Agri Business

Will Congress’s Kisan Budget bring acche din for farmers?

Shishir Sinha New Delhi | Updated on April 02, 2019 Published on April 02, 2019

The Congress manifesto promises a separate Budget for farmers   -  AP

However, many economists dismissed this idea on the grounds that it cannot be like an ordinary Budget where both income and expenditure have equal importance.

The Congress on Tuesday unveiled its 22-point agenda to address issues related to agriculture, farmers and farm labourers. These points include ‘Karz Mukti’ (freedom from indebtedness) and redesigning the rural employment programme. But what seems to be much talked about is the proposed ‘Kisan Budget.’

“In order to prioritise issues affecting the agricultural sector, we will present a separate budget for farmers,” said the Congress manifesto.

This could either mean a separate Budget like the one for Railways had till 2016 or a dedicated section in the General Budget itself.

BusinessLine spoke to a number of economists regarding the structure of the new proposal. In case of a separate Budget, the Kisan Budget will have a receipt and expenditure segment. Economists said the receipt Budget will have minimum entries, because there are not many earning sources from this sector, while the expenditure section will have maximum entries. This Budget could be presented by the Agriculture Minister.

However, many economists dismissed this idea on the grounds that it cannot be like an ordinary Budget where both income and expenditure have equal importance.

“Kisan Budget, as promised, may not add anything more than what is highlighted in the manifesto, but can help the Congress keep the narrative of the electoral debate focussed on agrarian issues, where they feel they have an advantage,” an economist, who did not want to be identified, said.

NR Bhanumurthy, Professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), said there could be a dedicated section on agriculture in the General Budget. It will have the outlays of various line ministries related with farm sector in one space. States such as Madhya Pradesh have adopted this system.

Freedom from indebtedness

Another issue which became debatable is how to deal with farm loans. The Congress’ manifesto charted a path for freedom from indebtedness.

“We will not stop with just providing Karz Maafi or a loan waiver. Through a combination of remunerative prices, lower input costs, and assured access to institutional credit, we will set our kisans on the path to karz mukti,” the manifesto said. It added that there will be no criminal proceedings against farmers who fail to pay back the loans.

Commenting on this, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “It is not within the jurisdiction of the Centre. Some States have debt recovery law and a criminal case can be registered under that. Let the Congress-ruled States scrap this law.”

Published on April 02, 2019
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