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Agriculture gets 3.5% for 55% farmer population of India, no mention of farm workers: NAPM on Union budget

By Our Representative
In a sharp critique of the claim that Narendra Modi government's 2016-17 budget is “pro-farmer”, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has allocated less than 3.5% to agriculture, when 55% of India’s population depends on agriculture, which is grossly insufficient particularly when farmers are facing drought.
One of India’s biggest apex bodies of mass organizations, NAPM in a statement said, most of the budget speech projects as if big favours have been made to the farming community. “However the outlay of Rs 35,984 crore in reality it is a pittance. In 2014-15, the outlay was Rs 31,000 crore, which was drastically reduced to Rs 24,910 crores in 2015-16.”
Pointing out that a almost 40-50% to farmers are reeling under drought, and thousands of farmers are committing suicide due to indebtedness, NAPM said, it was expected from the government to come up with “a major bailout package” which included “interest waiver, debt swapping of private loans with bank loans, and disaster compensation.”
“The Budget speech promises ‘income security’ to farming families, but no mechanism has been announced to ensure this”, NAPM said, adding, “Farmers’ organizations had called for a statutory, permanent farmers' income commission and a farmers' income guarantee law to assure the minimum living income to farming households.”
Then, NAPM said, there is “no allocation to ensure remunerative prices to farmers, in terms of higher minimum support price (MSP|, market intervention scheme or market stabilization fund”, NAPM said, adding, “While farmers demanded a disaster compensation of Rs 10,000 per acre, no increase was announced from the current levels of Rs 3000-4000 per acre.”
“While tenant farmers and sharecroppers are excluded from bank loans, insurance and subsidies, no measures were announced for their inclusion. There was no mention of landless farmers in the entire speech by Jaitley. Nor have any special measures have been announced for rainfed agriculture, which faces the brunt of the crisis”, NAPM said.
“The flagship crop insurance programme, Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) is being projected as a panacea to farmers, and that more than 50% of the farmers will be brought under insurance cover from the current level of less than 20%”, NAPM said.
However, it underlined, “The allocation for insurance has been raised from Rs 2,600 crore to Rs 5,500 crore, but this would not cover any additional farmers, because this would only go to the insurance companies towards higher premium subsidy for the existing insured farmers.”
It further said, the money would also go to the “IT companies for surveying the crop failure and other natural calamities to claim the insurance money, hence keeping out the gram panchayats in determining these facts at local level.”
“The target of bringing additional 28.5 lakh hectares under irrigation in 5 years is to be welcomed – but this amounts to less than 2% of the net cultivated area of 141 million hectares”, NAPM said, adding, “The allocation from the Centre is only Rs 12,000 crore towards the Prime Minister Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY)”, while in 2014-15, it was Rs 13,492 crore but spending was a mere Rs 5,630 crore.
“Even after allocation and success of projects, the benefits have always remain in question, as in past, the projects started for catering to the needs of irrigation converted for the industrial demand of water supply. It has been seen in the famous Sardar Sarovar Dam Project, where after 30 years, 6 lakh hectares is decommissioned from irrigation to industries when less than 20% of the target of irrigation is realised at ground”, NAPM said.
As the claim that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) has received a major boost, NAPM said, “When 40% of the nation is reeling under drought, a much higher allocation was expected to the tune of Rs 60,000 crores. The actual allocation is only Rs. 38,500 crore – which appears high only because of the drastic cuts in the past two years. This only brings it to the level of 2011-12 when the allocation was Rs. 39,000 crores.”

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