New Delhi: The BJP manifesto released Monday promises to extend the benefits of PM-KISAN scheme, which entails a direct cash support of Rs 6,000 per year to farmers owning up to two hectares of cultivable land, to all farmers.
Besides, the BJP also promised to provide pensions for small and marginal farmers.
The Rs 75,000-crore Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) was announced in the budget in February by interim finance minister Piyush Goyal. PM-KISAN was aimed at benefitting over 12 crore farmer families. The government had already allocated a sum of Rs 20,000 crore to transfer Rs 2,000 each to eligible farmers in the first installment by March-end.
“The BJP would extend the benefits of the PM-KISAN scheme to all farmers,” said Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was also the chairperson of the manifesto committee.
With this promise, the BJP is hoping to endear itself to the farming community as farmers’ distress was believed to be one of the reasons behind the party’s defeat in last year’s Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan Assembly polls.
“Recently the NDA lost three major states — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and one of the key reasons was rural distress and a decline in rural food prices. Naturally, the focus on agrarian economy was on expected lines,” a government official, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint.
The BJP also promised an investment of Rs 25 lakh crore in the agriculture sector to boost productivity of the farm sector.
“These measures are encouraging and will provide the much required boost to the farm sector, which has been under stress for some time now,” said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economist, State Bank of India Group.
Pension scheme may be contributory
The BJP’s proposed pension scheme for farmers could come with a caveat. A government source said that with pension schemes in the country moving towards the defined contribution system, it is to be seen whether farmers are made to contribute for their social security plan.
“We do not know yet whether farmers will have to make some contribution for their pension plan. But even if they have to, it is a welcome step,” said the government official.
Earlier, NITI Aayog chairman Rajiv Kumar had told ThePrint rural distress needed more attention and a large part of the workforce engaged in agriculture needs to be pulled out and given jobs outside the farm sector. He also underlined the need to modernise the agriculture sector to find a more permanent solution to agrarian distress.
Doubling of farmers’ income
Rajnath Singh also said the steps taken by the NDA government, including the increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) by 1.5 times of the production cost of the crops, would ensure doubling of farmers’ income by 2022. According to the manifesto, efforts will also be taken to reduce agricultural imports.