Allowing APMC mandis avail finance from Rs 1 lakh cr agri-infra fund empty gesture: Farmers' body

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New Delhi, July 9 (PTI) The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmers' union, on Friday said the Centre's decision to allow APMC mandis to avail financial support from the Rs 1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund is an 'empty gesture'.

Reference to the Rs 1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund is 'highly misleading', it alleged, adding the aim of the three contentious Central farm laws is the collapse of the agricultural produce market committees (APMCs).

APMC markets are set up to provide market linkages and create an ecosystem of post-harvest public infrastructure open to all farmers.

The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved modification in the central scheme making the APMC mandis eligible to avail financial support from the Rs 1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund to expand the regulated markets' capacity and provide better facilities to farmers.

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has asserted that the decision to further strengthen the APMCs allays protesting farmers' fear that these mandis will be scrapped with the implementation of three controversial agriculture laws.

However, on Friday, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha said, 'To begin with, referring to a Rs 1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund is highly misleading because there has been no allocation of even a thousand crore rupees from the government. It has merely created a new head under which loans can be accessed from banks.' The government has presented a 'minor and insignificant decision', it said in a statement.

'The actual financing is dependent on regular commercial banks, and India's story of banking sector mismanagement and collusion with big capitalists is well-known. The government's role is only to provide an interest subvention of a mere 3 per cent and some credit guarantee coverage,' the Samyukt Kisan Morcha said.

Only Rs 208 crore was allocated for Agriculture Infrastructure Fund in the revised budget of 2020-21 and Rs 900 crore in the 2021-22 Budget, the umbrella body of farmers' unions claimed.

'In terms of loans, only Rs 3,241 crore was sanctioned from the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund as of March 2021 (Rs 4,300 crore according to some media reports). The fund was announced to be a COVID-19 rescue package and was supposed to immediately infuse Rs 1 lakh crore in the agriculture sector.' 'Most importantly, when the Narendra Modi government stands by its corporate agriculture laws which undermine the whole legal framework of the APMC markets with the aim of collapsing them, merely allowing APMCs to access some more loans is an empty gesture,' the Samyukt Kisan Morcha said.

Farmers have been protesting in huge numbers at Delhi's borders since November 2020, demanding the repeal of the three farm laws.

Enacted in September, the three legislations have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

The protesting farmers, on the other hand, have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and do away with the APMC markets, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. PTI MAH NSD

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