Union Budget 2022 | Farmers’ unions allege ‘attitude of revenge’


Agriculture and allied activities, which still employ the largest bulk of the population, saw a marginal 2% increase in Budget allocations for 2022-23. The sector’s share in the overall Budget allocations fell from 4.26% in 2021-22 to 3.84%.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced high levels of payment for procurement of rice and paddy at the minimum support price (MSP), and her speech’s focus was on agricultural technology and start-ups that enthused the nascent industry. However, farmers’ groups expressed unhappiness at the lack of support for procurement of produce other than rice and paddy and a reduction in fertilizer subsidies. The Centre’s target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022, a standard motto of recent Budget speeches, found no mention this time.

One of the few schemes that saw a clear increase in allocations is the Blue Revolution initiative to augment fisheries infrastructure, aquaculture and seafood processing. The Fisheries Department saw its budget almost double from ₹1,220 crore in 2021-22 to ₹2,118 crore.

“The procurement of wheat in Rabi 2021-22 and the estimated procurement of paddy in Kharif 2021-22, will cover 1,208 lakh metric tonnes of wheat and paddy from 163 lakh farmers, and ₹2.37 lakh crore direct payment of MSP value to their accounts,” the Finance Minister said.

 

“These figures are a serious reduction compared to 2020-21, when 1,286 lakh metric tonnes were procured from 197 lakh farmers, and ₹2.48 lakh crores were paid to the farmers. The number of benefited farmers in 2021-22 has fallen by 17% and the quantity procured has fallen by 7% from 2020-21,” said an assessment by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM).

Farm unions were bitter about the failure to prioritise agricultural expenditure. “It is clear from this Budget that the government is working with an attitude of revenge against farmers. It has failed to deliver on its promise to double farm incomes by this year,” said Rakesh Tikait, who heads a faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) in Uttar Pradesh. The failure to hike PM-KISAN payouts, the slashing of the PM-ASHA scheme budget from ₹400 crore to ₹1 crore and the low levels of disbursement from the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund were identified as key issues.

The agriculture industry, on the other hand, largely welcomed the announcements. Dhanuka Agritech Group chairman R.G. Agarwal welcomed the government’s focus on infrastructure and promotion of drones for farm activities. “However, it would have been also apt had the Finance Minister reduced the GST and customs duty rates on some of the agro-chemical products, which would have reduced the overall cost for the farmers,” he added. “The announcement in this year’s Budget on strengthening the delivery of digital and hi-tech services to farmers through the public-private partnership model will go a long way in helping Indian farmers reap the benefits of technological advancements,” Bayer’s South Asia president D. Narain said.

“Major initiatives like promoting the use of ‘Kisan drones’, funds to finance start-ups for agriculture and rural enterprises, supporting FPOs through these enterprises, and boosting domestic oilseed production, have the potential to transform the sector,” he added.



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