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Lockdown: Agriculture sector divided on relaxation

NEW DELHI: The fresh set of guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday with regard to the extension of the lockdown has provided relief to some key sectors like agriculture. However, stakeholders are divided over implementation.  While some say the guidelines are detailed and will help the sector flourish, others fear these may not be strictly complied with, affecting productivity.

The guidelines permit all agricultural-related activities, including work in the fields by farmers and workers, agencies engaged in procurement of agricultural products and mandis operated by the agriculture produce market committees.

“The main problem in operating mandis is adhering to social distancing norms. The new guidelines are detailed but this problem will persist. We have not had problems relating to supply even earlier. We are devising new ways of maintaining social distancing in the market,” chairman of the Azadpur Mandi committee, Adil Ahmed Khan, said.

Shops of agriculture machinery, its spare parts and repair shops and custom hiring centres related to farm machinery will also remain functional. Also, the guidelines permit the manufacturing, distribution and sale of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds.

According to an official at the Institute of Rural Management, the Centre has done the right thing in relaxing norms for the sector. “It is important that the agriculture and allied sectors got relief. This will enable Rabi harvesting and also help to prepare for the upcoming Kharif season. Also, the problem of food scarcity can be controlled,” he said.

“We had been already supplying fertilizers and seeds to farmers. We will continue to do so. I do not see any problems arising in the sector due to the lockdown,” an official of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Ghaziabad said.

However, transport associations feel that the rules will bear no impact on the sector. “Agriculture and allied sectors were brought in the essential items list earlier. However, trucks were being stopped as the police were not aware of it. They should be sensitised about the rules. We are still operating only 20 per cent of the almost one crore trucks registered under the association,” Naveen Kumar Gupta, secretary general of All India Motor Transport Congress, said.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar launched the All India Agri Transport Call Centre at a function in Krishi Bhavan to facilitate inter-state movement of perishables during lockdown.

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