Union Budget 2019 : The Modi government has been ‘doubling’ farmers’ income since its inception
Clearly, the promise of doubling farmers’ income is nothing fresh or new, as it has been made many a time in the previous budgets as well. However, nothing has materialised to the benefit of the farmers yet.
The emphasis on agriculture in the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s budget speech was as vague as it could be. At a time when farmer suicides are rising due to the low profitability of agriculture, the budget chalked out no clear plan for solving the agrarian crisis.
“We will invest widely in agricultural infrastructure,” the finance minister began her part of the speech that highlighted the provisions for the agricultural sector. What followed was a slew of vague promises with no mention of allocation or methods to achieve the goals.
However, according to the budget documents, 1.39 lakh crore has been allocated to the agricultural sector (same as in the interim budget 2019-20), out of which Rs. 75,000 crore was for the scheme Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).
“Dairying through cooperatives shall also be encouraged by creating infrastructure for cattle feed manufacturing, milk procurement, processing & marketing,” the finance minister said.
However, she made no mention of allocations in this regard or HOW such activities will be encouraged.
She also said that 10,000 new Farmer Producer Organizations will be formed over the next five years. She added that the government will work with the state governments to make sure that farmers are benefited from e-NAM, an online trading platform of agricultural commodities in India.
As usual as the promise of doubling farmers' income by 2022 was made, this time the focus was on zero budget farming. Zero budget farming is the practice of employing methods that require zero credit and that involve cutting down of cost of production with the use of natural fertilizers. It is practised by many farmers, mainly in South Indian states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Subhash Palekar, an Indian agriculturist is one of the pioneers of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF).
Though the idea of focussing on ZBNF is indeed appreciable, the finance minister didn’t elaborate on it much or speak on the strategy of achieving the goal; rather just said that we should replicate this model, by which farmers’ income can be doubled in time for our 75th year of Independence.
Clearly, the promise of doubling farmers’ income is nothing fresh or new, as it has been made many a time in the previous budgets as well. However, nothing has materialised to the benefit of the farmers yet. High cost of production and low food price inflation have been adversely affecting the rural economy in recent times. Liberalisation and various government actions like demonetisation aggravated the problems of the farmers across the country.
As far as the farmers are concerned, the budget seems to be another ‘all talk no action’ kind of one. The time is yet to come when the government takes matters of the farmers of the country a bit more seriously.