Industry lobby groups suggest measures to help agricultural sector, ministry launches call center for coordination

NEW DELHI: Before the impending expansion of, the Indian Industry Confederation, an industry lobby group, has suggested a series of measures to minister for the proper functioning of agricultural activities and launched for leverage force more than 700 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) - agricultural extension service centers under ICAR - to ensure safety and hygiene during harvest and post-harvest work.

These suggestions, presented to the agriculture ministry on Sunday, include multiple measures on the movement of farm workers, transportation, and maintaining social distancing during soil preparation, nursery preparation, planting, cultivation, and harvesting.

The IIC, in its comprehensive document on security measures, also listed who should be given permission for all agricultural activities to run smoothly and suggested how to use KVKs for effective implementation of the guidelines.

Currently, 718 KVKs with staff force of nearly 5,000 under its nodal authority - India n Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) - are involved with various activities to make farmers aware of the government’s guidelines and exemptions available to them during the lockdown period.

“We are already leveraging the force of the KVKs in making farmers aware of those guidelines. Over 5.5 crore farmers have been reached through SMS (text messages) during the lockdown period,” said an official of agriculture ministry.

The IIC has suggested that KVKs, distributed throughout the country's districts, should also be used to identify isolation rooms as part of emergency preparedness.

Agri-food and food supply chains are vulnerable to massive disruptions that can further affect availability and prices, therefore proactive measures are required for the safety and health of farmers and workers, both at the farm level like mandi. While the country is in blockade mode, it is essential that harvest and post-harvest activities remain functional so that farmers do not suffer and do not miss crops, Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, IIC, said in a statement urging the government a Consider recommendations that are critical to safe farming operations.

Previously, another industry lobby group, FICCI, had also suggested a series of measures to the ministry.

Government starts call center for coordination

To coordinate the interstate movement of perishable goods (vegetables, fruits, and flowers) and agricultural inputs such as seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers between states, the Ministry of Agriculture on Sunday launched an all-India Agricultural Transportation Call Center. It will be available to users in dedicated numbers from April 15 onwards, when the ministry will formally launch it. Once published, the numbers can be called from any mobile or landline phone.

Truck drivers, merchants, retailers, carriers or any other interested party, who are facing problems in the interstate movement of the products mentioned above, can seek help by calling the Call Center, the ministry said. The Call Center will send vehicle details and shipping and information about other aids, which may be necessary, to state government officials for troubleshooting.