New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday focussed on agriculture and healthcare in his Mann Ki Baat radio address—issues that have taken centre stage in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“An extensive exercise on agricultural reforms is being undertaken across the country in order to ensure that our farmers get a fair price for their crop," Modi said, adding programmes to upgrade the infrastructure of 22,000 rural markets and integrating them with the electronic national agricultural market, or eNAM, will help local farmers connect to a global market.
“A system is being set up wherein farms in any part of the country will have a market-connect," Modi said. He reminded farmers of last month’s budget provision fixing minimum support prices (MSPs) at a level which is at least 50% more than cost of production “to ensure that farmers get a fair price for their produce".
Noting that the coming months when planting of rain-fed summer crops will begin is crucial for farmers, Modi advised them to adopt new technologies and practices learnt from the state broadcaster’s 24-hour farm channel DD Kisan. “Today, the farmers have technology to help them while they work hard in their fields. This has provided a big boost to our agro-producers," Modi said.
The prime minister has addressed farmers twice over the past month, first at a conference on doubling farmer incomes last month, and again at the annual Krishi Unnati Mela organized by the agriculture ministry in March. The emphasis on farm sector follows mounting protests by farmers since June last year in backdrop of a collapse in wholesale crop prices amid record harvests.
“The prime minister promised the government will ensure that farmers benefit from MSP announcements but the situation on ground is entirely different," said Avik Saha, convener of Jai Kisan Andolan, a farmer’s organization. “In an ongoing public audit in five states, we found that farmers incurred a loss of Rs14,474 crore while selling their winter harvest of pulses and oilseeds at prices lower than support prices."
In his Mann Ki Baat address, the prime minister also underlined the importance of healthcare. “All you young people can come together to launch a movement of Fit India," he said. The prime minister said Swachch Bharat (clean India) and Swasth Bharat (healthy India) are complementary to each other, adding all ministries are working together for preventive health.
“Preventive healthcare is the least costly and the easiest one as well. And, the more we become aware about preventive healthcare, the more beneficial will it be for individuals, the family and the society," Modi said.“The first necessity for a healthy life is cleanliness. All of us took up the responsibility and the result is that in the last four years or so, sanitation coverage has almost doubled and risen to around 80%. Also, extensive work is going on to set up health wellness centres across the country."
“It is the result of our concerted efforts and commitment that yoga has now become a mass movement and reached every house." He appealed to make the upcoming International Yoga Day on 21 June a success as previous three international yoga days. “Yoga has to be made popular among the youth, the senior citizens, men and women from all age groups through interesting ways," he said.
The prime minister said efforts were being undertaken to make healthcare accessible and affordable with more than 3,000 jan aushadhi (medicine) stores opened across the country and more than 800 medicines being made available there at affordable prices.
“The cost of heart stent for heart patients has been reduced to 85%. Knee implants cost has also been regulated and reduced by 50% to 70%. Under ‘Ayushman Bharat Yojana’, the government of India and insurance companies will jointly provide ₹ lakh for treatment to about 10 crore families or say 50 crore citizens per year," he added.
The prime minister said a new AIIMS —All India Institutes of Medical Sciences—were being opened in various states. One new medical college will be set up for every three districts. In the existing 479 medical colleges, MBBS seats have been increased to about 68,000, he said.
Calling the task of making the country tuberculosis-free by 2025 an enormous one, Modi said, “Your cooperation is needed to create public awareness. All of us will need to make united efforts to become TB-free."