(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
The Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram has deliberately ignored the farmers and the agriculture sector in the Union Budget 2013-14 at a time when the Government is gearing up to re-introduced the Food Security Bill in its amended form.
He should know that farmers alone are the givers of food security to the nation. This cannot be compensated through imports which would be costly and a drain on national exchequer.
In fact the Finance Minister is not much concerned about reviving economic growth which has slipped down to 5% (CSO estimate) or 5.5% (RBI estimate) – the lowest in a decade. Shamelessly he has just taken consolation by saying that among major economies, only China and Indonesia were growing faster than India and if Indian economy grows at the rate projected by many forecasters, only China will grow faster than India. His words are – “Let me say, however, there is no reason for gloom or pessimism.”
But what was expected from Chidambaram when polls are ahead in 2014 has come out in black and white. The Budget makes tall claims of achievements, lip-service concerns for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women and children – the constituency that matters for the ruling party. He cleverly played the game of allocations, which is a routine exercise in a Budget. The overplayed the increase in allocations to crucial sectors like agriculture, health, social sectors which otherwise is a must when the prices are rising.
The Finance Minister took no initiative to formulate policies for boosting agriculture growth which has declined to 1.8% on account of delayed monsoon and erratic rains. The hardship of farmers in producing over 250 million tonne food grains under adverse conditions did not motivate him do something tangible for the givers of food security. He made a mere allocation of Rs 0.95 crore for subsidy on diesel in drought-hit and deficit rainfall areas.
Chidambaram made no new policy initiative for irrigation when about 65% of the farmland in the country have no assured irrigation facility. Similarly there is no new initiative for improving soil health which is necessary for boosting farm productivity.
The country imports pulses and edible oil to meet the requirement and the finance minister, who has made allocations for subsidy on imports of these commodities, should know it is high time to revive the Technology Mission on Oilseeds, Pulses and Maize which had done commendable work in the past.
The allocations made for developing micro-nutrient crops should not used for developing GM crops which causes health and environmental hazards.
The Finance Minister, who is eager for increasing job opportunities and skill development, should know that rural youth need job opportunities. This can be done if the Government promotes small and medium-sized agro-based industries in villages. The rural youth should be engaged in input supply to farms and market agro produces.
In absence of pragmatic approach to agriculture and instead on the real cause of farmers’ suicides, the Finance Minister has encouraged farmers to further enter the debt trap.
(Editorial : Kisan Ki Awaaz Magazine)