Sunday February 17, 2019
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Grown on land, sold on net : A new era for farmers!

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HYDERABAD: After clothes, accessories and electronics, crops are all set to go online! India’s postal department is set to launch a pilot programme that seeks to help farmers sell their produce over the Internet, that too without spending a penny on transport. India Post shall introduce the probative programme in two locations-Andhra Pradesh and Telangana over the next couple of weeks. The modus operandi will enable postmasters to use smartphones to take photos of the farm products and upload the details on a website that will serve as a trading platform. india_post_logo4

“While it is free for farmers, India Post will collect a nominal fee from the buyers, apart from stipulating a condition that buyers should use the services of India Post for transporting the farm commodity to the required destination,” BV Sudhakar, chief postmaster general for covering the two-Telugu speaking states, told ET.

An Andhra-based firm, NGIT Systems, has built the trading platform for India Post. The company has experience in developing online platforms for farmers to sell, buy and lease farms, crops, manures, cattle and farming equipment. With the proliferation of instant chat apps and courier services doing the exchange of letters rapidly, this initiative by India Post aims to put its vast network of post offices and employees to its best use and simultaneously traverse new-age business opportunities to generate revenue.

Terming it as the first of its kind initiative, Sudhakar said that, based on the results of pilot project, the postal department will decide on extending the service across the country. The idea of launching an agri-commodity trading platform was arrived at as part of India Post’s asset maximisation strategy wherein it plans on improving revenue from its existing human and physical assets, including logistics network, said Sudhakar. Aimed at encouraging the postmasters in villages to participate in the new initiative and help improve revenue, the department is planning on special incentives packages and increasing the fleet size. The department expects to cover at least a third of these states and is targeting a minimum Rs 10 crore in revenue from agri-commodity trading in the first year.

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With The Elections Coming Up, Indian Government Promises Farmers Their Income Support

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers.

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Farmers, India
An Indian woman helps her farmer husband irrigate a paddy field using a traditional system, on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

With an eye on wooing voters ahead of what is expected to be a tough national election, India’s Hindu nationalist government announced cash handouts of billions of dollars for poor farmers.

In the annual budget presented in parliament Friday, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said 120 million farmers with less than two hectares of land would get an income of $85 a year.

Goyal announced that the measure, which will cost about $10.5 billion, would be implemented with immediate effect. “This will pave the way for them to earn a respectable living,” he said. “Such support will help them avoid indebtedness.”

India, Farmers
Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, center, holds a briefcase containing federal budget documents with Junior Finance ministers Shiv Pratap Shukla, center right, and Pon Radhakrishnan, left, upon their arrival at the parliament house in New Delhi, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

Farmers complain that a sharp decline in crop prices has hurt their incomes and driven millions into debt. Rural experts said they were not sure whether the measure will assuage disgruntled rural communities that have been demanding loan waivers and better prices for their produce.

The government also announced a pension scheme of about $40 a month for nearly 100 million poor workers in the country’s vast unorganized sector and tax breaks for the middle classes.

The welfare measures come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party tries to address rising discontent in the country — there is growing anger in rural areas over falling crop prices and widespread worries that his government has failed to create jobs to meet the needs of the country’s huge young population.

The Bharatiya Janata Party recently lost elections in three heartland states, raising concerns it could struggle to win a majority in the upcoming elections. Modi had sailed to power in 2014 on the promise of creating millions of jobs.

Modi, India, Farmers
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

Although economic growth numbers have been good, lack of jobs has emerged as the biggest challenge for Modi. A report in the Business Standard newspaper says a government survey that has not been released pegs the unemployment rate at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent.

Expressing optimism that “India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity,” Goyal said that infrastructure projects such as building roads in rural areas will boost employment.

The opposition Congress Party slammed the income support of $85 a year announced for farmers as inadequate. Saying that it is not going to be transformational, senior party leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “₹6000 [6,000 rupees, or $84] in income support for farmers boils down to ₹500 [500 rupees, or $7] per month. Is that supposed to enable them to live with the honor and dignity?”

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The Congress Party is also trying to woo voters with the promise of a minimum income for the poor if it wins the upcoming general election. The BJP has dismissed the pledge as unaffordable, while economists have expressed concern that the “competitive populism” by India’s two main parties ahead of general elections could strain the country’s finances.

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers. (VOA)