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More mandis added to help farmers in Rajasthan, says Udai Lal Anjana

Cheaper loans against stored produce has helped prevent distress sales, says State Cooperative Minister Udai Lal Anjana

The cooperative sector in Rajasthan has been playing an important role in agricultural activities of farmers. The Congress government is taking measures to ensure fair prices for agricultural produce and has notified 550 village cooperative societies as mandi sub-yards for the convenience of farmers in the midst of their agitation, says State Cooperative Minister Udai Lal Anjana.

The farmers across the country are agitating against the Centre’s agriculture sector laws. Rajasthan’s farmers are also staging a protest at the Haryana border. How concerned is the State government about their welfare?

The Congress government in Rajasthan has been constantly taking measures for farmers’ welfare, since we treat them as the backbone of the State’s economy. Several new schemes and policies for farmers, introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, are being implemented effectively in a transparent manner. This has resulted in overall welfare of farmers.

Farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to sell their produce at remunerative prices. What efforts have been made in this regard?

The State government has notified 550 village cooperative societies as well as agricultural cooperative marketing societies as mandi sub-yards for ensuring fair prices and expeditious payments to the farmers. The farmers can now sell their produce at one of the notified markets near their agricultural land and village. Open bidding for the produce has also helped them receive a better price. Over 19,200 farmers have benefited from the sale of 6.70-quintal produce for a price of ₹152.95 crore.

The State government had recently assured low interest loans to prevent farmers from resorting to forced selling. Has the scheme benefited the farmers?

The State government has announced disbursement of loans against the stored produce of farmers at a nominal interest rate of 3% to ensure that they are not forced to sell and are still able to meet their financial needs. Over 2,000 farmers associated with 840 cooperatives have availed of an aggregate loan amounting to ₹20.46 crore under the scheme. They held more than 1.14 lakh quintals of their produce of ₹32 crore value.

A large number of farmers depend on loans to meet their agricultural expenses. Has the Cooperative Department taken some measures to reduce their financial hardship?

To reduce the expenditure on farm machines, efforts are being made to make the expensive equipment available for lease at affordable prices. The village cooperative societies and the agricultural marketing cooperative societies are being associated with the custom hiring centres. ₹8 crore have been sanctioned for opening these centres at 100 cooperatives.

New village cooperative societies have also been constituted across the State. They will help the farmers in accessing loans, purchasing fertilisers and other activities at their own village panchayat. The approval for establishing 129 primary agricultural credit societies and 21 large area multi-purpose societies has associated 75,000 more people with the cooperative sector.

Which crops are being procured at minimum support prices in Rajasthan? How are the procurement centres functioning?

We have enhanced the limit for procurement of moong and groundnut by 10%, providing the benefit to over 29,000 farmers. The 266 procurement centres for moong and 365 for groundnut have so far purchased 30,638 tonnes and 7,253 tonnes of the two crops, respectively. The pulses and oilseeds are being procured as per the Union government’s guidelines.

The functioning of cooperative banks has often come into question in Rajasthan. Are some efforts being made to improve the process for loan disbursement by them?

For the first time in the country, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot introduced an online registration and disbursement scheme for farm loans in 2019. This has done away with all discrepancies in the distribution of loans. Biometric and Aadhaar-based verification, which helped in selecting the genuine farmers, has led to the induction of 12.72 lakh new members with the farm loan process.

The State government is making all-out efforts to increase financial inclusion and bring transparency in the banking process. The decision to associate all branches of 29 district cooperative banks with the core banking was also taken earlier by our government.

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