Budget has totally ignored agriculture, farmers and rural labour: Experts & unions

FARMER UNIONS and agriculture experts which had pinned their hopes on the Union Budget to boost the rural economy and provide huge relief to distress farming called it “hopeless”, “disappointing”, “concealed” at a time when the Centre has made made big claims about enhancing farmers’ income by 2022.

Experts said total budget allocations for agriculture, irrigation, and rural development was Rs 2.68 lakh crore in 2019-20, which has been nominally increased to Rs 2.83 lakh crore. In real terms, taking inflation into account, this amounts to zero increase, an expert said.

Others said there is no road map on how the government will enhance farmers’’ income to double in the coming two years. The Modi-1 government in its 2017 budget had declared that in coming five years i.e. by 2022, farmers’ income would be doubled.

“Three years have already lapsed and the government should declare how much income of farmers had increased in these three years and how the government will double it in coming two years,” said BKU Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan.

He further asked why the finance minister had not provided a road map for this.

“This was the most hopeless budget of Modi-1 and Modi-2 governments till date as it has neither touched the MS Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations nor the debt waiver of farmers, which were most sought after demands of the farmers,” said agricultural expert and economic expert Professor Gian Singh, who retired from the economics department of Patiala University.

This will prove detrimental for farmers’ income, savings, and cannot bring our economy out of the slump, he added.

Bhartiya Kisan Union, Ekta (Dakaunda) general secretary Jagmohan Singh said, “If the government was sensitive enough towards farmers and the rural economy it should have brought the C2 formula in practice to ensure public and private purchasing agencies so farmers get a guaranteed MSP of C2 + 50 per cent.” He added that the budget fails to boost rural purchasing power rather it boosted profits of big corporates and MNCs.

“We will protest against this budget,” he said.

“It has increased penetration of MNCs and corporate giants in agriculture inputs supply, procurement of crops, storage, agri-processing, insurance and marketing of crops. It will lead to exploitation of farmers who will get less and companies will eat up more profit,” said Jagmohan, adding that in the past two years, government failed to provide declared MSP of most of the crops which could have done with its intervention in the market.
“Why has allocation for the biggest rural employment program MGNREGS been sliced from Rs 71,001 crore to Rs 61,500 crore in 2020-21, a cut of Rs 9,500 crore (14 per cent), when the total demand from states amounts to nearly Rs 1 lakh crore under it,” said Pendu Mazdoor Union president Tarsem Peter, adding that this will further increase assured 100 days employment in the rural area.

All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) representative said, “Budget documents reveal that there is a huge gap between announcements and actual expenditure as in 2018-19. It was promised that 22,000 rural haats will be upgraded to Grameen Agriculture Markets (GrAM), but after two years, the implementation has not begun and only 0.5 per cent funds spent. In 2019-20, only Rs 1,500 crore was allocated under it and only Rs 321 crore were spent. The allocation has now been slashed to Rs 500 crore.”

“In another glaring example, in 2017-18, the Budget speech announced a Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund of Rs 10,881 crore to be spent within three years. Actual expenditure so far has been only Rs 440 crore. The current Budget has only Rs 60 crore under this head. Similarly, PM Krishi Sinchai Yojana allocation for micro-irrigation was Rs 3,500 crore and only Rs 2,032 crore spent in 2019-20. Allocation has been reduced to Rs 2,000 crore in 2020-21,” said AIKSCC representative, adding that there are no measures for protection from stray animals and Fasal Bima.