Chandigarh, January 10: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday directed the Chief Secretary to examine the NABARD proposal for funds to promote small agri businesses amongst the poor rural youth as well as farmers with small holdings, besides landless labourers.
The Chief Minister also asked the Chairman NABARD to allow Cooperative Banks to diversify, to enable it to widen its ambit of operations from advancement of Crop Loans to Term Loans to farmers and the rural populace. The NABARD chairman, leading a delegation of officials, had called on the Chief Minister for a meeting here. An official spokesperson disclosed after the meeting that the Chief Minister also suggested exploring the possibility of providing such loans to young entrepreneurs who intended to set up their ventures in urban areas in order to resolve the problem of unemployment.
The Chief Minister conceded a proposal of the NABARD chairman to strengthen the existing network of Farmer Produce Organisations (FPOs), saying it would help bail out the small and marginal farmers who were facing acute hardships on account of lack of proper marketing infrastructure for their produce. Captain Amarinder Singh also asked the Chief Secretary to head a committee, comprising Secretary Agriculture and a NABARD representative as member secretary, to develop a roadmap for Farmer Produce Organisations (FPO) promotion and to oversee its implementation.
Diversification of agriculture was the only way out through FPOs to assist the beleaguered farmers, as the traditional wheat-paddy cycle was no more economically sustainable due to squeezed margins of profit on the MSP, the Chief Minister stressed.
The Chief Minister, while agreeing to the NABARD proposal of merging the Punjab State Agriculture Development Bank and Punjab State Cooperative Bank into a single entity to have better synergy and coordination in lending operations, asked the Chief Secretary to explore the possibility of amalgamation of these two banks.
Captain Amarinder Singh also asked the Chief Secretary to present a detailed list of development programmes and schemes, with prior administrative approval from the concerned departments, at least six months in advance to NABARD for approval.
During the deliberations, NABARD Chairman Dr. Harsh Kumar Bhanwala apprised the Chief Minister that there were a total of 91 FPOs operational across the state and 23 non-MSP crops could be promoted amongst the farmers as part of the state government’s ambitious programme of crop diversification.
Referring to the NABARD Micro Irrigation Fund, the Chief Minister asked the Chief Secretary to identify the most vulnerable sites in the Kandi Area and southern districts of state where projects under this scheme could be undertaken on priority. The Chairman NABARD apprised the Chief Minister that the NABARD was ready to start a pilot project of Rs. 7-8 Crore in the Kandi belt.
Dr. Bhanwala also informed the meeting about several other schemes, such as conservation of groundwater, value chain development, crop residue management and solarisation of mobile pump sets, for the betterment of the farmer community, besides ensuring higher growth rate of agriculture. He also assured Captain Amarinder Singh of all support and cooperation from NABARD in pursuing the government’s agro related and rural infrastructure projects.
The meeting was also attended by Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Principal Secretary Finance Anirudh Tewari, Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh, Special Principal Secretary to CM Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, and Additional Principal Secretary to CM Girish Dyalan, besides Chief General Manager NABARD Punjab Region J.P.S Bindra and Assistant General Manager NABARD Kailash Pawha.