CEC, AIKMS has criticized the Union Budget for failing to address problems of farm sector and rural poor. Agriculture is facing a severe crises due to costly and irregular supply of inputs, insecure prices, crop damage and virtually no compensation. Farmers and agricultural workers face heavy debts and are committing suicide. Demonitization caused maximum harm to farmers, but the govt. has not taken any step to help farmers.
Finance Minister Jaitley’s budget proposals are a continuation of the anti farmer measures of previous years. His so called pro farmer measures include increasing debts to Rs 10 lac crores. He has refused loan waivers for farmers and microfinance loans of agricultural workers although industrial loans have been waived. He has refused to decrease custom duty and reduce diesel prices for farmers. He has refused to grant free electricity through Solar panels to reduce costs or to improve agricultural infrastructure and services.
He has made two big unsubstantiated announcements in line with BJP’s culture of falsifying facts and making tall claims. One is farmer’s income will double in 5 years. Sale of crop does not even pay for daily wage of farmers and they suffer heavy losses, leading to debts and FM is talking about double income.
FM has also claimed that target of 5 lakh farm ponds has been achieved and by March 2017 10 lakh farm ponds will be completed. This is a complete lie. The IV Mini Irrigation Census in 2006-07 had listed a total of 5 lac water bodies irrigating less than 2000 hectares each and a total of 7.98 lac water bodies. Of these the govt. was able to take up Repair, Restoration and Rehabilitation of only 1000 to 1500 tanks per year. FM’s claims have no relation to even govt. records.
The increased allocation of Rs 20,000 cr for irrigation is long term and remains undefined when it will be done.
FM has announced 40% cropped area for crop insurance. He has not explained that why farmers suffering losses of crop value of Rs 50,000 and above per acre are paid measely sums of Rs 1000 and 1200 as compensation and how he will address this problem.
FM has ‘increased’ MNREGS allocation to Rs 48,000 crores while RE shows that on Feb 1, 2017 expenditure under this head was already Rs 53,594 crores. He has also patted himself for increasing women’s enrollment from 45 to 55% without explaining that wages are so low, less than half the market wages that men prefer not to work there.
FM has announced increased payment to pregnant mothers as a positive health care measure without explaing it is with several riders. Moreover women employees of ICDS Anganwadi, ASHA workers and schhool assistants are the lowest paid ‘govt.servants’, getting less than a fourth of the minimum wages.
Some measures have been announced for skill development and dairy infrastructure. But there is no announcment of plans for development of modern rural life along with safeguards for farm income which alone can help solve the unemployment problem. On the contrary govt has announced a new Contract Farming law which will hand over control of farming to companies and farmers will loose their independence as well as their land.
The most dangerous announcement is of 4.1% claimed agricultural growth rate this year and suggestions to promote GM seeds to ensure such growth rate in the next year. Budget for rural roads, rural drinking water, rural health remain stagnant which means with increasing costs, services will come down.
The budget is anti farmer and pro MNCs and their middlemen.
(Dr. Ashish Mital)