Solar focus in Finance Minister Sitharaman’s first pre-Budget meeting

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has begun her pre-Budget consultations with different stakeholders starting with those from agriculture and rural development sectors in which she stressed the need for ways to eradicate unemployment and poverty.

During the meeting, it was also suggested that solar energy may be treated as the third crop to augment the income of farmers. Besides this, other suggestions included filling up of vacancies in agricultural universities, increasing investment in micro-irrigation and solar pumps.

In her opening remarks, Sitharaman focused on possible measures to boost the economic and social infrastructure of the rural sector and ways to eradicate unemployment and poverty through the development of agriculture and allied sectors as well as non-farm sector, read a statement from the ministry.

Sitharaman said that the concerns of the agriculture sector are high on the priority of the present government and stressed on the representation of the different regions of the country so that their specific needs relating to these sectors can also be considered.

She said that the Finance Ministry will also hold broad-based consultations with different stakeholders from the fisheries sector to bring about a blue revolution by optimally using the country’s maritime resources.

Sitharaman also stressed the need for encouraging start-ups which can remove the segmentation in the agriculture market and help in providing remunerative markets for agriculture products and supplying it to the final consumers at reasonable prices.

The main areas of discussion during the meeting included agriculture research and extension services, rural development, non-farm sector, horticulture, food processing, animal husbandry, fisheries and start-ups in agricultural sector among others, added the statement.

The meeting was attended by among others Anurag Thakur, Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Ramesh Chandra, Member, NITI Aayog, Subhash C Garg, Finance Secretary, Girish Chandra Murmu, Expenditure Secretary, Ajay Narayan Pandey, Revenue Secretary, Rajeev Kumar, Secretary, DFS, Sanjay Agarwal, and Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation, Amarjeet Sinha.

The other officers who attended the meeting included Secretary, Department of Rural Development, Trilochan Mohapatra, Secretary, DARE, and Director General, Indian Council for Agri Research, KV Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor, Tarun Shridhar, Secretary, ADF, Ministry of Agriculture, Rajni Sekhri Sibal, Secretary, Department of Fisheries, Pramod Chandra Mody, Chairperson, CBDT and other senior officials of the Ministry of Finance.

During the meeting, representatives of agricultural and rural development sectors submitted various suggestions to boost investment in the agricultural sector and enhance market access to farmers. Suggestions were given to improve food processing sector and introduction of technology-intensive processes in the non-farm sector, the statement from the ministry said.

Suggestions were made for incentivising and popularising usage of organic manure for improving the carbon content in the soil, resolving GST issues related to the Farmers Producers Organisations (FPO), an incentive for agro-processing units in the border districts and enhancing investments in research and development (R&D) in agriculture centre.

Other issues discussed were financial incentives to the states for implementing agricultural market reforms, promotion of handlooms and handicrafts in the North Eastern states for employment generation and enhancing rural income, creating of aggregators for farm equipment and promotion of non-IT related rural start-ups.

Representatives of different agriculture and rural development sector included Crispino Lobo, Managing Trustee, Watershed Organisation Trust, N Satya Narayan, Chief Executive, National Cooperative Union of India, AE Joseph, president, United Planters Association of South India, Baldev Singh Dhillon, Vice Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University, Tushar Shah, Senior Fellow, International Water Management Institute, and R Parthasarathy, Director, Gujarat Institute of Development Research also attended the meeting.

Others who also attended the meeting included Ajay Vir Jakhar, Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, Madan Diwan, Social Economist, Usman Hassan, CEO, Universal Biotech, KP Vishwanatha, Vice Chancellor, Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman, NABARD, Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry, Ashwini Chhatre, Associate Professor, Public Policy, ISB, and Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog.

Source: ANI