The Budget has focussed on the twin objectives of growth and inclusiveness. The overall emphasis is to develop infrastructure, energise investments, strengthen the rural sector and empower women. The focus on ‘ Gaon, Garib and Kisan ’ would augur well for the development of the rural sector and mitigate rural distress. The various schemes announced are a testimony of the same.

In the agriculture sector, the plan to promote 10,000 FPOs (farmer producer organisations) is a major step. As majority of the farmers are small and marginal, the step will help bring them together and benefit from the collective bargaining power by realising better value for their produce. NABARD has adequate experience in promoting FPOs and can support the government in this initiative.

Promoting zero-budget farming is another step in the right direction — considering the steep increase in the usage of inputs leading to higher input costs in agriculture — that will lead to sustainable agriculture practices in the country. There are several initiatives made to popularise zero-budget farming by several eminent personalities and NABARD has also involved itself in supporting the same. With uncontrolled inputs usage in many parts of the country, the soil and water have been polluted leading to lower productivity and environmental disasters. This step will help in rejuvenating a healthy agriculture practice and lead to doubling of income of farmers.

Self-help groups (SHGs) have come a long way since their beginning in the early 1990s. NABARD has supported the promotion and credit linkage of the same from the beginning and now there are more than 10 million SHGs in the country. The scheme to provide interest subvention to all women SHGs will increase credit availment by SHG women and reduce their cost of borrowing. The incentives proposed for women SHGs will not only lead to livelihood generation and women empowerment, but also nurture first generation entrepreneurs though the MUDRA loans of ₹1 lakh. With the proposed interventions, rural women can transform themselves from job seekers to job creators.

Boosting private investment

Robust growth will be achieved through the proposed investment of ₹1 lakh crore over the next five years. This will lead to multiplier effects in generation of demand, and shall crowd in further private investment.

The announcement of a new scheme — Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana — is another important step which will give a boost to the fisheries sector, with goals of better fisheries management, infrastructure creation, increasing production and productivity, improved post-harvest management, as well as improved quality control and traceability of fisheries output to promote exports.

Similarly, the proposed scheme to benefit and transform tradition industries, by following a cluster-based approach to upgrade regional and traditional industries involving technology upgrade will help develop this sector, which has been languishing for a long. The scheme will benefit 50,000 rural artisans through 100 new clusters in the current fiscal, and the thrust areas will be bamboo, honey and khadi. Similarly, creating skilled rural entrepreneurs through ASPIRE scheme will promote setting up of livelihood and technology business incubators in the agri-rural sector.

The Budget seeks to uphold the philosophy of Mazboot Desh, Mazboot Nagrik with a goal of sustained growth over the next few years to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25. This goal is within grasp, since India has added $1 trillion to is GDP in the past five years, and is already the sixth-largest economy in the world.

The writer is Chairman, NABARD