The ‘pro-farmer’ Budget that raises questions

Moreover, food subsidy and petroleum subsidies have gone up by wafer thin margin. The estimate for rural development has also just gone up by Rs 1,408 crore.
farmer sprinkles fertilizer

New Delhi, Feb 1: The BJP terms the Union Budget “pro-farmer” in which fertiliser subsidy has gone down quite a bit. Against last year’s Rs 79,998 crore, this year’s estimated fertilizer subsidy is Rs 71,309 cr.

The government claims it has kept farmers in mind by allocating Rs 2.83 lakh crore for agriculture and allied sectors, but the fine print speaks of a different story.

The ‘Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan’ (PM-KUSUM) will be expanded to help 20 lakh farmers in setting up standalone solar pumps, said Sitharaman. But it was not revealed how much money it will cost and where it will come from.

The Budget speech claimed to set the agricultural credit target at Rs 15 lakh crore.

“The Village Storage Scheme run by self help groups will provide holding capacity for farmers, and women in villages can regain their status as ‘Dhaanya Lakshmi’,” said Sitharaman. While details are given about land required for the same or areas shortlisted, the amount it will cost is not known.

The Finance Minister also announced Kisan Rail and Kisan Udan — farmer-centric railway and aviation services — in her Budget speech. But again, the cost that the programme will incur is not mentioned in detail.

Moreover, food subsidy and petroleum subsidies have gone up by wafer thin margin. The estimate for rural development has also just gone up by Rs 1,408 crore.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister lauded the Budget calling it “visionary” and “action packed”. He said with its efforts of doubling the income of the farmer, 16 action points have been created which will work to increase employment in rural areas.

“Integrated approach to agriculture was adopted in the Budget, which along with traditional methods will increase value addition in horticulture, fisheries, animal husbandry and also increase employment,” Modi said.

But Sitharaman’s “pro-farmer” budget that lacks specifics on cost and the means to cover the same raises questions on the success of the Finance Minister’s intent to double farmers’ income.

Earlier the BJP’s demanded a ‘Gaon, Gareeb, Kisan Budget’ in its three-hour-long pre-Budget meeting with the Finance Minister on January 9. BJP General Secretary Arun Singh, who had attended the meeting, told the media after its conclusion that it will be a “Gaon, Gareeb, Kisan” (village, poor, farmer) driven budget.

As Sitharaman read out the details, it turned out, she respected the BJP’s sentiment. But with the coffers running dry, the question that begs an answer is: how can she fulfil her promises?

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