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Zero Budget for Farmers, Proves our apprehensions right,” say Farmer unions

The Union Budget has proved the farmers’ apprehensions right – that this government is on a path of withdrawing support to agriculture, not strengthening it. Despite the huge farmers’ protests and deep discontent at their economic plight, the Government of India gave the lowest priority to Agriculture in this Budget. The share of Agriculture and Allied activities in the total budget has fallen dramatically from 5.1% to 4.3%; even in absolute terms, the allocation fell from Rs.1.54 lakh crores to Rs.1.48 lakh crores. While the recent Budget speeches gave the appearance of high priority to Agriculture by addressing it as the first sector, it was relegated to a later part of the speech this time, as the government did not have significant announcements to make. Once again, the Budget speech quotes large figures such as Agricultural Credit Target of Rs.16.5 lakh crores, which has nothing to do with Budget allocation by the government, but it has to do with loans to be given by banks to farmers, which they are required to do anyway under priority sector lending.

Farmer organizations Jai Kisan Andolan, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) and Rythu Swarajya Vedika came together to provide pre-Budget and post-Budget analysis on the farming sector.

Kirankumar Vissa of Rythu Swarajya Vedika said, “The Budget has proved the apprehension of the farmer unions that the government is moving in the direction of withdrawing its support to farmers. On the major issues faced by farmers – ensuring Minimum Support Prices, access to market infrastructure, effective crop insurance when they face losses due to natural calamities, and rural employment through MGNREGS – the Budget has nothing to offer. The allocation for PM-AASHA scheme has been cut from Rs.4000 crores in 2018-19 to Rs.400 crores now, and the PSS-MIS scheme (price support and market intervention) has been cut from Rs.3000 crore to Rs.1501 crores in the past 3 years, whereas these are the only two schemes for the government to ensure that farmers get the MSP. In comparision, the farmers suffer a loss of more than Rs.50,000 crores in a year because of the shortfall of prices below MSP. This shows that the government has no commitment to MSP despite their rhetoric. And this is the reason the farmers are demanding a Legal Guarantee for MSP.”

Avik Saha of Jai Kisan Andolan said, “The Atma Nirbhar Bharat package was supposed to provide a stimulus in the context of the Covid lockdown and recession, but it has proved to be a lie as far as agriculture and allied sectors are concerned. Nothing has been spent out of the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund of Rs. 1 lakh crores or the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Fund of Rs.15,000 crores, as shown by the Chapter 7, Vol 2 of the Economic Survey. Only Rs.2,991 crores received “in principle sanction” to PACs as of mid-January 2021, 8 months after the package was announced. While big figures are announced in the name of the infrastructure funds, these are actually not budget allocations, but simply notional funds which are meant to finance projects through loans. In other words, the agriculture and rural sector did not get any boost from the so-called 20 lakh crore package.”

Kavitha Kuruganti, national convenor of ASHA said, “We had demanded that the PM-KISAN scheme should be modified to credit the amount to the accounts of the women in the farming households instead of the land patta holders who are typically men. We had also demanded that the real cultivators including tenant farmers, sharecroppers, women farmers and adivasi farmers, who may not have the land patta, should be included in the scheme. The government has not moved on any of these, and we see that the support base has not gone beyond 9 crore households whereas the target was 14.5 crore households. Increased allocation to MGNREGS would have put more money Similarly, the problems with the flagship scheme PM Fasal Bima Yojana have not been fixed, and with the new rules, many states have opted out of it drastically reducing the coverage. This leaves farmers completely vulnerable when they lose crop due to natural calamities, pushing them into debt.”

Yogendra Yadav, President of Swaraj India said, “What is missing in the Budget speech on agriculture is more important than what was said. Five years after announcing the target of Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022, we are entering the final year for meeting the target, but there is no announcement about how much the incomes have been enhanced until now, and how far we have to go. There is no report card on the major schemes and funds announced in the past few years, such as PM-AASHA, the Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund, the GRAM yojana for upgrading the rural haats, or even the PMFBY. Allocation to MGNREGS should have been at least Rs.1 lakh crores, instead it is only Rs.73,000 crores, even though it has been the lifeline for crores of workers in the rural areas, especially during the lockdown and ongoing economic crisis. The empty Budget for farmers shows that the government is not looking at addressing the slowdown by putting resources in the pockets of the people at the bottom, but instead using this crisis as an opportunity to implement economic reforms that corporate India has been demanding.”

Decrease in Allocations:
• PM-KISAN from Rs.75,000 crores to Rs.65,000 crores
• PSS-MIS from Rs.2000 crores to Rs.1501 crores
• PM-AASHA from Rs.500 crores to Rs.400 crores
• Interest Subsidy from Rs.21,175 crores to Rs.19,468 crores
• Distribution of Pulses from Rs.800 crores to Rs.300 crores

Under-spending in previous year:
• Total Agriculture & Allied budget: only Rs.145,355 crores spent out of Rs.1,54,775 crores
• Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana: Only Rs.7954 crores spent out of Rs.11,127 cr
• “Green Revolution” scheme: Only Rs.10,474 cr. out of Rs.13,320 cr.
• MIS-PSS scheme: Only Rs.996 crores out of Rs.2000 crores.

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