More agricultural credit, farmers’ income to be doubled by 2022: Jaitley

New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday that agriculture and farmers’ welfare was a pillar of the government’s agenda to transform India and it would strive to double income of farmers by 2022.

Presenting the 2016-17 union budget, he said the target for agricultural credit in the coming fiscal will be an all-time high of Rs.9 lakh crore and an online procurement system will be undertaken through the Food Corporation of India, while laying stress on optimal utilisation of water resources, creating new infrastructure for irrigation, conserving soil fertility and connectivity from farm to markets.

He said that there was need to think beyond “food security” and give back to farmers a sense of “income security”.

“The government will reorient its interventions in the farm and non-farm sectors to double the income of the farmers by 2022,” he said.

Allocating Rs.35,984 crore for agriculture and farmers’ welfare, he said that Rs.5,500 crore has been allocated for effective implementation of the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana and Rs.15,000 crore for loan interest subvention.

Noting only 46 percent of the 141 million hectares of net cultivated area in the country is covered by irrigation, he said the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana will be implemented in a mission mode with an aim to irrigate 28.5 lakh hectares, while 89 languishing projects under Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) will be fast-tracked to help 80.6 lakh hectares.

“These projects require Rs.17,000 crore next year and Rs.86,500 crore in the next five years. We will ensure that 23 of these projects are completed before March 31, 2017,” he said.

The minister said a dedicated long-term irrigation fund will be created in National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development with an initial corpus of about Rs.20,000 crore, while a major programme for sustainable management of groundwater resources has been prepared with an estimated cost of Rs.6,000 crore and proposed for multilateral funding.

Meanwhile, over five lakh farm ponds and wells and 10 lakh compost pits will be taken up through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme.

Jaitley said the government aims to cover all 14 crore farm holdings under the Soil Health Card Scheme by March 2017 and 2,000 model retail outlets will be provided with soil- and seed-testing facilities during the next three year. Fertiliser companies will also co-market city compost, which increases the efficacy of chemical fertilisers.

Jaitley said organic farming is being promoted through schemes such as ‘Parampragat Krishi Vikas Yojana’ and ‘Organic Value Chain Development in North East Region’ and Rs.412 crore have been made available for the same.

He said Rs.500 crore have been assigned to pulses under the National Food Security Mission and the number of districts covered has been increased to 622, while a Unified Agricultural Marketing e-platform will be dedicated to the nation on the birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar on April 14.

The minister said four new projects will be taken up to make dairying more remunerative.

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