Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Feb 3: The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is looking to increase its involvement in Assam and as part of the process it is ready to substantially enhance its disbursement to the State under the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) in the next fiscal.

“The announcements in the Union Budget have given ample importance to creation of agricultural and rural infrastructure. The RIDF is managed by NABARD and its focus is on helping the State governments in the fields of agriculture and related activities, social sector and rural connectivity. I must compliment the Government of Assam for the initiative shown by it to augment and develop these sectors through the medium of RIDF. In the last fiscal, we provided Rs 1,200 crore to Assam under the scheme and this financial year also the same amount has been sanctioned. I met the Chief Minister during my visit here and he asked me to enhance the amount to Rs 2,000 crore in the next financial year. And we have promised to provide him that amount,” NABARD Chairman Dr GR Chintala told reporters here late on Tuesday evening.

He said that hike in the allocation to RIDF to Rs 40,000 crore for the next fiscal in the recent Union Budget from Rs 30,000 crore in the current fiscal, along with enhancement of allocation for the Micro Irrigation Fund, which was also announced in the Budget, will help to accelerate the ongoing rural infrastructure projects across the country.

Dr Chintala said there is a lot of potential in the rural economy of Assam. “Assam is witnessing resurgence and people in the rural areas of the State are very active. We are working to see how much more we can contribute to the development of the State,” he said.

He said sectors like micro irrigation, fishery, piggery, goat rearing, farmer producer organisations (FPOs), weaving and other traditional art and craft and seed replacement, among others, have a lot of potential and the finance institution can contribute in promoting these.

“Look at the fishery sector. There is big local demand. Production has also gone up but there is scope for more. NABARD is acting on creating awareness in this area. Fishery can generate both employment and revenue. Same is the case with piggery, goat rearing and animal husbandry. There is ample scope for micro irrigation projects including use of sprinklers and drip irrigation for increasing production. In addition, we are also looking at Off-Farm Producer Organisations (OFPOs) which are legal entities formed by producers like artisans, weavers and craftsmen. We will also concentrate on promoting OFPOs. The local craft of the North East have now got their own distinct identity, like the gamosa of Assam. Demand for such products is growing outside this region,” he said.

Dr Chintala said cultivation of oil palm can boost the economy of Assam and NE significantly and added that the region has vast potential due to greater availability of water here.

He added that NABARD will also focus on promoting agriculture sector start-ups in the State.

“The North East missed the first Green Revolution. Now the region can be a part of the new age agricultural revolution. In the next five to ten years Assam and the North East can show very good performance in the agriculture and allied sector,” he said.