New Delhi: Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar Thursday reiterated that the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), also known as mandis, will not be abolished.
Addressing a press conference on the new cabinet’s decision, he emphasised on mandis being made more efficient and strengthened in accordance with the government’s commitment to the welfare of farmers.
Tomar also said APMCs will now be able to dip into a Rs 1 lakh crore agriculture infrastructure fund that was set up for farm-gate infrastructure.
“Now, APMC and state, as well as national level co-operatives can also access and utilise Rs one lakh crore agri infrastructure development fund. They will also be able to access loans up to Rs 2 crore with 3 per cent interest subvention under this scheme,” he said at the press briefing after the first meeting of the expanded cabinet.
For APMCs, interest subvention for a loan up to Rs 2 crore will be provided for agri-infrastructure development projects such as cold storage, sorting, grading and assaying units and silos within the same market yard. Also, the period of the financial facility has been extended to six years from four, i.e., up to 2025-26, and the overall period of the scheme has been extended to 13 years from 10, up to 2032-33.
Tomar also used the opportunity to assuage the fear of farmers who have been protesting for months at Delhi’s borders against the three farm reforms brought in by the Centre last September. The farmers have called for intensifying their protest during the monsoon session of Parliament.
“I would like to attract the attention of my friends who are agitating against farm laws and are saying that APMCs will be finished by this decision of the government. We are making efforts to strengthen the mandis across the country and will always fulfill our promise of working for farmers welfare,” he said.
“Unions related to farm protests have been told that they can approach us whenever they want with their demands, other than repealing the new farm laws … We are trying to make APMC more efficient and robust. Rumours of MSP (minimum support price) disappearing were also made by many people related to the protest … but the recent massive procurement of foodgrain, pulses and oilseed (has benefitted) those present in protests …. as they have been given thousands of crores of rupees in their accounts for their crops,” he added.
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Access to infrastructure fund
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Union budget speech earlier this year, had announced the setting up of the agricultural infrastructure fund, and noted that part of the budget allocation would be spent on developing infrastructure for APMCs.
Apart from farmers, the eligibility to access the fund has been extended to state agencies/APMCs, national and state cooperative federations, Federations of Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) and Federations of Self Help Groups (SHGs).
The Cabinet Thursday also made changes to the Coconut Development Board by amending the Coconut Development Board Act, 1979. The chairman of the board will now be a non-executive while a chief executive officer will also be appointed to take care of the exclusive powers of the board. The number of members nominated to the board by the central government has also been increased to six from four.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)