Budget 2018: Will Arun Jaitley rescue agriculture, bring smile on the faces of farmers?
New Delhi, Jan 16: As predicted by political analysts, the Narendra Modi government at the Centre is going to give special emphasis to agriculture ahead of the all-important 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The budget to be presented on February 1 will be the last full budget of the Modi government. The budget in 2019 will only be a vote-on-account.
Thus, the current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre is going to make best use of the budget to ensure the saffron party's win in the forthcoming General elections.
Recently, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley stated that the agriculture sector is going to be the top priority for the government because the country's economic growth is not "justifiable and equitable" unless the benefits are "clear and evident" in the farm sector.
Therefore, the government's priority is to ensure the gains reach the farmers and the growth is visible even in the farm sector, he said at an event in New Delhi.
As per latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) data, the country's economic growth is expected to slow to a four-year low of 6.5 per cent in the 2017-18 fiscal, the lowest under the Modi-led government, mainly due to the poor performance of agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
The CSO has pegged farm and allied sector growth to slow to 2.1 per cent in the current fiscal from 4.9 per cent in the preceding year.
"India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the growth is benefiting people in different sectors.
"But maximum population is dependent on agri-sector and unless the gains are clear and evident, the (economic) growth is not justifiable and equitable," Jaitley said after launching options trading in guar seed on a commodity exchange, NCDEX.
Among the priority areas, agriculture sector is on the top, he said. "Ensuring the benefits reach the agri-sector and growth is visible -- this is among the priority areas for us."
Jaitley further said: "We see in some places the problem of falling prices because of higher production. Farmers are not getting the price for their produce."
He said many steps have been taken in the last few years to take farmers out of this situation. "There has been some impact," he said.
Lauding the contribution of farmers, he said they have left no stone unturned to serve the nation.
They have worked hard to turn a food shortage country into a surplus now. However, due to higher production, they are now faced with falling prices, he added.
The minister also mentioned that the launch of options trading is one of the major steps taken to help farmers.
In the beginning, options trading may look like a small step but when its awareness increases in the coming days, it is will benefit farmers, he added.
Economists say that if the Modi government can't bring some relief in the farm sector which has seen several crises including drought and farmers' suicide in the recent years, it might prove costly for the ruling BJP government in the upcoming General elections.