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Finance Minister holds pre-budget talks with unions and farmer groups

Finance minister Arun Jaitley conducted a pre-budget meeting with the trade unions and farmers groups.He said that marketing and storage facilities should be improved for agri products so that farmers get a better price. For those crops, whose procurement cannot be done was suggested with a ‘Price Deficiency Payment Mechanism ’to make available more remunerative prices to farmers. Need for water conservation, incentivizing agro-processing and balanced use of fertilizers also were also suggested in order to ensure higher productivity of agriculture. 

Farmers groups recommended that Budget 2018-19 is an opportunity to shift to ‘Farmers’ Policy’ and India has always pursued ‘Food Policy’. They also suggested creating off-farm jobs to reduce pressure on land. They also suggested an ‘Agriculture Debt Relief Package for the entire country, a deeper focus on dairy, fruit and vegetable items, starting ‘Operation Veggies’. The focus should be on TOP —Tomato, Onion, and Potato as there is maximum volatility in their prices.

Warehouses, cold storages at the local level should be given thrust and also give a boost to agro-processing, food and fertilizers subsidy through DBT, higher prices for urea and lower for other fertilizers. Piggery, beekeeping, honey production, mushroom production and fisheries should be given more importance, and tax reliefs to the plantation companies were some of the other suggestions. 

The trade unions presented a common memorandum of 12 point charter of demands. It includes taxing the affluent, who have the capacity to pay and that can be used as fund for social sectors like health and social sector, effective measures should be taken against deliberate tax and loan repayment faults, minimum wages for all workers, stop disinvestment and strategic sale of PSUs and same wages for contract workers and permanent workers.

Foreign Direct Investment( FDI)should not be allowed in crucial sectors like defense production, railways, retail trade and financial sector. For unorganized sector workers, higher exemption ceiling of`5 lakhs for income tax and EPF benefit should be given were some of the other suggestions. 



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