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Operation Green is Modi government’s TOP priority, but it’s not ready yet

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Operation Green had not even been planned at the time of Arun Jaitley’s 2018 budget speech, although he allotted Rs 500 crore for it.

New Delhi: At a recent pre-election rally in Karnataka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that farmers were his ‘TOP’ priority. By ‘TOP’, Modi said he meant Tomato, Onion and Potato.

“Keeping these farmers in my mind, we announced Operation Green in the Budget… Operation Green will assure incomes for tomato, onion, potato,” he said, days after Finance Minister Arun Jaitely had presented the budget for 2018-19 and announced a Rs 500-crore outlay for Operation Green.

But details of the programme which grabbed the headlines had not even been formulated when the announcement was made and are still being worked out by officials, ThePrint has learnt.

“A structured discussion on the scheme began after the budget was announced,” Jagdish Prasad Meena, secretary in the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, told ThePrint

“There must have been some discussions between the finance minister and prime minister,” said another senior official in the ministry.

“It (Operation Green) was announced in the budget and now the ministry is mandated to implement it. But right now there is no scheme. Stakeholders consultations will take place and then a scheme will be made,” he added.

The implementation of the scheme is likely to take time, as it will only be launched by April.

Present status 

The ministry is at present consulting stakeholders to decide what shape the scheme will take.

“For Operation Green, right now, we are only consulting with the various stakeholders-state governments, farmers, existing farmers producers organisations (FPOs), experts, scientists. Based on their input we’ll formulate the program,” said Meena.

The ministry has identified 15 states that lead in the production of ‘TOP’.

A major challenge is that the current varieties of TOP are not suitable for processing. To fix this, the ministry plans to hold talks with the industries and convey their needs to farmers.

“The next step would be to circulate a spending finance committee note for taking the approval of the competent authority, which is required for a scheme with an expenditure of Rs 500 crore,” said Meena.

By the end of March 2018, the ministry aims to take the approval of an inter-ministerial committee, after which the scheme can be launched in April.

What is Operation Green? 

According to the budget announcement, Operation Green will be modelled on the successful “Operation Flood”. It will use farm produce companies to manage the price volatility of perishables like TOP.

“Operation Green will help regularise supply of TOP so that the market does not face a glut,” said a senior NITI Aayog official who works on farm issues.

The government aims to create processing facilities to use excess produce.

“The government is looking at compressing the supply chains and creating appropriate climate infrastructure for natural preservation of tomatoes, onions and potatoes, promoting FPOs, agri logistics processing facilities, and professional management,” Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal told reporters recently.

Old wine in new bottle? 

Over the years, the government has come up with similar programmes such as the Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana, which was launched in 2016. Officials, however, claim that Operation Green is overarching and is specifically targeted at TOP, unlike SAMPADA.

“The targeted programmes earlier were not executed in a holistic manner. Operation Green ties the two ends and also the consumer. It is an end-to-end solution,” said Meena

The NITI Aayog official agreed that with Operation Green gaps in the value chain logistics from farm gate to delivery point will be narrowed, with respect to pack houses, cold chains and primary processing facilities.

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