Agri Business

Farm bodies unhappy despite higher outlay

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 12, 2018

Infra push A motorcyclist rides past a field in Amritsar, Punjab.   -  Bloomberg

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Jaitley gives a boost for housing, roads, electrification; focus on employment creation

The rural sector has received a thrust in the Budget with the government announcing increased allocations for rural housing, electrification, roads and employment generation and a mission to pull one crore rural households out of poverty.

Some farmer groups, however, complain that the measures are not enough to end the misery of the rural populace, hurt by demonetisation. They said more concrete steps in terms of income security needed to be spelt out by Jaitley.

An ambitious ‘Mission Antyodaya’, to bring one crore households out of poverty and to make 50,000 gram panchayats poverty free by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, was announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

“We will utilise existing resources more effectively along with annual increases,” he said.

While the aim of ‘Mission Antyodaya’ is noble, the fact that there is no separate allocation for it has disappointment some.

“A grand announcement of lifting 1 crore households out of poverty has been made through Mission Antyodaya. But, the government expects us to believe that this will be attained through existing schemes,” pointed out an analysis of the Union Budget carried out by the Jai Kisan Andolan, a public movement for farmers’ rights, in association with allied farmer organisations and unions from across the country.

The government has, however, made specific provisions for building roads, houses and providing employment, and allocations in these areas have risen.

Jaitley announced that one crore houses would be completed by 2019 for the homeless and those living in kutcha houses, and stepped up allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin from ₹15,000 crore in 2016-17 to ₹23,000 crore in 2017-18.

Electricity for all villages

Jaitley said the government was targeting 100 per cent village electrification by May 2018 and a higher allocation of ₹4,814 crore has been proposed under the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana in 2017-18.

A proposal to provide safe drinking water to over 28,000 arsenic and fluoride affected habitations in the next four years has also been made. “This will be a sub-mission of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme,” Jaitley said.

The allocation under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has been increased to ₹48,000 crore in 2017-18, up from ₹38,500 crore allocated in the previous Budget.

The increase, however, is marginal if compared to the revised estimate of ₹47,499 crore for 2016-17.

Hoping to lay the foundation of a digital revolution in agriculture, the Centre allocated ₹10,000 crore to the BharatNet Project and the target of reaching nearly 1.5 lakh gram panchayats with high-speed internet.

Digital Bharat

“Access to internet will allow the farmers learn about the latest technologies available in the field of agriculture, which will improve farm productivity and income. This will encourage corporate houses and start-ups to bring innovative ideas to rural India, addressing a spectrum of challenges that they currently face from soil testing and irrigation to selling their products to the world outside,” said Rajiv Tevtiya, Managing Partner & CEO, RML AgTech Pvt Ltd.

The Budget, however, did not bring any clarity on how the government would go about doubling farmers’ income as promised last year or ensure income security to farmers.

“There has been no attempt by the government to check the falling prices of agricultural produce. There is no provision to bridge the difference between the increasing farming costs and declining farm income,” said Dharmendra Malik from Bhartiya Kisan Union.

Published on February 01, 2017

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