‘Government committed to rural development, progress of farmers’

New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) The central government is committed to the development of rural areas and progress of farmers, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday, addressing the joint sitting of the two houses of parliament.

“The well-being of farmers is vital to the nation,” the President said in his address, which marks the beginning of the budget session of parliament.

“Acknowledging this fundamental reality, my government has recently launched the farmer-friendly Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, with the biggest-ever government’s contribution to crop insurance and with lowest-ever premium rates for farmers,” Mukherjee said.

“It has many firsts to its credit like national coverage of post-harvest losses due to inundation and unseasonal rains, no capping on government subsidy, and use of technology for early and accurate settlement of claims,” he said, adding “assistance to farmers afflicted by natural calamity has been increased by 50 percent and eligibility norms have been relaxed”.

“The grant of over Rs.two lakh crore by the 14th Finance Commission over a five-year period from 2015-16, exclusively for Gram Panchayats, has been received with great enthusiasm by the states. This will move development activity closer to the people and enable them to decide how they want to improve their villages and wards,” he said.

“Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission has also been launched for 300 rural growth clusters for developing skills and local entrepreneurship and providing infrastructure amenities,” Mukherjee said, highlighting the steps taken by the Narendra Modi government for development of rural areas.

“Soil health cards will be distributed to all 14 crore farm-holdings by March 2017 and will result in judicious application of fertilizers, lowering input costs and bettering soil health,” the President said.

“To promote organic farming, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana is being implemented, under which 8,000 clusters have been developed so far,” he noted.

“The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana promises assured irrigation, expanding cultivated areas by improving water use efficiency and enabling drought proofing. My government is committed to the philosophy of ‘per drop more crop’ and ‘Jal Sanchay for Jal Sinchan’,” Mukherjee said.

To provide the best market price to farmers, the government is working towards setting up a common e-market platform to connect 585 regulated wholesale agricultural markets.

“This will immensely benefit our farmers in getting fair and remunerative prices. Targeted policy interventions in the last year have brought down sugarcane arrears from over Rs.21,000 crore to Rs.720 crore,” the President said.

“My government notified the New Urea Policy which will lead to additional production of 17 lakh metric tonnes annually in the next three years. Providing 100 percent neem-coated urea has not only improved efficiency but also plugged subsidy leakages by preventing its illegal diversion to non-agricultural use,” Mukherjee stated.

The Narendra Modi-led NDA government also produced the highest ever urea fertilizer in 2015, he said.

“India continues to be the biggest milk producing country with an impressive growth rate of 6.3 percent. Implementation of Poultry Venture Capital Fund and Rural Backyard Poultry Development has led to highest ever egg production,” Mukherjee said.

“To fully harness the agricultural potential of eastern states, the government is taking several steps to usher in second green revolution in the region.”

“It has taken steps for strengthening agricultural higher education, setting up 109 new KVKs and three new Agricultural Technology Application Research Institutes,” the President noted, adding that a 24×7 Kisan Channel has been launched to provide information on policy initiatives, prices and other agriculture related subjects.

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