(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
The Budget, we expected to be genuinely reformist, able to resuscitate agriculture. It is full of usual rhetoric and leaves a wide gap between the meagre out lay for agriculture and the gigantic task ahead. It may sound hard hitting to say that agriculture received a beating once again by the govt. but the allocations earmarked under various heads are just incongruous to make a dent into International market and face the challenges thrown by globalisation.
The Finance Minister should have applied his prudence to bring rain water harvesting, post harvest technology and the technology mission on oilseads and pulses also under the flagship programmes. Pre-budget promise of a livelihood budget too has gone missing. It is rather a drag on the patience of the agro-rural sector and does not bode well for agrarian peace. Outlay for agriculture is just too insufficient and too inadequate to revamp the lost ground.
Outlay of Rs. 7,121 crore for AIBP during 2006-07 is less by Rs. 500 crore than the amount projected earlier. In the back drop of projected additional one crore hectare that has to be brought under irrigation between 2005-09, under the Bharat Nirman Programme, the claim of the finance minister to have brought 6 lakh hectare under irrigation pales into insignificance. Stipulated increase in the level of farm credit through Banks up to Rs 175,000 crore in 2006-07 is expected to add another 50 lakh farmers under this portfolio.
Banks have been made responsive to extend credit facilities under a separate window to self-helf group or joint liability group of tenant farmer. Allocation of Rs. 1,700 crore to meet the interest liability of borrowers for the loans availed from the banks for Kharif-Rabi 2005-06 is not enough to provide relief to the farmers from debt-burden. To our utter disappointment, instead lowering the interest rate on all categories of farm credit to 4%, the Govt. ensures 7% interest and that too only on short term credit.
Though belated but the Govt. now seems to be conscious of the needs of the North-East. Keeping in view the North-East component, the Budgetary support of Rs. 12,160 crore in the current year under the Bharat Nirman, has been increased to Rs. 18,696 crore in 2006-07.
Can we really build-up the right infrastructure in just Rs. 10,000 crore, the amount earmarked for RIDF? We call upon the Govt to ensure active and collaborative participation of the direct beneficiaries in all infrastructure development projects and schemes.
Outlay of Rs. 1,000 crore for food processing through NABARD, Rs. 630 crore for National Horticultural Mission during the launch year 2005, contribution of Rs. 100 crore to be chanalised through the proposed Special Purpose Tea Fund, allocation of Rs. 14,300 crore during 2006-07 under the NREG scheme, projections to electricity 40,000 additional villages are all very well meaning no doubt but should be implemented perspectively and within the stipulated time frame. On the negative side, there is no clarity on crop insurance. For the 83% small and marginal farmers, the benefit is less than 25%.
The Govt. is still dithering on the issue of enhancing food, fertilizer and petroleum subsidies. The Govt’s view to target subsidies at the poor and needy is just misleading. There are 83% small and marginal farmers and the Govt still needs to identity the really needy and poor.
Claim of Finance minister that agricultural growth has bounced back to 2.3 percent sound nice from statistical point of view but if we were to trust the feed back from the CSO there was no need to import 5 lakh tonnes of wheat specially when harvesting of wheat is just round the corner.
Today, the Govt is glossing over the idea to designate the year as the ‘Year of Agricultural Renewal’ Paradoxically and shamelessly too, does not it sound ridiculous that from independence down to the present day there has been a continuous drain on the poor tax payers’ money and public exchequer in the name of agricultural development and growth and the Govt is still talking is terms of agricultural renewal? Given the natural resources and geo-ecological advantages, any country could have become the granary of the world in fifty years.
Who is responsible for creating the pathetic mess ie the sad status of agriculture today. Ground has already been laid for making Indian agriculture subservient to MNCs under the impact of the so-called 2nd Green Revolution, a synonym for Bio-technology and the Indo-US Initiative on Agriculture.
Some fifty years later, there will be another call for a 3rd Green Revolution and renewal of agriculture, opening the flood gate for total take over of Indian agriculture by the MNCs.
And things will go on like that. Humiliating as it is, the Indo-US Initiative on Agriculture surely implies that we, the people of this great nation, its farmers and agriculural scientists are not capable, industrious and intelligent enough to bring prosperity through agriculture on their own.
(Editorial : Farmers' Forum Magazine)