Our farmers have contributed in a big way towards the progress of the country with a record production of fruits and vegetables. Several steps have been proposed in this budget to support the farmers and enhance their income. A record allocation of Rs. 14.5 lakh crores has been made for rural development and agriculture. Dalits, oppressed and disadvantaged sections of the society will benefit from building of 51 Lakh new homes, more than 3 lakh kilometers roads, about 2 crore toilets, and 1.75 crore electricity connections to households. These initiatives will create new opportunities especially in the rural areas. I appreciate the decision to provide for one and a half times remunerative price for the cost incurred by the farmers for their produce. Center will put in place a sound system in consultation with the states to ensure that the farmers can avail the full benefits from this decision. 'Operation Greens' will prove to be an effective instrument in this direction especially for the farmers engaged in producing vegetables and fruits. We have seen how Amul was instrumental in ensuring fair price to the farmers engaged in the dairy sector. We are also familiar with the cluster based approach for the development of the industry in our country. Now, keeping in mind the agricultural produce in different districts, agricultural cluster approach will be adopted in different districts across the country. I welcome the plan to develop storage, processing and marketing facilities for a particular agricultural produce after identifying the relevant districts.
In our country, the cooperative societies are exempted from paying income tax. But the 'Farmer Producer Organization' -FPO, that is similar to the cooperative societies, does not get this benefit. Therefore, income tax exemption for the 'Farmer Producer Organization' -FPO, which is meant for the welfare of the farmers, is a welcome step. By providing the linkages between the Self Help Groups for women engaged in organic, aromatic and herbal cultivation and the 'Farmer Producer Organizations' the income of the farmers will be increased. Similarly, the Gobar-Dhan Yojana will help in keeping the village clean, while increasing the income of farmers and cattle herders. In our country farmers take up different occupations along with the farming. Some are associated with pisciculture, animal husbandry, poultry or bee-keeping. Farmers used to face difficulties in accessing loans from banks for such additional activities. But now with Kisan card Arranging loan for pisciculture and animal husbandry has become very effective. There are about 7000 blocks in more than 700 districts of India. In these blocks, emphasis has been laid on modernization of infrastructure of 22 thousand rural business centers, by innovative and increased connectivity in the villages. In the days to come, these centers will be able to enhance the income of farmers, create employment opportunities. This will bring about new hubs of agro based rural and agricultural economy. Under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna, now the villages will be connected to rural haats (markets), higher education centers and hospitals. It will make life easier for the people in these villages.