Nothing to assure better income, nothing to lift them out of debt trap, nothing to even compensate their losses due to demonetization
Despite the usual rhetoric from the government that the Budget if focused on farmers and rural poor, the nationwide ASHA-Kisan Swaraj alliance and other farmer organizations are highly disappointed to find nothing substantive in Budget 2017 to address the crisis facing the farming community – which has been largely brought about in the first place by anti-farmer government policies. ASHA-Kisan Swaraj came together with Jai Kisan Andolan and other farmer organizations at the Kisan Sansad (Farmers’ Parliament) today at New Delhi. After adopting a model Krishi Budget, the Kisan Sansad heard the Union Budget speech and analyzed what it means to the farmers.
This was a crucial budget for farmers. They faced two consecutive years of drought and the first two budgets of this government had nothing for farmers. With a good monsoon, farmers were hopeful of revival but then the demonetization resulted in huge losses – a disaster created by the government. Farmers expected that after all this pain, there will be some gain in terms of measures to address the long standing issues of farmers – Assured Incomes, Rescue from Debt-trap, Comprehensive system for farmers affected by natural calamities. Some big path-breaking measures were required and hoped for. But their hopes were dashed.
Here are the key points of our analysis of Budget 2017.
Income Increase: No clear road map or strategies to double farmers’ income as was promised while presenting Union Budget 2016-17 – same promise repeated in 2017-18. Farmers once again get only words and promises.
Credit: Farm credit target revised from Rs. 9.5 lakh crore in 2016-17 to Rs. 10 lakh crore in 2017-18. This is not a Government allocation or expenditure but loans have to be given by banks. In any case this is routine – same increases have taken place for several years now. More importantly, there is no mention of how this would reach small, marginal and tenant farmers who constitute 86% of farming community.
Interest Subvention: In 2016-17, Rs. 18,822 crores was allocated (revised estimate) on interest subvention but only 15,300 crores has been budgeted in 2017-18.
PMFBY: Big talk and impossible claims about Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY). In 2016-17, the revised estimate was Rs. 13,240 crore spent on premium by Government but in 2017-18 only Rs. 9,000 crores allotted. Still Government claims it will increase coverage from 26.5% to 40%.
Bonanza for Insurance Companies: Revised estimates on crop insurance premium was increased to Rs. 13,240 crores but covered only 26.5% of farmers. All this money went to insurance companies. No mention of how much claims the farmers got in return.
Irrigation-Only Corpus Funds?: In 2016-17, Rs. 20,000 crore was allocated (revised estimates) for long term irrigation corpus fund with NABARD but it is unclear how much was actually spent. In 2017-18, this has been increased to Rs. 40,000 crore and still there is no mention of how much will be spent or what irrigation facilities will be created.
Dairy: Big announcement of Rs. 2000 crore for dairy processing fund but the total allocation under animal husbandry is only Rs.2,371 crores compared to Rs. 1,994 crore revised estimate of 2016-17. So no major allocation really made – just clever window dressing.
Mission Antyodaya – No Allocation: Grand announcement of 1 crore households being lifted out of poverty and 50, 000 Gram Panchayats being made poverty free through Mission Antyodaya. But all this is through existing schemes. No new allocation !!
· Govt proudly claimed that allocation for NREGS has been increased to a record Rs.48,000 crores. But this is no different from Revised Estimate of 2016-17 which was Rs.47,500 crores!
· Even this large expenditure of last year is no credit to the government. It was forced by the Supreme Court orders in the Swaraj Abhiyan case on Drought. In fact, as per demand projection of States, it should have increased to Rs.80,000 crores!
Demonetization – All Pain, No Gain? Farmers and agricultural workers faced enormous losses due to Demonetization, affecting both their Kharif crop sales and Rabi crop cultivation. They hoped for a major announcement compensating for the losses, but got absolutely nothing.
· Income Security: Farmers wanted an Income Guarantee system to assure sustainable income level for all farming households. They demanded RUPYA (Remunerative Universal Price and Yield Assurance). Finance Minister talked about Income Security for farmers last year, but no action on it once again. There was nothing on Minimum Support Prices either.
· Relief from Debt Trap: Farmers wanted a big path-breaking measure, which would lift them out of the debt trap. Not a single step in this direction. No measures to help small, marginal and tenant farmers who are trapped in private loans with little access to institutional finance.
· Support for Disaster-affected Farmers: Farmers affected by 2 consecutive droughts, and other calamities like floods were hoping for a big revival package. The budget only had PMFBY which has already failed to help them this year.
For reference, here is the link to ASHA’s demands from Union Budget sent in December 2016.
For more details:
Kirankumar Vissa (97017 05743) and Kavitha Kuruganti (88800 67772)
National Steering Committee, ASHA-Kisan Swaraj alliance