Agri Business

Farmer groups say relief measures are inadequate

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 26, 2020

Farmer organisations on Thursday said the economic package announced by the government was awfully inadequate to address the problems faced by farmers and agricultural labourers in the country.

The present package alone is inadequate to address the current crisis. Farmers and agricultural labourers should be given ₹5,000 and along with ration as an interim measure, said All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and All India Agricultural Workers’ Union in a joint statement.

They also demanded all the three instalments of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) should be given to the farmers and the benefits under the scheme should be available to tenant farmers, as well.

The Left-backed organisations also wanted the similar economic benefits available to landless agricultural labourers, tribal people who lose income as minor forest produce cannot be collected or marketed, and rural artisans suffering income losses.

Instead of effecting a meagre increase in MGNREGA wages that will not benefit anybody, the government should use the provision for payment of unemployment allowance under MGNREGA, they said.

Similarly, about 25 per cent of rural households and 50 per cent of urban households are excluded from the National Food Security Act (NFSA). In the unprecedented lockdown scenario, many of these households are expected to face food insecurity.

Another farmer organisation Jai Kisan Andolan (JKA) accused the Finance Minister of attempting to disguise the existing entitlement of farmers (under PM-Kisan) as a new relief measure. “Even if there was no pandemic in India, farmers would have received this sum of ₹2,000 in April,” said JKA founder Yogendra Yadav.

While additional food and some monetary entitlements announced may lead to saving of lives, the already tenuous and crisis-ridden livelihood of farmers have been completely ignored, said JKA national convenor Avik Saha.

JKA demanded that the Central and State governments should issue special ID cards to farmers, farm produce transporters and vendors to carry out their daily operations as well as ensure that wholesale agri-markets remain open for transaction, maintaining due norms and precaution of social distancing and medical protection.

It also called for commencement of mobile procurement of farm produce (especially perishable produce) by government agencies immediately so that travel and gathering can be minimised. It also urged the government to declare moratorium on all loans for a period of one year, subject to review after control of the pandemic.

The government must announce that any losses on account of disruption in farm activities or markets would be covered by farm insurance schemes, and that the benefit of these would also be extended to farmers who are not already enrolled under schemes such as PM Fasal Bima Yojana.

Published on March 26, 2020

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