Monday, January 28, 2019

Sops for agriculture to top Govt’s priority list

Direct bene t transfer, interest waiver on crop loans within a certain limit are likely measures
With farm distress leading to the ruling BJP’s drubbing in three key States last month, expectations are high that sops for agriculture will top the list of priorities when the stand-in Finance Minister Piyush Goyal presents the Interim Budget on February 1.
With rural economy still in doldrums, the Narendra Modi government cannot afford to be seen as a regime that ignores the interests of farmers, who constitute a sizeable chunk of the electorate. “It is not that this government hasn’t done anything for farmers in the last four-and-half years. But the perception of not delivering on the farm front is still sticking out like a sore thumb,” said a source in the Agriculture Ministry, who did not want to be named.
With general elections less than 100 days away, the Budget may be the government’s last chance to salvage the situation. “More than doing, it should be ‘seen’ as doing something,” the source said adding that the Government is working on “something big” for the sector. “They seem to have a political need to announce big-ticket schemes for farmers (like the direct income support scheme adopted in Telangana and other States) but as there is little preparedness, there is a chance of boomerang,” said Avik Saha, national coordinator for Jai Kisan Andolan. “So we expect them to announce something for farmers in the Budget which would subsequently be ampli ed through giant megaphones,” he said.
Direct benefit transfer
Among those schemes that are said to be considered by the Finance Ministry is a direct bene t transfer scheme which promises to give a per acre subsidy directly into the farmers’ accounts. Though its implementation all over the country may cost over ₹1 lakh crore, it may give an impression that the government is doing something for the farmers. It is said that the government will try to curtail its impact on the scal health of the economy by subsuming or reducing subsidy on fertilisers and minimum support prices for grains. Also under consideration is a scheme to waive interest on crop loans within a certain limit to those farmers who are prompt with repayments.
On Wednesday, addressing a meeting in Mumbai, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh made it amply clear that the focus would be on farmers. The Interim Budget will be dedicated to the farmers and it will be yet another step to ful lling the goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022, he said. Singh has already hinted that there will be double-digit growth in agricultural credit in the Budget, which was around ₹11 lakh crore in the previous Budget.

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