Peasants’ have been demanding procurement at guaranteed remunerative prices for all agricultural produce and waiver of farm loans. Peasants have been demanding quality inputs to be made available to them at a fixed price.
Stable and remunerative prices for the peasants can be guaranteed only if the State invests in strengthening and expanding public procurement. Far from of investing in public procurement, the Government of India is pursuing the opposite agenda of liberalization. It is sitting on more than double the required food stock and yet cutting supply to public distribution system. It is opening up agricultural markets to private trading interests, including Indian monopolies and foreign multinational companies.
Doubling farmer’s income by 2022 from 2015 level is the declared goal of the government. The farmers’ income has actually fallen during the last two years instead of rising. Rural wage growth has shown a declining trend since 2014, and got particularly severe after demonetisation.
The 16-point action plan that the Finance Minister announced for the agriculture sector is unlikely to result in any significant increased income in the near future.
On the other hand, the budget provision for some of the important schemes have been cut.
Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) was launched in 2019 to compensate farmers when they sold their produce at less than MSP. The budget for the scheme has been cut to one-third from Rs 1,500 crore last year to Rs 500 crore this year. This is being done when market prices have been consistently lower than MSPs for most crops except for wheat and rice.
The much-publicised Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) programme, had envisaged the annual transfer of Rs 6,000 to each farmer family in the country. The budget for 2020-21 remains at Rs 75,000 crore provided in 2019-20 for the scheme but the expenditure will be only Rs 54,370 crore in 2019-20. Some of the states did not even implement the scheme.
MNREGA provides some income support to nearly 50 crore landless farmers, who have been worst hit by the crisis in agriculture. However, the budget for the scheme has been cut by more than ten percent from Rs. 71,000 crore in 2019-20 to Rs. 61,500 crore in 2020-21.
The overall agriculture budget for 2020-21 has increased by just 3 per cent — from Rs 1.39 lakh crore in 2019-20 to Rs 1.43 lakh crore. The 2019-20 budget estimate was revised downwards by 20 per cent to Rs 1.1 lakh crore.
While the government is doing little to ensure sale of farm produce at MSP, input prices for farming have continued to increase.
The budget announced the increase in agricultural credit to Rs. 15 lakh crore. Unless farmers are assured of procurement at guaranteed prices and the availability of quality inputs at affordable prices, more credit will only increase their indebtedness and misery.
The Budget, like every year, does not put the money where the promises are made – the doubling of farmer’s income remains a cruel joke.