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Amritsar, NFA Post: As farmers’ protest against the farm laws continue, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam today said that the government is committed to the welfare of farmers and that the agriculture credit target for fiscal 2021-22 will be increased to 16.5 lakh crore rupees,in an effort to raise the farmer income by 2022-23.

Farmer credit target for the financial year 2020-21 was kept at 15 lakh crore rupees.

“The MSP regime has undergone a change to assure price that is at least 1.5 times the cost of production across all commodities,” Sitharam said while presenting the Union Budget for financial year 2021-22 (Apr-Mar).

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh have been protesting at Delhi borders for more than two months demanding repeal of the three farm laws, and a legal guarantee of the MSP, as they fear that the farm laws that are aimed at freeing up the agriculture markets will end the MSP system.

Stressing on the government’s commitment to develop APMCs, the finance minister announced to allow utilisation of 1 lakh crore rupees infrastructure fund for the infrastructure development of state-controlled mandis.

This move could reassure the protesting farmers that the government is not planning to destroy the mandi system through the new farm laws.

The Budget also promised to add 1,000 more regulated markets to the electronic national agriculture market, or e-NAM platform. This platform already has 17 million registered Indian farmers.

Sitharam in her Budget speech highlighted that the procurement of crops such as paddy, pulses and cotton has risen manifold in the last six years. She said that this has resulted in the steady increase in payments to farmers, and a total of 43.36 lakh farmers have benefited from these payments.

In case of wheat, the total payment made to farmers in 2020-21 was 75,060 crore rupees, which was higher than 62,802 crore rupees paid in the previous year and sharply up from 33,874 crore rupees in 2013-14, when the current rulung government took over.

Sitharam said that the amount paid to wheat farmers has risen by more than 121%, while that disbursed to rice farmers has shot up by a whopping 170.23% during this time.

She pointed out that amounts paid to pulses farmers and cotton farmers have also gone up substantially with disbursements made to pulses farmers being 40 times more in 2020-21 at 10,532 crores from 236 crore rupees paid in 2013-14.

“Cotton farmers saw a stupendous increase in the amount that was paid to them in 2013-14, that was 90 crore rupees, and it was increased to over 25,000 crore rupees in 2020-21,” Sitharaman said.

In other announcements for the agriculture sector, the finance minister said that the funding for micro irrigation will be doubled to 10,000 crore rupees. She also added that ‘Operation Greens’ scheme will be expanded to include 22 perishable commodities.

Operation Greens scheme was announced in the Union Budget 2018-19 to promote Farmer Producers Organisations, agri-logistics, processing facilities, and professional management. In line with this the Ministry of Food Processing Industries had formulated the scheme for integrated development and stabilisation of the supply of tomato, onion, and potato crops in India. 

To address the issues faced by workers in the tea plantations, Sitharaman today announced that a scheme for tea farmers will be introduced for the welfare of women and children in Assam.

“I propose to provide 1,000 crore rupees for the welfare of tea workers especially women and their children in Assam and West Bengal,” Sitharaman said.

Assam and West Bengal are the two big tea producing states in India.

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