The Bold Voice of J&K

Agriculture and Union Budget 2017-18

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Dr. Parveen Kumar, Dr. Anil Kumar

Going against the set precedent, the Finance Minister, Government of India presented the Union Budget 2017-18 on 1st February, 2018 in the Parliament. This budget was a special one as this was to be presented after the surgical strike on the Indian currency; the demonetisation drive. Common man had quite good expectations from this budget and as per their expectations; the budget brought some tax relief for the common man. It stressed on rural development through increased allocation for the MGNREGA, increased spending on social sectors and provision of affordable housing for all. As agriculture is at the core of Indian economy, so it is interesting that government has shown seriousness through increased allocation in this sector. It is expected that the agricultural sector will grow at a rate of 4.1 per cent in the current financial year The total outlay for the agriculture and allied sector in the budget 2017-18 stand at rupees 58,663 crores and this amount is more than rupees 52,821 crore in the last financial year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already desired to double the farmers’ income by the year 2022. Keeping in mind the proposed doubling of famer income, the budget has many provisions which aim at fulfilling this target. Provision of timely and appropriate credit facilities to the farmers is a prerequisite for farmers to sow, grow and get a good yield of his crops. It has been seen that majority of the farmers are still outside the ambit of financial institutions and that these institutions are also reluctant to provide credit to the small and marginal farmers. The financial institutions are also constrained by the lack of adequate resources and they fear that providing credit would further accumulate their non performing assets. This aspect has been taken care of in the new budget. The target for agriculture credit in 2017-18 has been fixed at a record level of rupees ten lakh crores. It is supposed that now the banks will provide hassle free loans to the farming community. An adequate availability of credit has also the potential to accelerate developmental activities in rural areas. Going further, the government will also support National Agricultural Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) for computerization and integration of all 63,000 functional cooperative societies with core banking system of District Central Cooperative Banks. This is to be done over a three years period at an estimated cost of rupees 19,000 crore with financial participation from state governments. This will provide another opportunity to these primary and grassroots institutions to ensure seamless flow of agriculture credit to small and marginal farmers. The computerisation and integration of these with the central cooperative banks will also bring more transparency in the rural banking sector besides encouraging cashless transactions and digital payment in rural India. Crop insurance is also another important component of the farm sector. The coverage under ambitious Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) will be increased from present 30 per cent of the cropped area to 40 per cent of the cropped area in 2017-18 and further to 50 per cent of the cropped area in 2018-19. Also, PMFBY has recorded an additional impetus with the government allocating rupees 9,000 crore for the scheme
Crops need healthy soil to give their best and because of their ignorance farmers go on cultivating with the same piece of land caring little that the soils also need nutrition. The result is that soil become deficient in different nutrients and gives poor yields. To let the farmers know about the status of their soils regarding nutrition, the new budget has made a provision of soil testing mini labs in all Krishi Vigyan Kendras across the country. Farmers will get their soil tested regularly. These will be run by rural entrepreneurs with the assistance of the government. Availability of irrigation water is also another major issue. For this a long term irrigation fund set up in NABARD is to be augmented by 100 per cent taking the total corpus to rupees 40,000 crore. This will address the perennial irrigation water crisis effecting rural India, Budgetry allocation of NABARD’s long term irrigation fund has also been increased by an additional rupees 20,000 crore to fast track implementation of incomplete major and medium irrigation projects. To cover the unirrigated belts of the country and to promote water conservation measures, another dedicated micro irrigation fund in NABARD to achieve per drop more crop with an initial corpus of rupees 5,000 crore has also been set up
Coverage of National Agricultural Marketing is to be expanded from present 250 markets to 585 Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees. The Government will also provide rupees 75 lakh to e-NAM to help it to make transactions for a Mandi to an integrated e-market. The government is also concerned about the exploitation of the peasantry at the hands of private players. These private firms have entered into various agreements with the farmers under contract farming. There has been report of harassment of the farmers under this agreement. The government will soon prepare a model law on contract farming and will be sent to the states for adoption.
The dairy industry in the country is also a large one providing employment to many and a source of livelihood to many others. For the development of this sector a Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund has been set up. It will be increased to rupees 8,000 crore over three years. This is a huge investment that will create an additional milk processing capacity of 500 lakh litres per day. This is believed to have a cascading effect as it will lead to the creation of an additional income of rupees 50, 000 crore per annum for dairy farmers. Under market intervention scheme and price support scheme the allocation stand increased to rupees 200 crore for the fiscal 2017-18 as against rupees 146 crore in the last fiscal. The funds for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana has been reduced to rupees 4,750 crore and this amount is down from rupees 54,000 crore in the last financial year. National Food Security Mission has got an increase of rupees twenty crore over the previous year. Allocations for projects like National project on soil health and fertility and climate change stand reduced.
Farmers have also been benefitted from the 60 day interest wavier announced on 31st December, 2016 to reduce the aftershocks of demonetization to the farming community. The budget has focused on agriculture sector to drive growth in the rural areas. According to Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley agriculture, rural development and infrastructure were the big ticket spending items in the budget and the government was building on success stories. Thebudget 2017-18 has definitely pro farmer measures meant for their well being highlighting the commitment of the present regime to sincerely work to double the farmers’ income within the deadline.
(The authors are from Advanced Centre for Rainfed Agriculture, (ACRA), Rakh Dhiansar; can be reached at [email protected])

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