Farm income support is not a subsidy: Goyal

Shishir Sinha |Richa Mishra | | Updated on: Feb 06, 2019

Loan waivers help the bigger farmers more, but we are helping the smaller farmers more, says Interim Finance Minister

Stand-in Finance Minister Piyush Goyal found himself in the thick of things when he presented the Interim Budget on February 1. The last Budget of the Narendra Modi-led government and Goyal’s maiden one was on the expected lines — wooing the vote bank as the country is set to go into general elections. The chartered accountant in Goyal was at his best when BusinessLine caught up with him for the post-Budget chat. Goyal dismissed the concerns on fiscal numbers, while clearly stating that the dole out for the farmers is “not a subsidy.” Excerpts:

Concerns are being raised on fiscal deficit numbers. How do you react to them?

I don’t think there is any concern...The number is 3.36 per cent of GDP. Anybody would have made it 3.3 per cent. I think the world is seeing the honesty in our Budget and our reporting. The fact that we have constantly stuck to fiscal prudence throughout the five- year term and that we provided ₹20,000 crore there was 0.1 per cent increase. I think nobody in the market is taking these numbers as a big concern. We have been the most fiscally prudent government in a long time.

You are still confident with the numbers at 112 per cent in the nine-month period, which is 11 per cent more than RE...

We will be able to stick to 3.4 per cent. We have gone through the numbers in great details and you know the government systems are robust in this respect. So, I am quiet confident that we will be able to stick to that number.

Can the farmer income support be seen as subsidy?

It is not a subsidy, it’s more a respect for our farmers...We see somebody has 1,000 or 2,000 square metres of land and they are facing severe stress, so without linking the amount to landholding, we worked a scheme.

Sitting in an AC room, one does not realise the value of ₹6,000 in a farmer’s life who has just 1,000 or 2,000 square metres of land. We see it as an additional funding for the farmer at a time of each harvest, each crop. For each crop, he has to pay electricity bill, buy fertilisers etc.

We are moving towards the three crop pattern. I said in my vision statement that we want to promote micro irrigation etc. We are looking to see how we can, through the soil health card and ensure that they can make maximum use of the land holding.

The Government is focusing on food processing, so that we can become large exporters of foodgrains or food products. The government’s vision is to provide for sustainable agriculture in the long run, not just a one-time sop like the Congress did in its 10-year rule. They brought one-time loan waiver which promised ₹70,000 crore, but actual disbursement was ₹52,000 crore, that also to some three crore people. Now, three crore farmers got ₹14,000 in 10 years, we are going to give ₹7.5 lakh crore to 12.5 crore farmers.

What about tillers, bataidaar , kashkar ?

Farmers understand what is good for them. They also understand what is sustainable. Loan waivers help the bigger farmers more, we are helping smaller farmers more.

When you are preparing a scheme like this and trying to ensure that everybody gets the benefit, there may be few people who sub-let their land to tillers. It will be given to everybody as there is record anywhere in the system, about the actual tiller of each land. Government records are available, even at the State level, only of land owners.

What about States having such schemes already? How will that work?

The States’ scheme are completely inverted. If they give on per acre basis, that scheme helps bigger farmers and not the smaller ones. We have to give more to small farmers, a much larger canvas.

Basically, both can run parallely. Yes, if the States wants to add any more scheme, they are welcome to do so.

Then the States will take credit also..

It is not about credit debit. For us it is about giving respect to the farmers. Data base is there, they are free to use that.

The tax proposal has generated debate over rebate vs exemption....

This is an Interim Budget, we have not come out with all our proposals. The Prime Minister also said that it is only a trailer. Now what the Congress did in 2014 Interim Budget, they made the prices of SUVs and luxury cars cheaper. I can’t understand what was the emergent need, desperation at that time to lower prices of SUVs and luxury cars They could not wait for four months so that the rich can get cheaper cars.

But for us, we thought of the middle class. If they don’t know in advance, their budget planning will be difficult. So we told them as their TDS will start from April onwards. Also, they will have to go back for tax refunds and wait for that. So in all fairness, it is the 3-crore middle class, who are straight beneficiaries of this rebate, that should know upfront about their tax liability. Final tax proposals will come in the regular Budget.

How about pension for the unorganised sector workers which you have announced...

We have to make everybody secure in this country. So all those between the age of 18 and 40 years, to begin with, can join this scheme. Premiums are very low. 50 per cent they pay, 50 per cent we pay. Our effort is to give as much benefit to the common man, as much we can for the unorganised sector workers, farmers, middle class, so that all of them can become the engine of growth.

Published on February 06, 2019

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