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New laws will boost farmers’ incomes, says IMF chief economist

IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath

Underlining the need to bring in reforms in India’s agriculture sector, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Economist Gita Gopinath said that the three farm laws, which have stirred up a huge controversy among farmers, have the potential to increase farmers’ incomes.
“These particular farm laws were in the area of marketing. It was widening the market for farmers. Being able to sell to multiple outlets besides the Mandis without having to pay a tax. And this had the potential to raise, in our view, farmers’ incomes,” she said.
Gopinath added that there is also a need to provide the necessary social security measures to protect the vulnerable farmers.
In September, the Narendra Modi government introduced three farm reform bills — The Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. These bills, aimed at creating a free market for sale of farm produce and removing the involvement of middlemen, have faced stringent opposition from farmers across.
Amid stiff protests launched by the opposition parties and farmers, the IMF economist said that the laws would widen the farmers’ market.
However, Gopinath pointed out that there will be transition costs when a reform measure is put in place. “One has to make sure and pay close attention that it’s not harming vulnerable farmers, to make sure that the social safety net is provided. Clearly there is a discussion right now and we’ll see what comes out if it,” she said.
Interestingly, the Congress, which is vehemently opposing the passage of the bills, had tried to bring in reforms when UPA was in power. Cornell University professor Kaushik Basu, who served as World Bank chief economist too has come out strongly against the agrarian reform measures though while serving as chief economic adviser to the finance ministry during the Manmohan Singh era, he supported the reform process in the far sector.   
Meanwhile, speaking at the World Economic Forum, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said, “As far as agriculture is concerned, we are also laying emphasis on Research and Development for production and productivity. It is our effort to see that the crop can be managed in a proper manner after harvesting.”
He added that while India has surplus production of food-grain, often the crops get damaged due to lack of proper infrastructure and storage facilities. He pointed out that the government has already announced a Rs 1 lakh crore package under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat package for building of necessary infrastructure to address this problem.