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Industry & Economy - Budget
Agri-Biz & Commodities - Water


Water bodies renovation innovative

S. Sivakumar

THE thrust given to the rural economy in general and agriculture in particular in this Budget is very correct, because an equitable and sustained high rate of growth of Indian economy cannot happen otherwise.

Among the various measures announced, I consider the renovation and restoration of one million water bodies as the most innovative. While pilot projects are being started in only five districts, I sincerely hope that this effort will be rapidly scaled up. This is a very practical medium-term step before large-scale irrigation projects come up.

Exemption of Excise Duty on tractors and hand tools will go a long way in reducing the drudgery of our farmers. Doubling farm credit is a laudable goal. Operationalisation of this intent will be key. Holding sponsor bank responsible for the targets of RRBs is an interesting attempt. Tax holiday for the new fruit and vegetable processing units will certainly help in increased diversification of our agriculture.

In this context, I consider extension work (to bring the research knowledge to the farmers) as a more important requirement. Similar incentive should also be extended to the investments in extension infrastructure. Twenty five per cent of all the proposed ITIs should be agriculture-technology oriented. These will help in capacity building for agri-extension work.

Reforming the Agri-Produce Marketing Act is very important in transforming our supply-driven agri value chains into demand driven. I wish the Minister went beyond merely urging the States to enact the model law, say, by announcing specific fiscal incentives for all the States doing so before kharif 2004.

(The author is Chief Executive, Agri-Business, ITC Ltd.)

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