- PM Modi meets Amit Shah, finance and agriculture ministers
- Expected to announce new set of measures before parliament session ends
- Rahul Gandhi had dared PM to solve farm distress, blamed for BJP defeats
With about hundred days to the national election in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek another term, the BJP-led government is planning a major announcement for farmers, for which the PM held a nearly three-hour meeting at his residence last evening.
Sources say PM Modi held discussions on a wide-ranging farm relief plan with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, BJP chief Amit Shah and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh. According to finance ministry sources, the government will announce a new set of measures for farmers before the end of the winter session on January 5.
The meeting is significant as it comes days after the BJP lost the heartland states Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to the Congress; farmers' anger is assessed as a big factor in the defeats.
The results indicated that farm distress would be a core issue in the 2019 polls. The Congress made good on its campaign promise to waive farm loans almost immediately after taking charge in the three states.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi then told the media that his party and others would "not let PM Modi sleep or rest" until an all-India loan waiver scheme was announced.
The PM's new farmer outreach plan is an answer to that challenge, say leaders.
Sources say the central government's plan is to go beyond loan waivers. One step being considered is to pay farmers the difference between the Minimum Support Price for their crop and the market rate. The price differential could be credited directly to the banks of the farmers.
The idea is inspired by the "bhavantar (price difference) scheme" of the previous Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government in Madhya Pradesh. The leaders also reportedly explored the merits of another scheme from BJP-ruled Jharkhand - to give direct fixed subsidy to farmers.
The government is also considering an increase in the credit limit in the Kisan Credit Card Scheme.
Months ago, the Modi cabinet had decided to fix the Minimum Support Price at 50 per cent over production cost. Sources say this will be the PM's second big move for farmers.
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