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Nirmala Sitharaman Announces Reforms To Help Farmers Earn Better Prices

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The government will amend Essential Commodities Act to enable better price for farmers, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today, in her third set of announcements on the mega economic stimulus to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Agriculture food stuff including cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato will be deregulated, Ms Sitharaman said.

The government will also bring in law to implement agriculture marketing reforms to provide marketing choices to farmers. The law will provide adequate choices to farmers to sell produce at an attractive price, said the Finance Minister.

Farmers are currently bound to sell their produce only to licensees in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), said the minister, a restriction that did not exist for any other industrial produce.

This, she said, resulted in stalling the free flow of agricultural produce and fragmentation of markets and supply chain. Also, less price for the farmers.

A central law will help farmers by giving them adequate choice to sell their produce at an attractive price, conduct "barrier-free interstate trade" and use e-trading of farm produce, the minister said.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a cumulative package of Rs 20 lakh crore, nearly 10 per cent of India's GDP, to help various sections of the economy battered by coronavirus lockdown.

This included a Rs 1.7 lakh crore package comprising free foodgrain and cash to poor for three months announced in March, and Rs 5.6 lakh crore stimulus provided through various monetary policy measures by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The government has so far made two tranches of announcements with a cumulative package of Rs 9.1 lakh crore, comprising largely of credit lines to smaller firms, concessional credit to farmers and support to shadow banking and electricity distributors.

The measures are meant to shore up an economy that has taken a severe hit after the country went into complete lockdown on March 24 to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus Updates: PM Modi to hold high-level meet today; to discuss lockdown 4.0

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India coronavirus lockdown 4 latest updates: Karnataka government has decided to ease lockdown restrictions in the state. Gyms, gold course to open in the state post May 17. The state recorded 26 new COVID-19 cases between 5 pm on Tuesday and 12 pm on Wednesday. The state health department said that the total count of coronavirus cases in the state now stand at 951, including 442 discharged and 32 deaths. PM Modi in his nationwide address on Tuesday announced a special economic package of Rs 20 lakh crore to help revive economic activity and make India self-reliant in the view of COVID-19 pandemic. PM Modi in his speech also pitched for promoting local businesses. Announcing lockdown 4.0 beginning May 18, the prime minister said that it will be completely different this time with a new set of rules.Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to announce loans of over Rs 3 lakh crore for MSMEs in her media briefing at 4 pm on Tuesday to give respite and liquidity push to restart small businesses.

India's total count of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped to 74,281 on Wednesday, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Rs 20 lakh crore special economic package for the country. According to latest update by the Union Health Ministry, the total count of confirmed coronavirus cases includes 47,480 active cases, 24,385 cured/discharged, 1 migrated and 2,415 deaths.

PM Modi to meet Chairpersons of the Empowered Groups later on Wednesday.

PM Modi in his countrywide speech on Tuesday said that India's self-reliance will be based on 5 pillars- economy, infrastructure, demand, technology-driven system and vibrant demography.

"People's Will," PM Tells Chief Ministers On Easing Lockdown Curbs

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a virtual meet with Chief Ministers today, said while his government's efforts were for everyone to stay where they were in the fight against coronavirus, certain decisions had to be changed because it was "human nature" to want to go home. His fifth such consultation is to discuss a plan for life after May 17, when the nationwide lockdown is due to end after its second extension. Today's meeting, which started at 3 pm, will go on "till proceedings continue", say officials. Yesterday, the government took a major step by allowing limited passenger train services from Tuesday, for which online bookings started today.

Here is your ten-point cheat sheet on this big story:

1. Mamata Banerjee, one of the first Chief Ministers to speak, reportedly attacked the centre saying it was "using coronavirus as an excuse" to play politics.

2. One of the many firsts in today's meeting is that all Chief Ministers get to speak. Union Territories have been asked to give their views in writing.

3. All states have raised concerns about the crisis for thousands of migrants, stranded because of the lockdown since March-end.

4. Migrants left jobless and without food or shelter walking home thousands of kilometres away has been one of the most compelling sights during the shutdown.

5. Even after special trains started running from states to take migrants, students and others home, the desperation has not ended for many.

6. An economic package to help migrants, small and medium industries and to help revive consumption is also on the government's to-do list.

7. The chief ministers are expected to push for stepping up economic activities in a calibrated manner, as the Centre weighs a graded exit from the 54-day lockdown..

8. States have demanded that in case of a graded exit from the lockdown based on red, orange and green zones, the state administration be allowed to decide where restrictions can be eased.

9. Amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, exiting the lockdown will be a tough call.

10. Though the number of cases showed the biggest jump on Monday, India also has a significantly improved recovery rate of 31 per cent. This morning, the number of coronavirus patients is 67,152 with 4,213 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Coronavirus India Live Updates: Delhi ropes in 4 more private hospital for COVID cases; total cases-59,662

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India coronavirus news and lockdown latest updates: The total COVID-19 cases in the country spiked to 59,662, including 39,834 active cases, 17,846 recoveries, 1 migrated patient and 1,981 deaths. India recorded 3,320 new cases and 95 deaths in 24 hours. The Union Health Ministry in its daily briefing on coronavirus in the country, said that around 216 districts in India have not recorded any COVID-19 positive case till date. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said that the doubling rate of COVID-19 cases in India has risen from 11 days from 9.9 days. Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray refuted rumours that the Army will take over Mumbai to tackle the coronavirus crisis. Although, Thackeray acknowledged that the virus "chain" has not been broken in the state yet, but he also assured that adequate medical infrastructure was made available by his government, especially in Mumbai.

Since March 2020, 9.13 crore farmers have been paid Rs 18,253 crore under PM-KISAN during the coroanvirius lockdown, stated Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. About 3 crore farmers with agri loans amounting to Rs 4.22 lakh crore availed the benefit of the 3-month loan moratorium, the FM further said.

Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) reported 13 fresh cases of novel coronavirus among its personnel on Saturday, taking the number of infected CISF personnel to 48. Of them, 31 CISF personnel were working in Delhi Metro protection unit.

Coronavirus lockdown: It's Delhi vs Bihar on who pays the train fare for migrant workers

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A day after 1,200 migrants returned to Muzaffarpur in Bihar from Delhi, the two states have been at loggerheads over the reimbursement of ticket fares for sending labourers back to Bihar by Shramik special trains.

Bihar Water Minister Sanjay Kumar Jha hit out at the Delhi government for demanding reimbursement from the Bihar government after it paid travel fares for the return of 1,200 migrants stranded in the national capital.

"On one hand, you are taking credit saying you are sending them back on your money and on the other hand, you are asking Bihar government to return the money," ANI quoted Jha as saying.

The matter soon turned into a debate after Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain replied to Jha saying that these migrant workers have been living in shelter homes for approximately two months and that it is unfair to charge any money from them. Jain further added that the Delhi government came forward to pay for the tickets since these workers did not have any source of income.

Jain was, however, not the only leader to clarify the reason for the Delhi government being the first one to make this payment. AAP spokesperson Sanjay Singh took to Twitter to share a Bihar government document that clearly stated that the state government will reimburse the fare paid by migrant workers on their arrival.

Singh further mentioned in his tweet that since the Bihar government and the Centre have asked the migrants to pay the fare, they didn't have the money at hand, hence the Delhi government paid for it.

According to a PTI report, all state governments except Maharashtra have been paying for the railway costs to ferry passengers to their native places.

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