(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
The Union finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee has once again tried to confuse the public by his jugglery of words in his Budget 2011-12 speech intending to project that the Government has doled out enough for the farmers and the rural poor. But the fact is the Budget is entirely oriented to boost the investment prospects in industry, infrastructure, capital market, services and housing sectors and has negligible positive impact for agriculture.
Agriculture has routine allocations like Rs 7,860 crore for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, Rs 400 crore for Green Revolution in the eastern region, Rs 300 crore each for production of pulses, oil palm, peri-urban vegetables, coarse cereals, fodder and for the new National Mission for protein Supplements. These allocations are meager to serve the interests of 750 million farmers in 600,000 villages in the country.
However, a good thought has come to the Finance Minister. He has admitted that soil health has deteriorated due to excessive chemical agriculture and therefore the need to encourage organic farming. The government’s decision to deliver fertilizer subsidy directly to farmers is a welcome step.
But the government has planned to deliver fertilizer subsidy only to farmers living below the poverty line. Fertiliser subsidy should be given to all farmers and the quantum of subsidy should be determined as per the land holding.
The amount should be deposited in farmers’ bank accounts. All farmers need subsidy and there should not be any distinction as ceiling on land holdings is implemented throughout the country. Farmers should be free to use the subsidy in the way he likes either for chemical farming or for organic farming. If the government wishes to promote organic farming it should provide additional subsidy to cover the high cost of organic certification.
For 2011-12 there has been a massive Rs 20000 crore cut in major subsidies on fuel, fertilizer and food from what was spent in 2010-11 (Revised Estimate). The cut in food subsidy by Rs 27 crore exposes government’s sincerity toward ensuring food security. Government should give diesel subsidy directly to farmers. The reduction in fertilizer subsidy exposes the anti-farmer character of the government.
Instead of setting of setting up of Mega Food Parks the government should assist unemployed youths in rural areas to set up small agro- processing and value addition units, cold storage and warehousing in rural areas The Budget has not given any attention to tribal farmers and those in hilly areas. The Budget has not given the needed attention to irrigation.
More than 50 million sugar-cane growers and farmers affected by natural calamities will not be able to get the benefit of government’s 3% subvention on interest for crop loans. Sugar-cane is a 11 to 18 month crop and mills pay late to farmers and therefore farmers cannot repay bank loan in a year. The government should allow at least two year’s time for repayment of crop loans so that farmers can reap the benefit government’s interest subvention scheme.
As per the Statement of Revenue Foregone, total tax concessions were to the tune of over Rs 500,000 crore in 2010-11 with corporate tax exemptions amounting over Rs 88000 crore. If the government can dole out such huge benefits to corporate houses then why it is miser towards farmers. Government’s failure to provide adequate facility for primary healthcare and education at affordable rates in rural areas exposes the exposes government’s apathy for the poor.
(Editorial : Kisan Ki Awaaz Magazine)