OPINION: This Budget looks to accelerate pace of agricultural development

Tajamul Haque

File photo of farmers planting paddy saplings in a field near Dhona, Bareilly. PTI

File photo of farmers planting paddy saplings in a field near Dhona, Bareilly.

The Interim budget for the year 2019 has been on the relief and upliftment of the poorer section of the Indian population. This includes marginal and small farmers, unorganised workers, in both rural and urban areas and the lower middle class taxpayers and those in the disaster prone areas.

During the past four and a half years, the NDA Government has initiated several schemes for the welfare of farmers and the present budget is in the same direction. Additionally, this focuses more on the vulnerable group of farmers whose level of distress is very high.

Using 2015 as the base, the Government has set a goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.

The important steps taken to improve the economic condition of farmers are i) substantial hike in the minimum support prices (A2+FL cost plus 50% margin), ii) low premium crop insurance scheme, iii) allocation of increased funds for irrigation expansion and water use efficiency (per drop more crop), iv) e-Nam, involving integration of 585 wholesale markets for online trading and access by farmers, v) up-gradation of 22000 rural haats in remote areas and their integration with wholesale markets, vi) soil health card for promoting balanced and cost-effective uses of macro and micronutrients, vii) cluster approach for production and marketing of horticultural crops to prevent distress sale, and viii) rationalisation of trade policy to promote agri-exports. If properly implemented, all such initiatives would help improve incomes of farmers in the coming years and reduce distress.

The Union budget 2019 announced interest waiver of 3 % for timely repayment of loan and an additional 2 % interest subvention in areas affected by natural disaster. Besides, those engaged in animal husbandry will be covered by Kisan Credit Card. The GOKUL Mission will get a further boost.

File photo of Farmers harvesting wheat crop at a field. Photo - PTI

File photo of Farmers harvesting wheat crop at a field.
Photo – PTI

Direct Cash Support Scheme

Another important scheme announced in the Union budget this year is Direct Cash Support scheme under which nearly 12 crore small and marginal farmers will receive Rs. 6000 per year.

Rs. 75000 crore has been allocated for this in the budget for 2019-20.

The cash will be directly deposited in the bank account of farmers and they will have the freedom to use the money in a manner they like. This is an improvement over Rythu Bandhu Scheme in Telangana which is biased towards large farmers. However, informal tenant farmers may remain excluded, because they do not have any written lease agreement or record. In the absence of the updated and digitized land record, some small and marginal farmers also may be excluded. In addition, some farmers who do not yet have Aadhar linked bank account may be excluded.

Additionally, the middle class will substantially benefit from tax exemption provision.

To conclude, the present Government has done well with schemes that would accelerate the pace of agricultural development and help reduce farmers’ distress, if properly implemented.

The Union Budget 2019-20 becomes all the more inclusive as it specifically addresses the problems of small and marginal farmers and those in disaster-affected areas. At the same time the new cash support scheme can help reduce the distress of marginal and small farmers and informal tenants more effectively if there are some transformative changes in the farm sector, especially legalisation of agricultural land leasing and updation and digitization of land records.

- T. Haque, Former Chairman CACP and Land Policy Cell, NITI Aayog