It is a Budget for Promotion of Corporate Profiteering at the Expense of Farmers
By Correspondent / New Delhi
“The Budget has nothing concrete for farmers and is merely empty rhetoric. It does not address the issue remunerative prices for farmers’ produce or suggest any steps to free them from indebtedness. Rather, the Government adds to the burden of the peasantry by proposing Rs. 2 cess on diesel which will increase the cost of production significantly” said All India Kisan Sabha AIKS while reacting over Union budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today.
AIKS calls upon all its units to rise up in protest against the betrayal of the¬ peasantry and be vigilant and resist any attempts to promote corporate interests.
AIKS said that the Government is moving in the direction of greater deregulation. This has led to increasing agricultural costs as opposed to savings in cost of production. A major cause of the crisis in agriculture is the huge increase in prices of inputs that has taken place as a result. With a huge rise in the cost of seeds, fertilisers, diesel and electricity as a result of decontrolling of prices of these inputs and imposition of GST, government needed to restore price regulation and bring prices of input costs under control.
“Not only has the Finance Minister done nothing about it, to add insult to the injury, she has declared that farmers should not buy any inputs and instead practice Zero Budget Farming. In an extraordinary drought situation more was expected in the direction of rural employment generation. The allocation for MGNREGA has been cut by Rs. 1000 crores as compared to the revised estimates for last year”.
The allocation for Market Intervention Scheme and Price Support is grossly inadequate for meeting the requirements of procurement. Also, since the government has introduced schemes such as Price Differential Payment the benefit of which goes to traders rather than to farmers, it is not clear how much of the Rs.1000 crore additional allocation will be used for procurement. This is particularly important in the context that very little increase in MSP has been announced two days back for Kharif 2019. It also talks of promoting Israeli model in irrigation which is also a vehicle into Indian countryside for Israeli companies like Netafim with dubious records on Palestinian rights.
The Budget speech claims that the government will invest widely in agriculture infrastructure, support private entrepreneurship for value addition in farm sector and Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana to address critical infrastructure gap in fisheries sector. In the name of modernization, the sector would be opened up for corporate fishing companies. While there is talk of promoting dairy sector, the Government is also fast tracking the Mega FTA RCEP which will be the death knell of Dairy farmers. The mention of starting 10,000 Farmer Producer Organisations and support for private entrepreneurship does not talk of peasant cooperatives. There is talk of increased emphasis on contract farming. The move is to facilitate direct procurement by big retailers and promote FDI in all sectors including retail.
What lies in store for the distressed peasantry in the Budget 2019-20 was clear from the tone and tenor of the Economic Survey, Niti Ayog and the announcement of Minimum Support Prices of Kharif crops a day before the presentation of the Budget. It has come as a big disappointment to the peasantry and is tailor-made to boost corporate profits at the expense of the cultivators. According to the Economic Survey the Inter-Ministerial Committee to examine issues relating to Doubling of Farmers’ Income (DFI) and recommend strategies identified seven sources of income to double farmers’ income by 2022 namely improvement in crop productivity; improvement in livestock productivity; resource use efficiency or savings in the cost of production; increase in the cropping intensity; diversification towards high value crops; improvement in real prices received by farmers; and shift from farm to non-farm occupations. No new programme was given to increase the income of farmers from these seven identified sources except listing the initiatives which are already in place.
Lower growth in agriculture and allied sectors has also been noted in the Economic Survey. It also noted that total food grain production during 2018-19 fell to 283.4 million tonnes from 285 million tonnes in 2017-18. Nothing has been done turnaround the situation. The BJP Manifesto in 2014 had stated “Agriculture is the engine of India’s economic growth and the largest employer and the BJP commits highest priority to agricultural growth, increase in farmers’ income and rural development.” The Economic Survey however, talks of Private investment as the key driver of growth. The policy prescriptions are in the direction of withdrawal of State from investment in agriculture and rural development coupled with deregulation and opening up of the economy.