Opposition criticises low priority to agriculture in Budget

Indian Express, July 16, 2019

In a discussion on the demands for grants for the Ministries of Rural Development, and Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, members of Opposition parties criticised the low priority accorded to the sector in the Union Budget, even as BJP MPs praised the many schemes introduced by the government.

The discussion, which began at 2.45 pm, went on for over seven hours. It began with Congress’s Uttam Kumar Reddy from Telangana, who said that almost 12,000 farmers commit suicide annually due to rural distress while the government merely “pays lip service but neglects farmers and their distressed situation”. He said that as against promises of doubling farmers’ income, the Economic Survey revealed that their income has remained the same over the last four years, and that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) is being “calculated unscientifically”.

He added, “GST on agricultural implements, tractors, fertilisers and other inputs, and machinery should either be exempt entirely or kept at the lowest slab.”

Reddy as well as several other members, including Shiv Sena’s Pratap Rao Jadhav and BJP’s Devji Patel, demanded that agriculture should be linked to work provided under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme (MGNREGA).

“Seventy per cent of people are dependent on agriculture… If MGNREGA is linked to agriculture, then farm labourers will be able to get work under MGNREGA for as many as 200 days instead of just 100 days,” said Jadhav.

He added that the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has benefited mostly the insurance companies with claims settled being as low as 15 percent.

Praising the many schemes of the government, including the PM-KISAN scheme, BJP MP from Rothak Arvind Kumar Sharma said, “Previously, of the Re 1 meant for a scheme, only 15 paise was actually spent on it. Now the entire Rs 1 goes for the scheme, there is no siphoning off.”

Several MPs including Reddy, and TDP’s Jaidev Galla criticised the BJP-led government for brandishing the PM-KISAN scheme as the answer to rural distress, terming the annual amount of Rs 6,000 that is given per farmer as grossly inadequate, adding that excludes 2.1 crore tenant farmers across the country.

TMC MP Pratima Mondal pointed out that the allocation for the Rural Development Ministry has in fact fallen this year, including the allocation for MGNREGA. Demanding an explanation for the low allocation to the sector, TDP’s Jayadev Galla said, “What is Rs 6,000 for a farmer contemplating suicide? A last round of drinks before he hangs himself? PM-KISAN scheme is now being positioned as a direct cash transfer scheme to increase rural consumption. Instead of saving farmers, the government is worried about consumption.”

IUML member E T Mohammed Basheer accused the government of “injustice” towards Kerala, which will see only 1,424 km roads of the total 1.25 lakh km roads planned under Phase-III of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.

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