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Farmer unions say tweaks to Rs 1 lakh cr Agriculture Infra Scheme ‘insignificant’

Farmer unions say tweaks to Rs 1 lakh cr Agriculture Infra Scheme ‘insignificant’

Samyukta Kisan Morcha accused Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar of showcasing "minor and insignificant changes" to allow APMCs also to access a financing facility under AIF

Farmer leaders said that AIF is merely a new head under which loans can be accessed from banks Farmer leaders said that AIF is merely a new head under which loans can be accessed from banks

Farmer unions protesting against Narendra Modi government's agri-laws aimed at liberalising trade of agricultural produce have downplayed the Cabinet approval that was given on July 8 for modifications in the Central Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) scheme.
 
Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the coalition of agitating farmer organisations, accused Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar of showcasing "minor and insignificant changes" to allow Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) also to access a financing facility under AIF as "Rs 1 lakh crore allocation to APMCs". 
 
The farmer leaders said that AIF is merely a new head under which loans can be accessed from banks. "The actual financing is dependent on regular commercial banks. The government's role is only to provide an interest subvention of a mere 3 per cent and some credit guarantee coverage. Only Rs 208 crore were allocated for AIF in the revised budget of 2020-21, and Rs 900 crore in the Budget for 2021-22," they point out. 
 
According to SKM, only Rs 3,241 crore were sanctioned from AIF as of March 2021 whereas the AIF was announced to be a Covid-19 rescue package as though it would immediately infuse Rs 1 lakh crore into agriculture. The leaders accused the Modi government of undermining the whole legal framework of the APMC market yards with the aim of collapsing them, and merely allowing APMCs to access some more loans.

"In the 6 months during which the 3 farm laws were in operation before the Supreme Court suspended them, the trade in most APMC market yards collapsed by almost half and their revenues dropped drastically. The Centre has shown that it has no commitment to build and expand the public market and storage infrastructure for the benefit of small farmers, and has set upon facilitating the Adanis, Walmart and Reliance to build private markets, storage and processing facilities," SKM leaders said.
 
The farmer leaders point out that it was on May 15, 2020 that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the AIF as part of Atmanirbhar Bharat package for aggregators and start ups in the agriculture post-harvest infrastructure sector including warehouses and cold chains. "By July and August 2020, there was already a farmers' agitation building up in different parts of the country against the three undemocratic and unconstitutional ordinances that were brought in on June 5th 2020. The government, instead of putting "aggregators and start-ups" in the main narrative of its AIF, started using the term "entrepreneurs" woven in along with Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS), FPOs, other Cooperatives, JLGs etc. in its description of AIF in addition to Public Private Partnerships", they added. 

SKM reiterated its demand for repeal of three farm laws and enactment of a new law to guarantee remunerative minimum support price (MSP) for all commodities and farmers. 

Also read: APMCs can access Rs 1 lakh cr agri fund, says Tomar; urges farmers to end protest
Also read: New farm laws can create $30-35 bn value pool in agri ecosystem by 2025: Bain

 

 

Published on: Jul 09, 2021, 4:05 PM IST
Posted by: anwesha madhukalya, Jul 09, 2021, 3:57 PM IST