Farmers can work, says govt amid nationwide lockdown over Covid-19 pandemic
The government has exempted all agriculture-related operations from a national lockdown currently in force to contain the coronavirus epidemic, which virtually sets a large section of rural India free from an economic curfew.
Agriculture and activities related to farming have now been included in the list of essential activities exempt from the lockdown, a senior official said, requesting anonymity. “The government has added one more amendment to its original notification for a nationwide notification. Agricultural activities are now exempt because it has been included under essential services now,” an official said.
The countrywide restrictions were announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, March 24, with complete halt of all public transport, including flights, trains and interstate buses. The lockdown came into effect the next day with only essential services allowed to operate.
This has severely jeopardised agriculture, which employs nearly half of all Indians, directly or indirectly. Millions of farmers weren’t able to sow or harvest their crops and their access to markets was cut off, hurting rural incomes.
According to the latest order, sowing of crops as well as harvesting stands permitted. Fertilizer and pesticide shops as well as the seed markets can function. Agriculture Produce Market Committees, popularly known as anaj mandis, are allowed to resume operations. Food aggregators, commission agents, forwarding contractors and wholesale buyers – critical to run the farm-to-fork food supply chain – have also been exempted from the lockdown.
Millions of farmers across the country can work in their farms throughout the nationwide lockdown put in place over the coronavirus pandemic, the official cited above said. States will decide how to implement this order in a safe manner given the pandemic, the official said.