Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said his government's 'historic' farm reforms will create opportunities to take farmers to entrepreneurship and added his regime is focused on increasing their income. Modi was speaking after releasing the autobiography of former Union Minister Balasaheb Vikhe Patil and renaming the Pravara Rural Education Society in Ahmednagar district after the Padma Bhushan recipient, via video conferencing.
Terming the farm reforms as historic, the prime minister said, "Today opportunities are being created to take farming and farmers from the role of annadata (food provider) to entrepreneurship."
Referring to high milk, sugar, and wheat production in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab, Modi said such models of local enterprise will take the country forward.
He said there was a time after Independence when the country did not have sufficient food stock.
"The governments priority then was to increase food production. So the entire focus was on increasing production.
Farmers toiled hard to achieve the objective," Modi said.
"But the attention of the governments and policies, while being concerned about increasing productivity. did not go towards profitability of farmers," he said.
"People forgot about income for farmers. But for the first time, this thinking has been changed," he said and listed steps the Centre has taken for the welfare of farmers.
Modi listed measures taken by his government like implementing and increasing MSP, urea neem coating and better crop insurance for "doing away worries of farmers".
He also spoke of direct transfer of Rs one lakh crore in the bank accounts of farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana.
"And there are no middlemen (involved). Not only this, there has been unprecedented work on setting up cold chains, mega food parks and agro processing infrastructure," he said.
In Maharashtra, efforts were strengthened after 2014 (when the BJP came to power) to supply water for drinking and agriculture purposes, he said.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana, 26 long-pending irrigation schemes from Maharashtra were expedited and work on nine of them was completed, Modi said.
These schemes will help provide irrigation to five lakh hectare area, he said.
"In July 2018, work on 90 irrigation schemes was initiated. Around four lakh hectare land will be provided irrigation facility when these schemes are completed in two- three years," he said.
Modi said microfinance has a special role in the economy and social order of villages, adding that under the Centres Mudra Yojana, self-employment possibilities have gone up.
Seven crore women of self-help groups have been given loans of over Rs three lakh crore in the country, he said.
Noting that the COVID-19 threat still persists, Modi said people should not show dhilaai (laxity) towards COVID-19, observe social distancing norms and maintain personal hygiene till a vaccine is available.
Modi said the concern is more in Maharashtra, which has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in India.
"I request people of Maharashtra that there should be no lax attitude towards wearing face masks, washing hands
regularly, maintaining cleanliness and observing physical distance norms.
"We have to always remember that there should be no laxity till there is a vaccine. We will definitely win this battle," he added.
Modi eulogised Balasaheb Vikhe Patil for dedicating his life for the welfare of the poor, farmers and villagers and also lauded his work in education sector, adding his contribution in these areas and the cooperative movement will inspire generations.
The 713-page Marathi autobiography is titled Deh Vechava Karani.
Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, son of late Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, said Modi had agreed to come to Loni in Ahmednagar district in April to launch the book, but the event could not happen due to coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray took part in the event via video conferencing. State BJP leaders Devendra Fadnavis and Chandrakant Patil also spoke at the event.