How will Centre double farmers’ income by next year? Union Budget 2021-22 has no answer

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set the ambitious target in 2016

By Shagun
Published: Tuesday 02 February 2021

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a brief mention in her budget speech of the Centre’s plan to double farmers’ income, the deadline for which is 2022.

The target was announced on February 28, 2016 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had said that by the time India celebrated its 75th Independence Day in 2022, farmers’ income would have doubled.

The Union Budget 2021-22 presented on February 1, 2021, was the penultimate budget before the deadline but the plan to achieve this ambitious target was not outlined in the document.

“Six years are going to end in 2022 and we haven’t heard from the government in the budget on how it plans to do this. There was no report card of current income levels of the farmers and nothing at all to show how to achieve this target,” said Kiran Kumar Vissa, national group member, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee.

A report by the standing committee on agriculture submitted to Parliament on March 3, 2020 said that the Union government has asked all departments to work towards doubling farmer income. As part of the initiative, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Delhi, has prepared plans for each state and sent them for implementation. But there are no details on how states should work or how the government will analyse the progress.

In 2017, ICAR had decided to adopt and develop two villages as models in each district of the country, the report said, so that state governments can follow the schemes and practices and frame its own policies to double farmer incomes in other villages. Down To Earth had earlier reached out to these villages and found that there is no progress.

Amid extreme rural distress, experts have time and again called this plan unrealistic. Is the government indicating that it was merely sloganeering and the target is not an achievable? The current budget also does not inspire confidence in even increasing farmer incomes if not doubling.

Budget 2021-22 announced a 10 per cent increase in farm credit and higher allocations for fisheries, farmer produce organisations, aajeevika (rural livelihood mission) and recapitalisation of regional rural banks.

"Other than that, there is only stagnation or decline in many other scheme allocations like for crop insurance, interest subvention subsidy and even PM-KISAN (a direct benefit transfer scheme for farmers). Even MIS and PSS has much lower allocation than last year as only half of last year’s allocation was spent,” said Sukhpal Singh, professor, Centre for Management in Agriculture, IIM Ahmedabad.

“The only promise on the agri market front is more agricultural produce market committees (APMC) being planned to be linked to eNam (a national trading platform for agricultural products) and allowing APMCs to access agriculture infrastructure finds as loans. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojna also has lower allocation than last year. It looks more like an interim budget,” he added.

In the budget speech, Sitharaman shared the procurement data of wheat and paddy and highlighted that the procurement has significantly gone up compared to 2013-14 and that the number of farmers benefitting from this has also increased. But these are just two crops which are procured from few states like Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh.

She also made a major announcement towards increasing agriculture credit target to Rs 16.5 lakh crore.

Commenting on this, GV Ramanjaneyulu, executive director at the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University, wrote in a social media post:

“While there is expansion on the agriculture credit portfolio, it is not equally distributed across the states and across farmers within the state. Very few states take away large chunks of the farm loan and large farmers get major benefit from these loans as there is interest subvention. In many cases absentee landlords enjoy the subsidised credit while actual cultivators do not have access to institutional credit.”

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