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Budget 2020 | Rail, flight services to transport farm produce

Farmers’ groups said there were large gaps between allocation of funds and actual expenditure.

Farmers’ groups said there were large gaps between allocation of funds and actual expenditure.   | Photo Credit: AFP

FM announces ‘Kisan Rail’ programme

The Centre has raised the target for agricultural credit by 11% to ₹15 lakh crore in 2020-21 and proposed to begin special rail and flight services to transport farm produce as part of a 16-point action plan for the agriculture sector announced in the Union Budget on Saturday.

However, some farmers’ groups said the Budget’s allocation of ₹1.6 lakh crore for agriculture, irrigation and allied farm activities for 2020-21 was only a nominal increase, and added that there was a large gap between allocation of funds and actual expenditure in the implementation of several schemes.

In her budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that Railways would set up a Kisan Rail programme through public-private partnership to build a seamless national cold supply chain for perishables, including milk, meat and fish. Refrigerated coaches would be built in express and freight trains as well, she said.

Refrigerated vans

“We have already designed refrigerated vans and nine such vans are in use. Their capacity is 17 tonnes. We have the concept and the design, and now need to scale up to take it pan-India,” said Railway Board chairman V.K. Yadav.

Ms. Sitharaman added that a Krishi Udaan scheme would be launched by the Civil Aviation Ministry on international and national routes, in a move that would help improve value realisation especially in the northeast and tribal districts. She also proposed to step up viability gap funding to set up warehouses and double the milk processing capacity to 108 million tonnes by 2025. She also proposed to operationalise a scheme to let farmers set up solar power generation capacity on their fallow or barren lands and to sell it to the grid.

Expansion of scheme

On agricultural credit, the Finance Minister said the NABARD refinance scheme would be further expanded and set the year’s farm loan disbursal target at ₹15 lakh crore.

PM-KISAN, the farmers’ income support scheme that was launched just before the Lok Sabha elections received an allocation of ₹75,000 crore, the same amount as allocated for 2019-20, despite the fact that only ₹54,370 crore was actually spent last year.

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, an umbrella body of more than 200 farmers’ groups, said there was a pattern of large gaps between announcements and actual expenditure in the agriculture space.

“In 2018-19, it was promised that 22,000 rural haats will be upgraded to Grameen Agriculture Markets (GrAM), but after two years, the implementation has not begun and only 0.5% funds have been spent. In 2018-19, Finance Minister promised that MSP will reach every single farmer and PM-AASHA scheme was instituted. In 2019-20, only ₹1500 crore was allocated and only ₹321 crore was spent. The allocation has now been slashed to ₹500 crore,” said an AIKSCC statement.

“In another glaring example, in 2017-18, the Budget speech announced ‘Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund’ of ₹10,881 crore to be spent within 3 years. Actual expenditure so far has been only ₹440 crore. Current Budget has only ₹60 crore under this head,” it added.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 2:00:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rail-flight-services-to-transport-farm-produce/article30716979.ece

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