Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the bahi-khata (budget) of the government today in the parliament in more than two hours speech. This year’s budget speech was very much rooted in Indian culture and the Finance Minister talked about culture, quoted Kashmiri poet Dina Nath Kaul, Tamil Poet Thiruvalluvar, the great philosopher Chanakya, and Sanskrit poet Kalidasa.
The theme of the first part of the budget was Aspirational India, under which, the FM outlined the policies and allocation to Agriculture & Allied, Irrigation & Rural Development and Wellness, Water, Sanitation.
The allocation to Agriculture and allied activities was increased from 2.49 lakh crore rupees of the revised estimates of FY 20 to 2.83 lakh crore rupees in budgeted estimate of this year while that for Wellness, Water, Sanitation was increased to 96,885 crore rupees from 89,618 in the revised estimate of last financial year.
In the budget speech, FM repeated the Modi government’s promise to double the farmer’s income by 2022. The FM announced 16 action pint plans for farmers.
FM said that the Union government will encourage state governments to follow the model union laws. “We will encourage state governments who implement following model laws- Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act of 2016, Model Agricultural Produce and livestock and Marketing Act of 2017 and Model Agricultural Produce and Livestock contract farming and services promotion and facilitation Act of 2018,” said the Union minister.
The Finance minister said that the government will expand the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha even Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM KUSUM) scheme to 20 lakh farmers for setting up standalone solar pumps.
The FM also announced that “Kisan Rail” and “Krishi Udaan” to be launched by Indian Railways and Ministry of Civil Aviation respectively for a seamless national cold supply chain for perishables. The government has also set an agricultural credit target of 15 lakh crore rupees by 2021.
The FM also hinted towards minimization of chemical fertilizer subsidies; shift the focus from grains (Wheat, Rice etc) to horticulture, fisheries, and animal husbandry. Sitharaman informed the house that the total horticulture production of the country has surpassed the grain production.
For decades, the focus of agriculture has been towards the grains and sugarcane, and majority of the power, irrigation, chemical, and MSP subsidies went to farmers of these agriculture produces whose producers are politically organized. But as suggested by Agricultural economists like Ashok Gulati, these subsidies has not only harmed soil heath and harmed the groundwater levels, but have also been harmful to small and marginal farmers.
Now the government will shift its focus to vegetable production, fisheries, flower production, animal husbandry and other produces under the agricultural sector which have been traditionally ignored.
The agriculture sector was hit hard due to successive drought for two years in the country just after the Modi government came to power. The drought in the fiscal year of 2014-15 hit the farmers badly across the country. There were many incidences of farmer suicide due to pressure from banks and Sahukars for loan repayment which they could not repay because agricultural produce was not sufficient.
However, since then, the Modi government has launched many schemes to fulfil the promise to double farmers’ income by the year 2022. To make farmers financially secure in the case of poor crop growth, the government launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY). To provide irrigation facilities to farmers across the country, PM Modi launched Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna (PMKSY) and pumped money into the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to increase credit penetration to farmers.
Last year, the government announced the PM-KISAN scheme was launched under which the government will directly transfer cash benefit of 6,000 crore rupees per year to the bank accounts of all farmers.
The successive steps of Modi government to double the farmer’s income by 2022 will help to solve the problems of rural distress and revive the rural consumption which slumped after demonetization.