Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said farmers should turn to ethanol production instead of growing conventional crops, as this will improve profitability and provide green fuel to the country.
The Union minister for Road Transport and Highways said the country currently spends Rs 8 lakh crore per year on fuel import and the expenditure is likely to go up to Rs 25 lakh crore in the future.
"Farmers in the country today give us foodgrains. But they should also start giving energy. The country currently spends Rs 8 lakh crore a year on fuel import, and the amount can go up to Rs 25 lakh crore in the future. If such a big amount goes to farmers, then they will not commit suicide," Gadkari said.
Cultivating traditional crops will not be profitable, instead farmers should turn to production of ethanol, he said.
The Centre has ordered the use of 10 per cent of biomass instead of coal in energy production, and this will help farmers, if they cultivate bamboo just like they grow sugarcane and earn up to Rs 8 lakh per acre of land in just two years, the minister said.
Gadkari was speaking at the inauguration of Phoenix Eicher Institute of Driving Training and Research in Latur. This is the first institute in the country that will train drivers, and has been established on PPP mode.
The minister said there was a shortage of nearly 22 lakh drivers in the country.
"In European countries, drivers don't work for more than eight hours. However, in India, they drive for 12 to16 hours and at temperatures as high as 48 degree Celsius, when there are no air-conditioned cabins in trucks," he said.
The country is losing nearly 1.5 lakh people in accidents every year and majority of the victims are in the age group of 18 to 25 years, he said.
"In order to bring down the number of accidents, we need to work more. To repair the black spots (accident-prone areas) in the country, the ministry has made available Rs 15,000 crore through Asian Development Bank and World Bank," Gadkari said.
At least 80 driver training institutes will be set up in the country at taluka level in the next five years, he said, adding that the move will also help unemployed youth.
The minister further said that companies in India were ready to bring vehicles with flex engines to the Indian market. This will increase the need for ethanol and will also be profitable to farmers in the country.
Gadkari also appealed to state Transport Minister Anil Parab to take an initiative to launch ethanol-powered auto-rickshaws in Pune.
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