(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
The Budget outlay on agriculture is grossly inadequate. They are far from sufficient to revolutionize agriculture and ameliorate it from crippling sluggishness. As an entity, its power to sustain a vast majority of our people, generate employment opportunities and contribute towards overall growth of GDP must have been viewed perspectively for making ambitious provisions in the budget.
There are reasons to apprehend if the budgetary provisions can really extricate agriculture from the present ruinous state and revolutionise it into a thriving super economy capable of spearheading hurdles emanating from the enigma of unequal globalization. The needs of our toiling small and marginal farmers have not been adequately appreciated. The budget outlay should have been more meaningful and true to country’s needs.
We must ensure high stake growth of agriculture. It is a compulsive situation and recourse to an escape route will only lead towards economic devastation. Allocations of Rs. 400 crore for micro irrigation, Rs. 18334 cr for rural development and Rs. 16254 crore as fertilizer subsidy may help in sustaining agro-rural sector only to some extent but considering the dwindling water resources, the amount earmarked for micro-irrigation should have been much more if the area under micro irrigation has to be increased from 1.2 million hectare to 3 million hectare.
Likewise, the projections to bring additional one crore hectare under irrigation within the next five years entails a greater vision and high-tech approach for water conservation and preservation including watershed management, recharge of water bodies and application of appropriate technology for rainwater harvesting. There seems to be a wide gap between what we need and the meagre sum of Rs. 1100 cr. earmarked for rural electric transmission.
But the allocation of Rs. 4750 crore under newly established Gramin Drinking Water Mission and 2.16 lakh villages that will be benefited under the Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Yojana are most welcome. Considering the magnitude of the problem, the sum of Rs. 180 crore to control floods in the north ease seems very insignificant. Krishi Bima Yojana should be implimented instantly.
Allocations of Rs. 72 crore for new agricultural marketing scheme, Rs. 7123 crore for Gramin Sadak Yojna, Rs. 7156 crore for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Rs. 630 crore for sanitation and the proposal to connect villages having a population of 1000 with roads will no doubt help socio-economic interaction and integration but the Govt must see that the allocations under these heads should not go to the coffers of corporate houses. The ambitious amount of Rs. 5000 crore earmarked for development of backward districts seems pragmatic.
An outlay of Rs. 5,400 crore for food-for-work programme is also very promising. Growth in rural credit from 25% to 30% has been visualized for 2005-2006. Rs. 8000 crore corpus for rural infrastructure development and Rs. 5200 crore (inclusive of Rs. 400 crore for micro-irrigation) may enhance productivity if only the beneficiaries are involved with related projects. Launching of Rashtriya Bagwani Mission and increase in incentives for agro processing may help in employment generation.
Hike in the budget for development of rural sector from Rs. 13885.40 crore to 18353.87 crore, commitment in the Budget for the construction of additional 60 lakhs houses for the poor, provisions of drinking water for the remaining 74000 habitations, power connections to 2.3 crore households, assurance of reaching electricity to remaining 1,25,000 villages and telephone connectivity to remaining 66822 villages will definitely improve the quality of life in the rural belt of the country.
The launch of National Rural Health Mission, Training Centres for Farmers, reorganisation and restructuring of Cooperative Banks to make them more responsive and service oriented to enhance agricultural development and growth are some of the finer elements of the Budget.
To bail out the Sugar industry from debt burden, Govt. has in principle agreed to reschedule the debt of Rs. 6,500 crore. All loans which remained outstanding as on 31.03.2004 will be converted into long terms loan repayable in 10-12 years and the scheme for its effective implementation will be worked out by NABARD in consultation with Indian Banks Association.
It is just ridiculous to levy Rs. 10 on every Rs. 10,000 withdrawal from the Banks. As the saying goes in its modified form - “There are many a slips between allocations and implementation.” So let us look into the future as to how the things are get done
(Editorial : Farmers' Forum Magazine)