The debt and drought continue to be enemies of farmers driving them to commit suicide. A large number of farmers are also compelled to sell their produce at below Minimum Support Price (MSP). Yet the agriculture sector has not received enough attention over the years. This is the sector which accounts for 16 percent of the GDP and engages nearly 50 percent of the workforce and hence plays a crucial role. The announcement of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, a hike of 144 percent in the interim budget gave a ray of hope for the agriculture sector and therefore all eyes were waiting for the farm sector to come during the Union Budget speech today for the FY 2019-20.
Promises for agro and rural India in the budget
In her maiden budget speech, Nirmala Sitharaman, the first fulltime woman finance minister in independent India praised the farmers for making India self-sufficient in pulses and hoped well in oilseeds too. She also said villages, poor and farmers are at center stage in every program of the government and therefore the government would invest widely in agriculture infrastructure; support private entrepreneurship in value addition in agriculture. Talking about the rural road connectivity she said 30,000 km roads have been constructed under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna using green material including plastic waste.
Coming to the promises and schemes for the time that lies ahead, the finance minister announced the formation of 10,000 new Farmer Producer Organizations, the replication of 'zero budget' farming in other states, cooperation between central and state government to benefit farmers from e-NAM. She also mentioned Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G) under which 1.95 crore houses will be provided to eligible candidates. A framework for fisheries management will be established under Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY). She also assured clean cooking facility and electricity connection to each rural family by the year 2022.
Complaints about the budget speech
But the point which startled many is that the speech did not mention how much money will be spent to realize these goals. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the term budget as "a statement of the financial position of an administration (as of a nation) for a definite period of time based on estimates of expenditures during the period and proposals for financing them", also as "the amount of money that is available for, required for, or assigned to a particular purpose". In layman terms, the budget is a paper containing what is the income, what are the priorities, and how and what amount one is going to spend on these priorities. The allocation must be there in the paper but since the eyes of the nation were glued to the TV screens, its absence from the speech came off as a little surprising. However, the Lok Sabha speaker in Indian Parliament has the complete power to decide the proceedings of the budget. He is also empowered to permit changes in the proceedings of the budget after taking the house in the confidence.
Yogendra Yadav, an activist, and psephologist complained about the absence of other important points too like drought, the problem of stray animals which harm the crops. He pointed out that there was no reference to Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, the highlight of interim budget, that promised to give a yearly amount of Rs 6,000 to farmers with less than two hectares of land. There was curiosity if the amount would be the same or not, if the landless farmers will also be included, etc. There was also no mentioning of MSP (Minimum Support Price) rate and how to enable each farmer to benefit from it as only 21 percent crops are sold at MSP and the rest is sold at below MSP.