Agri Business

Water on tap for rural India by 2024: Nirmala Sitharaman

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on July 05, 2019

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An ambitious national mission to supply piped water to all rural households by 2024, creation of 100 clusters to promote traditional agro industries and setting up of 10,000 farmer-producer organisations were among the major initiatives announced by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for the rural sector in the Budget.

The Finance Minister sought to make a budgetary allocation of over ₹10,000 crore for the rural drinking water mission, up from ₹5,500 crore allocated in the 2018-19 revised Budget. The stress, she said, would be on integrated demand and supply-side management of water at the local level, by creating local infrastructure for source sustainability through rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse in agriculture.

There was a plan to form 10,000 farmer producer organisations (FPOs) over the next five years, over and above 6,000-odd that exist currently. These farmer collectives will help ensure economies of scale for farmers, she said.

“Majority of the farmers, who are unorganised, small and marginal, fail to get due value for their produce. Nabard has been propagating collectivisation of farmers through FPOs as it allows them to get collective bargaining power in buying agri inputs and selling their produce,” Nabard Chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala said.

Creating a robust rural infrastructure is also high on the government agenda. Under the third phase of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, it plans to upgrade 1,25,000 kilometres of rural roads over the next five years at an estimated cost of ₹80,250 crore, Sitharaman said.

“The government has rightly focused on bridging the urban-rural divide by providing better rural connectivity infrastructure,” said Amit Rana, Partner with PwC India.

ASPIRE scheme

A new Scheme for Promotion of Innovation, Rural Industry and Entrepreneurship’ (ASPIRE) was launched to help develop 75,000 skilled entrepreneurs in agro-rural industries. To help them hone their entrepreneurial skills, the government plans to establish 80 Livelihood Business Incubators and 20 Technology Business Incubators in 2019-20, the Finance Minister said. “The scheme will boost the entrepreneurial spirit among youth and encourage them to come out with innovative business ideas in the agro sector,” said Ajay Kakra, Leader -- Food and Agriculture, PwC India.

The Minister also announced a fund to upgrade and regenerate traditional industries, called SFURTI, which would seek to set up 100 clusters that would make traditional industries more productive and profitable. These clusters, which will focus on bamboo, honey and khadi industries, would help 50,000 artisans, Sitharaman said.

Published on July 05, 2019

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