Rural India and agriculture has been the focus of Modi government since the first term. In the second term too, the major focus of budgetary allocation was rural India. “At the center of everything we do, we keep ‘gaon, garib aur kisan’ (villages, poor and farmers),” said finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her maiden budget speech. One concept which became the talking point after finance minister’s maiden Budget speech was Zero Budget Natural Farming.
“We shall go back to basics on one count: Zero Budget Farming. We need to replicate this innovative model through which in a few states farmers are already being trained in this practice. Steps such as this can help in doubling our farmers’ income in time for our 75th year of Independence,” said FM in the 2019 budget speech.
Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a farming technique where the inputs cost for agricultural produce is zero and natural fertilizers are used instead of chemical fertilizers. The practice was popularized by Vidarbha based agriculturalist Subhash Palekar who was awarded with Padma Shri by Modi government in 2016.
Zero budget farming will pull out the farmers from the stubborn chokehold of debt trap. The ‘input cost’ which includes the purchase of seeds and fertilizers has been rising over the decades. The farmers take loan from banks to support the rising input cost and fall in debt if the produce is not good. The excessive production over the decades and low demand has brought down the prices.
The farmers are not able to pay back the loan because sometimes earning is lower than the total input cost. This has led to huge debt pile up among farmers of many states and ultimately the state has to bear this burden through farm loan waivers. ZBNF is best practice to pull the farmers from debt trap and reduce the burden of government. Many farmers in state of Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Uttarakhand, and Chhattisgarh adopted ZBNF and this led to decline in ‘input cost’ and rise in productivity.
The ZBNF is expected to have huge impact on farmer’s life in upcoming years. The stocks of chemical fertilizer companies fell by 1-12 percent in a day after finance minister Sitharaman argued in favor of ZBNF in the budget speech. “This would also provide a large scale impact socially, by reducing suicide incidents among farmers. This scheme, if implemented properly, can make a huge impact socially as it is intended towards reducing farm distress,” said Gaurav Garg, head of Research at CapitalVia Global Research.
The farmers got a good deal from Modi government in the first budget of the second term. The government allotted 0.43 lakh crore rupees to agriculture ministry on average between 2014-19 which coincides with the first term. In the first budget of the second Modi government, the budgetary allocation to the Ministry of agriculture has been increased to 1.4 lakh crore rupees which is three times more than the average of the first term. The massive increase would go to implementation of PM KISAN and PM Kisan Pension Yojana under which 14.5 crore and 5 crore farmers are expected to benefit respectively.
The ZBNF is expected to be path-breaking step in doubling farmer’s income by 2022, as promised by PM in first term. The ZBNF combined with other farmer welfare policies will quality of life in rural India.