Mohali: The unions which have been at the forefront of the farmers’ struggle against agri-marketing reforms for the last six months have expressed disappointment over the Union budget for agriculture presented today.
In a pre-budget and post-budget analysis, farmers’ leaders Yogendra Yadav, Avik Saha, Kavita Kuruganthi, Kiran Vissa and other agricultural experts said that the Union budget presented on Monday “has proved the farmers’ apprehensions right – that this government is on a path of withdrawing support to agriculture, not strengthening it.”
“Despite the huge farmers’ protests and deep discontent at their economic plight, the government of India gave the lowest priority to agriculture in this budget,” the statement released after the analysis session read.
Compared to last year, the share of agriculture and allied activities in the total budget fell from 5.1% to 4.3%. In absolute terms, the allocation fell from Rs 1.54 lakh crores to Rs 1.48 lakh crores.
Quoting these figures, the statement by protesting unions read: “While the recent Budget speeches gave the appearance of high priority to agriculture by addressing it as the first sector, it was relegated to a later part of the speech this time, as the government did not have significant announcements to make.”
Kirankumar Vissa, a farmers’ leader associated with Rythu Swarajya Vedika and a part of the AIKSCC (All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee), which is leading the protest against the three farm laws said: “On the major issues faced by farmers – ensuring Minimum Support Prices, access to market infrastructure, effective crop insurance when they face losses due to natural calamities, and rural employment through MGNREGS – the Budget has nothing to offer.”
Kiran Vissa said that the two schemes – PM-AASHA (Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan) and MIS-PSS (market intervention scheme and price support scheme) – meant to ensure that farmers get MSP in the market have faced massive budgetary cuts rendering them “meaningless”
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“The farmers suffer a loss of more than Rs 50,000 crores in a year because of the shortfall of prices below MSP. This shows that the government has no commitment to MSP despite their rhetoric,” Vissa said and provided the aforementioned data to media correspondents.
“This is all the more reason why farmers are demanding legal guarantee of MSP. Otherwise, MSP is meaningless if the government doesn’t back it with budget support and market intervention,” he added.
Avik Saha of Jai Kisan Andolan lashed out at the government saying that the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ package, which was supposed to provide a stimulus in the context of the COVID-19 lockdown and recession, has proven to be a “lie” for agriculture and allied sectors.
“Nothing has been spent out of the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund of Rs 1 lakh crores or the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Fund of Rs 15,000 crores, as shown by the Chapter 7, Volume 2 of the Economic Survey. Only Rs 2,991 crores was received ‘in principle sanction’ to Primary Agricultural Credit Societies as of mid-January 2021, eight months after the package was announced,” Saha said.
Yogendra Yadav, the president of the party Swaraj India and a member of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, who has been leading the protest, said, “Five years after announcing the target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022, we are entering the final year for meeting the target, but there is no announcement about how much the incomes have been enhanced until now, and how far we have to go.”
Yadav criticised the government for not having prepared a report card concerning major schemes and funds announced in the last few years to keep track of the progress of these schemes, if any.
“The empty budget for farmers shows that the government is not looking at addressing the slowdown by putting resources in the pockets of the people at the bottom, but instead using this crisis as an opportunity to implement economic reforms that corporate India has been demanding,” Yadav said.