At Rs 14,734 crore, the budget estimate for agriculture for 2018-19 is a jump of 40% over last fiscal’s allocation of Rs 10,541 crore. Last year had also seen a hike of allocation of 66% over the last budget of the SAD-BJP regime. This means that since assuming power, the Congress government has increased the allocation to agriculture by 131%.
The government has also taken note of the perceived snub from the Niti Aayog and has provided for allied activities. Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal’s speech mentioned horticulture, floriculture, sugarcane, marketing of agricultural products, animal husbandry, fisheries, dairy development, piggery, goat rearing and even cattle-feed.
“The union government, despite our repeated requests, has failed to come to the rescue of the Anndata (farmer). Our policy shall be centred only and only on welfare of our farmers,” he said.
- Rs 100 crore – Crop residue management
- Rs 10 crore – Buffalo Research Centre, Patti
- Rs 42 crore – Edibile oil refinery at Khanna
- Rs 13 crore – Cattle feed plant at Kapurthala
Rs 4,250 cr for debt waiver
The allocation includes Rs 4,250 crore for waiving off debt to small and marginal farmers. Manpreet added the government was still to get a list of eligible beneficiaries from commercial banks, and if complete database reached the government, he would top-up the scheme.
“Our slogan for farmers this year is, ‘Khushhal Kisan, Pragatisheel Naujwan (Prosperous farmers, progressive youth)’. The CM has given this slogan. We will make efforts to achieve this, despite the empty coffers we inherited,” the FM added. In his last budget speech, he was blunt, “Akaal Naal Vaah (cultivate smartly)”.This year, Rs 6,256 crore has been earmarked for free power to the sector. In addition, a provision of Rs 400 crore has been made under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, Rs 100 crore for disposal of crop residue and Rs 55 crore for horticulture.
Horticulture to be key area
The government plans to make efforts to break the wheat-paddy cycle. It targets assisting 7,000 farmers and bringing 10,000 acres cultivable area under diversification.
There shall be special focus on horticulture, marketing of produce and food processing to ensure sustainability. An allocation of Rs 55 crore has been made under the National Horticulture Mission.
Disease-free potato and other vegetable seeds produced at eight government potato and vegetable seed farms, 6.5 lakh fruit plants from 23 government fruit nurseries and registered private fruit nurseries and approximately 41,500 mushroom spawn bottles shall be provided to farmers.
The government targets processing 80,000-kg fruit at six departmental fruit preservation laboratories.
There are plans to spend Rs 750 crore on a special project to improve agricultural marketing infrastructure. Details were not revealed. No farm body or expert has come forward to offered a critical view of the allocation to agriculture.
Opposition challenges pro-farmer claim
Claiming that the state government had failed to disburse Rs 1,500 crore earmarked in last year’s budget for debt relief to farmers, the opposition parties, the SAD and the AAP, challenged Manpreet’s claims of being a pro-farmer government. “They had promised to waive off entire Rs 90,000 crore debt on the state peasantry. Now, it is being done in a piecemeal manner. This is a failure of the government,” said SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal.