SEHORE (MP): A digital platform for enabling farmers to sell their produce at a better rate anywhere in the country will be launched on April 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced here today as he resolved to ensure doubling of the farmers’ income by 2022.

Modi, who unveiled guidelines for the recently-launched Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme at a rally here, said this was one of the various initiatives of his government aimed at ensuring the welfare of the farmers who have been in distress due to vagaries of weather.

Besides the Crop Insurance Scheme, he spoke about Soil Health Card scheme, PM’s Irrigation Scheme, Organic farming, ensuring adequate availability of urea and ethanol-blending programme to help the sugarcane farmers and also pitched for ‘Start-Up’ initiatives in agriculture sector.

He pushed for more and more use of modern technology and equipment along with traditional wisdom of farming to boost the agriculture sector, not only to meet the domestic needs but also cater to the demands from abroad.

“We want to integrate technology in the agriculture sector. There should be a mix of progressive farming and age-old wisdom,” the Prime Minister said.

Noting that the farmers do not get adequate price for his produce despite working hard as he has no choice but to sell in the nearby mandis, he said the government has decided to address this by adopting a digital mechanism.

“We are setting up a National Agriculture Market, a virtual and digital platform, in the coming days….On April 14, the birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar, we will launch the online platform,” Modi said at the rally which was attended by union ministers Sushma Swaraj, Radha Mohan Singh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan besides others.

He said this platform will enable the farmers, using a mobile phone, to sell their produce anywhere in the country, wherever they can get a better price.

At the rally, the Prime Minister said all states as well as agriculture community should take a pledge to double the farmers’ income by 2022, the 75th year of the country’s Independence. “We will do whatever is required achieve this.”

Under the e-agri platform, the government is working towards integrating all the 585 wholesale mandis of the country by 2018 in a phased manner, for which Rs 200 crore have been earmarked as of now.

In the first phase, 200 mandis will be integrated by this March-end while another 200 will be connected to the online platform in 2017 and the rest by 2018.

The Centre has received proposals from states like Karnataka, Gujarat, Telangana and Maharashtra for developing necessary infrastructure in wholesale markets. A strategic partner for implementing the national agri e-market has also been identified.

While talking about the Crop Insurance Scheme launched recently, the Prime Minister took a dig at his detractors, saying “even those who never stop attacking Modi and try various means to project him (Modi) as anti-farmer have not dared to criticise this programme”.

At the ‘Kisan Kalyan Mela’, he said the earlier Crop Insurance Schemes were such that the farmers did not have trust and only 20 per cent of them took the policies.

Targeting at least 50 per cent coverage of farmers under this scheme, Modi said the new programme addresses all the apprehensions of the farmers, has no cap on claims and has a cap of 2 per cent on premium unlike the premium of up to 14 per cent in earlier schemes.

Contending that welfare of farmers has been top priority of all BJP governments, Modi said, “The first attempt of crop insurance was made by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Then the government changed and some alterations were made to that scheme. Because of that the (UPA) government benefitted but led to mistrust among the farmers.

“The result was that farmers started running away from this scheme. Despite natural calamities, they were not willing to take this insurance policy and not more than 20 per cent farmers associated with it.”

He said his government’s effort has been to create trust in the insurance scheme by addressing all their apprehensions.

“I have an expectation from you (farmers). At least, try it once, repose faith in this new scheme, at least once… More and more farmers should take this policy. Today, only 20 per cent of farmers have taken this policy, can it be raised to 50 per cent? If more number of farmers take this policy, it will mean more financial burden on the government. Despite this, I urge you all to associate with this scheme,” he said.

He said earlier the farmers would get compensation only when 50 per cent crop was damaged due to natural calamity but the norms have been relaxed and compensation will be given even if the damage is caused to 1/3rd of the crop area.

He then highlighted some features of the scheme like the provision that 25 per cent of the claim will be given immediately in case of crop damage while the rest will be settled at the earliest.

Another provision is that if a crop is damaged even up to 14 days after harvest, farmers will get the insurance claim.

Also, even if a single farmer is affected in a village, the insurance will be granted as per the rules.

A farmer, who does not even do sowing because of failed rainfall, will be entitled to some insurance claim.

“If farmers join this scheme, then the natural calamities will not be able to hurt them. The government also will stand shoulder-to-shoulder to help them,” Modi said.

“This scheme, along with the Soil Health Card Scheme, will provide protection to the farmers,” he said.