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Budget 2018: Hits for some, misses for others

Feb 15, 2018

While Budget 2018-2019 emphasises on generating productive and gainful employment for farmers and landless families, more needs to be done to enable the intended beneficiaries reap benefits.

New Delhi: Various challenges exist in the Indian economy. One of them as stated in the Economic Survey of India is about “reviving agriculture and rural development” and “creating jobs for the young and burgeoning workforce”. Taking note, the Finance Minister in Budget 2018-2019 has emphasised on generating productive and gainful employment for farmers and landless families.

This was the essence of the discussion titled ‘Of Hits and Misses: Analyses of Union Budget 2018-2019’ organised recently by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) in Delhi. The panellists included Anand Sharma (Indian National Congress), Ashwani Mahajan (Swadeshi Jagran Manch), Jayati Ghosh (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Kariya Munda (Bharatiya Janta Party), Nikhil Dey (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan) and Yamini Aiyar (Centre for Policy Research ).

This was the 88th budget of Independent India and fifth and last of the ruling government. While the 87th budget stomped many traditional processes, the 88th embraced steps to transform the traditional economy of India (agriculture). Kariya Munda called this budget, ‘rural oriented, historic, pro- gramin budget’’

To improve the plight of the sector, initiatives to double farmers’ income by 2022 continue and more schemes have been announced to realise the actualisation of increased income. The Minimum Support Price (MSP) will be one and a half time of the production cost for Kharif crops and this will be done after the same is announced for the Rabi crops. This will immensely help the consumers and producers, as Ashwani Mahajan puts it “food inflation is due to the lower price given to the farmer”.

However, questions regarding the understanding of farmers about the technicalities of MSP and percentage of beneficiaries actually reaping benefits remain. For the critics who assume farmers are unaware of technicalities like MSP are wrong as Nikhil Dey stated that “farmers know where their base price is coming from. They know what is input cost”.

India has almost 86 % small and marginal farmers who do not produce surplus to trade in market. For them this scheme holds no meaning. Additionally, Anand Sharma said that “the roadmap of implementation is missing”. Sharma also talked about the example of Madhya Pradesh wherein 20 per cent compensation is given to bring prices near the MSP. It is named as Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (Price Deficit Financing Scheme). Lessons can be drawn from the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojna.

With considerable amount of resources channelled towards Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund, Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Fund, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sanchai Yojna - Har Khet Ko Pani Scheme, Restructured National Bamboo Mission (which is of immense importance for the northeast region), Operation Green, Grameen Agriculture Markets (GrAMS), tax concessions to promote Farmer Producers Organisation (FPOs), Kisan Credit Facilities for fisheries and animal husbandry, the spine of the agriculture sector should be strengthened in time to come.

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