New Delhi: A 16-point agenda to double farmers’ income, setting an agriculture credit target of Rs 15 lakh crore for 2020-21 and a slew of new schemes to boost agricultural growth — the Modi government’s thrust on agriculture was evident in Union Budget 2020-21.
However, the allocation for agriculture 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.
The sector is currently facing acute rural distress on account of two consecutive years of drought in 2014 and 2015, negligible increase in minimum support prices, and falling farmer incomes.
The allocation for PM-Kisan, the income support scheme launched by PM Narendra Modi just ahead of the 2019 elections, stayed the same at Rs 75,000 crore. The 2019-20 budget estimate was subsequently revised downwards to Rs 54,370 crore.
The PM-Kisan scheme was announced in the 2019-20 interim budget on 1 February 2019. It guaranteed a sum of Rs 6,000 every year to small and marginal farmers with a landholding of up to 2 hectares.
In the 2019-20 Budget, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare received an 82 per cent jump in allocation mainly on account of PM-Kisan.
According to a reply given by Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in Parliament, as on 30 November 2019, nearly 7.6 crore farmers had benefited from PM-Kisan, with around Rs 36,000 crore disbursed under the scheme.
Kisan Rail and Krishi Udaan
One of the key initiatives announced by Sitharaman was a ‘Kisan Rail’ or ‘farmer rail’ in public-private partnership to establish a leak-proof cold supply chain to transport perishable goods.
Another was ‘Krishi Udaan (farmer’s flight)’, which will be launched by the civil aviation ministry to transport agricultural products to northeast and tribal areas.
Among other things, the budget outlines an outlay of Rs 500 crore for farmer producer organisations, which were mooted last year but hadn’t seen much progress since.
The fertiliser subsidy is down 10.8 per cent to Rs 71,309 crore from Rs 79,996 crore in 2019-20, while food subsidy has decreased by 37 per cent to Rs 1,15,570 crore in 2020-21 from Rs 1,84,220 crore the previous year.
Agriculture experts termed the allocation for 2020-21 a “disappointment”.
“High hopes of policy changes after the economic survey of 2019-20… have been dashed in less than 24 hours,” said former Union agriculture secretary Siraj Hussain, a senior visiting fellow at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.
“This budget shows that the government is still not confident about taking major economic policy decisions related to the agriculture sector as there is nothing substantive for farmers in this budget,” he said.
A significant cut in the 2020-21 budget saw the outlay for agriculture-related subsidies come down.