Krishak Bandhu: Mamata announces sops for farmers

Our Bureau Kolkata | Updated on December 31, 2018 Published on December 31, 2018

Mamata Banerjee

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjeeannounced sops to woo the farm sector.

Dubbed as ‘Krishak Bandhu’, the scheme bears similarity to the Telengana government’s flagship ‘Rythu Bandhu’ in terms of providing financial assistance to farmers and landless labourers. Against the Telegana government’s promised ₹8,000 an acre, the West Bengal government will give an annual financial assistance (cash dole) of ₹5,000 per acre in two instalments – one during kharif and another during rabi – for a single crop. Farmers can take the financial assistance at one go too.

The West Bengal government’s scheme has gone a step further, and announced a life insurance cover of ₹ 2,00,000 in case of death, irrespective of the cause, of an earning family member (farmer) aged between 18 and 60 years. Farmers need not pay any premium for availing this life insurance cover. The ‘Krishak Bandhu’ scheme may be extended to 72 lakh farmers and share-cropper families in the State. “The registration of farmers and share-croppers under this scheme will start February onwards. Benefits will accrue from January 1, 2019,” said the Chief Minister at the State Secretariat on Monday.

However, for a State deep in debt, the ‘Krishak Bandhu’ scheme leads to further burden on the exchequer. By Banerjee’s own admission “the scheme will lead to additional financial burden”.

For instance, the average land holding per cultivator in Bengal is pegged at around 0.5 hectares (or 1.2 acres). Now the farmer gets an assistance of ₹5,000 per acre. So the payout is pegged at around ₹6,000. At this rate, a payout to even 50 lakh farmers means an annual burden of ₹3,000 crore on the exchequer.

“We will manage (the finances),” said the Chief Minister.The decision is seen as a political move, with the Chief Minister looking to negate the politics surrounding farm loan waivers.

“Banerjee knows farm distress is one space that the BJP-led government at the Centre is trying to contain. Farm loan waivers have become a political weapon now and are reaping benefits. If she can provide an alternative, she not just gains popularity, it also negates the politics centred-around farm loan waiver,” a political analyst told BusinessLine.

Published on December 31, 2018
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor