Farmers and daily producers will be able to sell their products at 7,500 railway stations spread all over India, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad has said, announcing a decision he called revolutionary.
The railways have identified the stations where such agro outlets are to be opened. "We plan to open them soon to provide a market to farmers. Work is under progress," said Lalu Prasad.
The railways, which have a presence all over the country barring the Kashmir Valley and some parts of the northeast, are taking help from consultants in India and abroad to chalk out the design, management and other matters related to the agro outlets, the brainchild of Lalu Prasad.
"The outlets will not only provide markets and act as distribution centres, they will also open up a new world for farmers and dairy producers. The outlets will generate thousands of jobs for unemployed youth for packaging and distribution," he said. The youth will be provided training.
The outlets would prove a miracle for the growth of the Indian economy, the minister maintained. "I see their opening at railway stations as something that will change the face of railways and the agrarian economy."
The railways will provide land to farmers at cheap rates to set up cold storage outlets near the stations to store their produce for marketing, distribution and sale.
"This is just a beginning. A few select railway stations will also be turned into world-class stations," he added.
According to the minister, the railways have earned a net profit of Rs 130 billion thus far in the current fiscal and the targeted profit is Rs 200 billion by next year.