75% hike in agri allocation, yet experts not happy

Agriculture Crisis

New Delhi, July 5 (IANS) With an outlay of Rs 75,000 crore for the PM KISAN scheme, the Modi government in the maiden Budget of its second term has allocated Rs 1,51,518 crore to the agriculture sector, which is a whopping 75 per cent hike year-on-year.

However, many experts are not happy with the Budget 2019-20 as they feel it failed to address the issues of farm crisis, farmers’ welfare and water scarcity, among others.

Calling it “Zero Budget”, farmer leader and Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav said the Budget did not have “vision” or “new schemes”.

“The Budget 2019-20 is same as the interim Budget,” he said.

In the interim Budget for 2019-20 which was presented on February 1 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the government had enhanced the outlay for farm sector to Rs 1,49,981 crore from Rs 86,602 a year ago.

The announcement of ‘Matsya Sampada Yojana’ and setting up 10,000 Farmers Producer Organisations (FPOs) are some of the new features of the Budget 2019-20, which was presented in the Lok Sabha by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday.

Former Agriculture Secretary Siraj Hussain expressed concern over the absence of focus on farm distress and water scarcity.

“Having committed Rs 75,000 crore to PM KISAN, the government did not consider it important to discuss the crisis facing agriculture. Sitharaman did not even mention the water stress India is facing,” he said.

However, he hoped that the government may announce major policies on agriculture during this year.

The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana received Rs 14,000 crore, a slight increase from Rs 13,000 crore a year ago.

There has been an increase of Rs 3,000 crore for interest subsidy for short-term credit to farmers to Rs 18,000 crore in the 2019-20 Budget.

The Modi government has also earmarked dedicated funds of Rs 560 crore for schemes to usher in ‘Blue Revolution’.

The Budget announced on Friday was “a paradigm shift” in terms of policies and outlook with relation to the farmers and the agriculture sector as the NDA government tried to absolve itself from the responsibilities, said Sudhir Panwar, farm analyst and former member of the Uttar Pradesh Planning Commission.

“The general election results have shown the BJP that farm distress can be tackled with the announcement of subsidy programmes such as PM KISAN. It seems like socialist approach is giving way to capitalist approach,” he said.

Panwar also came down heavily on the government for advocating ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’.

“Does it mean that Green Revolution was a waste,” he asked.

Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman of NABARD, said the overall emphasis of the Budget was to develop infrastructure, energise investments and strengthen the rural sector.

He also lauded the government’s proposal to revive Zero Budget Farming, saying it would help millions of farmers cut down input cost and practice sustainable agriculture.

M.J. Khan, Chairman of Indian Council of Food and Agriculture (ICFA), said there was no major boost to the agriculture sector in the Budget, but it was significant as it announced to create 100 startup incubators, 80 livelihood and 20 tech incubators to provide incubation support to 80,000 startups, including agri startups.

(Saurabh Katkurwar can be contacted at [email protected])

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