How useful will farmer support be? -Sanjiv Phansalkar

It will not be easy to optimally deploy the basic income support announced by the government for small and marginal farmers. The scheme has large exclusions in the landless and the women as well

India has taken the first step in providing basic income support to small and marginal farmers owning up to 2 hectares of land. This is to be a direct benefit transfer (DBT) of an annual Rs 6,000 in three installments. The government hopes this will act both as income support as well as for buying inputs.

I will refrain from ascribing political intents to this provision. I am not interested if this is populism close to elections or a measure to counter the allegedly game-changing announcement by a rival. Suffice it to say that an annual spending of Rs 75,000 crore will not break the back of our economy. The issue is whether it is optimally deployed or not.

I presume that the procedures for making this transfer will be laid down and implementation will begin in the next three months. There are three issues connected with this. First, who will this help? The second is what purpose would this serve. The third is the continuation of the neglect of feminization in agriculture.

Who will this help? The Finance Minister in Budget speech said any farmer who has land of 2 hectares or less will get the benefit. Let me not get into this equal treatment of farmers in rich irrigated tract growing three crops a year, and those in drought-prone areas growing one decent crop in three years.

So, if one has a farm of less than 2 hectares, then one gets Rs 6,000. I have a small farm plot of about a tenth of a hectare. Am I also eligible? If yes, thank you FM sir, but really I do not deserve your largesse.

Landless excluded

Since this provision is only for farmers, landless families are clearly excluded. Wisdom of doing that is debatable. But clearly, exclusions need to be defined to avoid waste of public money. The hard issues are about lakhs of cases of farmers whose ancestral properties have not been formally distributed and the land remains in the name of a parent gone years ago.

Please click here to read more., 6 February, 2019,

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