144% More Funds For Agriculture, But Not Enough To Quell Farm Unrest - Nilachala Acharya
Agriculture has got an unprecedented 144% rise in allocation in the interim budget announced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government--from Rs 57,600 crore in the 2018-19 budget estimates to Rs 1,40,764 crore in the interim budget.
This took the share of the agriculture ministry in the total union budget to 5.2%, a benchmark succeeding governments will be compelled to match for political reasons. For context, the share has been around 2.3%-2.4% since 2014-15, when the BJP came to power.
However, this unprecedented hike in allocation will be inadequate to fight the ongoing agricultural crisis that has led to widespread farm agitations in India. Our analysis of the budget allocation for the sector shows that the amount provisioned for various agricultural schemes, such as the critical irrigation mission, is inadequate. The new income security schemeis short-sighted and inadequate, providing eligible farmers just Rs 500 per month or Rs 3.5 per person per day (considering a household size of five)--not enough to buy a cup of tea, as has been pointed out. It also offers less effective coverage than the Odisha and Telangana income support schemes whose success inspired it.
Not enough to compensate for long years of neglect
In an era of record harvests, prices of agricultural produce have crashed, unpaid agricultural loans have grown, and 600 million Indians who depend on farming struggle to get by, as IndiaSpend reported on November 30, 2018.
The root cause of the agricultural crisis is the perennial neglect of farmers and the deficient policies implemented over the last two decades. Farmers have been demanding the expansion of public provisioning and definitive steps towards the proper implementation of programmes such as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, the flagship programme for the agriculture sector, and more flexibility for states to adopt interventions needed to address local concerns.
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