FPO trading module and Logistic module.
With the help of e-NWRs in e-NAM, farmers will be able to place their produce in the Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority accredited warehouses and sell them across the country to get better price and at the same time can save themselves from the hassle of going to the mandis.
Similarly, the FPO trading module will help FPOs upload their produce from their collection centres for bidding.
The Logistic module has been developed as an effective measure to ensue seamless transportation of agri produce as it will promote inter-state trade under e-NAM by providing online transport facilities for distant buyers.
These programmes will help the farmers sell their produce at remunerative prices near their farm lands without having to go to the mandis, Tomar said.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has issued the 4th Addendum to its notification invoking the Disaster Management Act on Friday in which shops of agricultural machinery, its spare parts (including its supply chain) and repair shops for trucks on highways, preferably at fuel pumps, have been allowed to open in order to facilitate transportation of farm produce.
Apart from this, the tea industry, including plantations, can function with a maximum of 50 per cent work force, as per the order.
The harvesting of major Rabi crops, including wheat, chana and mustard, has started across the country given that this is the peak sowing season for summer crops.
Tomar said that harvesting as well as sowing is essential which can’t be delayed, and keeping that in mind, the government has provided relaxations to several agricultural and allied activities.