August 28, 2016 1:53:15 am
The Centre Saturday extended export duty benefits to save onion growers who are bearing the brunt of a sharp decline in prices. The Centre has offered onion exporters a 5 per cent grant under the Foreign Trade Policy’s Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) to boost export.
The move will bring some relief to onion growers. The announcement has, however, stirred political and bureaucratic circles in BJP-ruled Maharashtra, which is also the country’s biggest onion producing state.
While the decision was taken by the Nirmala Sitharaman-led Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, it was Union Road Transport Minister and Maharashtra heavyweight Nitin Gadkari who announced the move.
On Saturday, Gadkari said, “For relief to onion growers in the state, our Union MoS (Bhamre), myself, and MPs from Nashik and Ahmednagar belt had requested Nirmala Sitharamanji for extending some export benefits. I’m happy that the 5% grant under MEIS has been made available. This would enable farmers to export their produce till December, bringing them relief.”
He further informed that the grant to exporters would be extended in the form of encashable coupons, which could also be put to use to import produce.
Three weeks back, on August 10, Gadkari had grabbed state leaders’ attention when he convened and chaired, at his official Delhi residence, a meeting regarding steps to save onion farmers in Maharashtra.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was not present at this meeting, but Union Ministers Radhamohan Singh (Agriculture), Ram Vilas Paswan (Food), Subhash Bhamre (MoS, Defence), former Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra’s ministers Pandurang Phundkar (Agriculture), Subhash Deshmukh (Cooperatives), Sadabhau Khot (MoS, Agriculture) and senior bureaucrats deliberated on measures in this regard. Pawar had also criticised the Fadnavis-led government for mishandling the crisis.
During the meeting, Gadkari had directed the state to formulate a proposal for permitting the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) to procure excess onion produced in the state. Gadkari’s initiative was seen by some close to the CM as an attempt to take credit for sorting out crucial state issues.
Earlier, on August 6, when search operations were on to trace victims of the Mahad bridge collapse, Gadkari had announced that the government bore responsibility for the tragedy. While the state Public Works Department is responsible for maintenance of the bridge, it was Gadkari who declared that a new bridge would be constructed within six months.
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