Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 1
Amid the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the three farm laws, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday announced “nine measures” for agriculture and allied sector (the “sole bright spot with growth of 3.4 per cent during 2020-21”, according to the Economic Survey) in the Union Budget, including extending Agriculture Infrastructure Fund to APMCs and 10 per cent hike in agriculture credit target.
Sitharaman said: “To provide adequate credit to our farmers, I have enhanced the agricultural credit target to Rs 16.5 lakh crore in FY-22. We will focus on ensuring increased credit flows to animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries”.
The Budget Estimate (BE)-2021-22 for the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare is Rs 131531.19 crore, including Rs 123017.57 crore for its various schemes and Rs 8513.62 crore for agricultural research and education. While BE 2021-22 of Rs 123017.57 crore for schemes is higher that Revised Estimate (RE) or actual spending (Rs 116757.92 crore) in 2020-21, it is much lower than BE of Rs 134399.77 crore, last year. Though for research and education the FM allocated more than the 2020-21 BE, which was Rs 8362.58 crore.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which is leading the farmers agitation slammed the government for “reducing agriculture allocation”, calling it a “joke and treachery”. Morcha leader Yogendra Yadav said given the circumstances one expected the “FM will pay some special attention to farmers. But truth is that the government has actually reduced the expenditure on sector”.
“Is that the support to agriculture that the PM talks about? Is it the way towards doubling of farmers incomes? This is a joke, this is treachery farmers will remember and movements will take this message across the country,” Yadav said.
Farm policy expert Sudhir Panwar said the government’s resolve of doubling farmers’ income “again lacks budgetary allocations and required policy shift”. “The Government slashed Budget on all flagship schemes, including PMKSY, PMBFY, fertiliser subsidy and market intervention scheme. Budgetary allocations on infrastructure development of APMC ‘mandis’ with linkage petrol and diesel cess is for infrastructure is smart political move to convince farmers and general public on continuation of APMC. Increase in credit flow is customary and increase of Rs 1.5 lakh crore hardly matches needs of Covid-stressed farm economy,” he said.
Meanwhile, reiterating the commitment to welfare of farmers, Sitharaman said there has been steady increase the procurement of wheat, rice, pulses from farmers. The Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime has undergone a sea change to ensure price that is at least 1.5 times the cost of production across all commodities, she said making official the increase in support prices of crops like wheat, rice, pulses during the regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In her speech she proposed to extend SWAMITVA Scheme to all states; to integrate 1,000 more ‘mandis’ with e-NAM; investments in the development of modern fishing harbours and fish landing centres and five major fishing harbours – Kochi, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Paradip, and Petuaghat. Apart from inland fishing harbours and fish-landing centres along banks of rivers and waterways, she also proposed a Multipurpose Seaweed Park for Tamil Nadu.