Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday flagged off the 100th run of the Kisan Rail service in the country between Sangola in Maharashtra and Shalimar in West Bengal, and asserted that his government has undertaken historic reforms in the farm sector to boost agriculture and strengthen farmers.
During his address after flagging off the train via video-conferencing, Modi said his government's policies are clear and intentions transparent in reforming the agriculture sector.
It will continue to work to strengthen farmers and agri sector with full force and dedication, he said.
His remarks came amid continuing protests by a section of farmers against the Centre's three farm reform laws.
Modi did not directly refer to these laws on Monday, but he has often asserted that they are in the interests of farmers and accused opposition parties of misleading them.
The 'Kisan Rail', a service started by his government, will help small and marginal farmers, who are over 80 per cent of the peasantry, in supplying their produce to far-off markets, the prime minister said, adding that a big demand for its services led to a rise in its frequency.
This will also help boost the income of farmers, he added.
This is also a testimony to the fact that how keen the farmers are for new possibilities, he said.
The government has been working to boost supply chain, cold storage facilities and bringing about value addition to farmers' produce to help them, he said.
"The Kisan Rail project not only shows the commitment of the government to serve the farmers but also serves as a proof of how fast our farmers are ready for new possibilities.
"Farmers can now sell their crops in other states as well, in which farmers' rail (Kisan Rail) and agriculture flights (Krishi Udaan) have a big role.
"Kisan Rail is a mobile cold storage to move perishable things like fruits, vegetables, milk, fish, etc., with complete security.
"India always had a large railway network, even before independence. Cold storage technology was also available.
"Only now this strength is being harnessed properly through Kisan Rail," he said.
The prime minister said a facility like Kisan Rail has given millions of small farmers of West Bengal a huge facility.
This facility is available to the farmer as well as the local small businesses.
The kisan train from Maharashtra to West Bengal will be covering a distance of 2,132 km with more than 400 tonnes of cargo at a speed of 54.6 kmph in around 39 hours.
It will pass through Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha with major stoppages at Kurudwadi, Daund, Belapur, Kopergaon, Bhusawal, Warud Orange City, Durg, Bilaspur, Jharsuguda, Rourkela and Tatanagar.
It is carrying pomegranate, custard apples, grapes and oranges.
The prime minister also said that perishable rail cargo centres are being constructed in the vicinity of railway stations where farmers can store their produce, he said.
Extra produce should reach the entrepreneurs engaged in production of juice, pickle, sauce, chips, he said.
The prime minister remarked that the government's priority is focussed on storage-linked infrastructure and processing industries associated with value addition in farming products.
He said about 6,500 such projects have been approved under mega food parks, cold chain infrastructure agro processing cluster, under the PM Krishi Sampada Yojana.
An allocation of Rs 10,000 crore has been made for micro food processing industries under Aatmanirbhar Abhiyan, he said.
With the start of this route, Kisan Rail services will be operational on nine routes.
Modi said that it is the participation and support of the rural people, farmers and the youth that makes the government's efforts successful.
"Kisan Rail Service is a major step towards increasing the income of the farmers of the country. Even during the corona pandemic, 100 Kisan Rails were launched in the last four months.
"This service will bring a major change in the economy related to farming and will also increase the strength of the country's cold supply chain," Modi said.
He added that no minimum quantity has been fixed to transport through 'Kisan Rail' so that even the smallest produce will be able to reach the big market properly at a low price.
Recent reforms will lead to expansion of agri business and these groups will be the biggest beneficiaries. Private investment in agriculture will support the government's effort to help these groups, he said.
"We will keep on marching on the path of strengthening Indian agriculture and Kisan with full dedication," the prime minister added.
The multi-commodity train service will carry vegetables such as cauliflower, capsicum, cabbage, drumstick, chilli and onion as well as fruits like grape, orange, pomegranate, banana and custard apple, according to an official statement.
Loading and unloading of perishable commodities will be permitted at all stoppages en route with no bar on the size of consignment, it said, adding that the Centre has extended a 50 per cent subsidy on the transportation of fruits and vegetables.
The first Kisan Rail was introduced from Devlali in Maharashtra to Danapur in Bihar on August 7, which was further extended up to Muzaffarpur.
'Kisan Rail has been a game changer in ensuring fast transportation of agriculture produce across the nation.
'It provides a seamless supply chain of perishable produce,' it said.