Budget 2019: What is in it for the farmers, how will their income increase
New Delhi, July 06: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her first budget today and many opine that it was a balanced one. Balanced in the sense that it was not an out and out populist budget, there was something in it for the masses and was also reform oriented.
One of the most important sectors of the Indian Economy is the farming sector. Not only does it employs most people, but also major reason for India being self-sufficient. But the irony is that the sector which generates most employment is not largest contributor to the economy. The state of most farmers show that income of the people in this profession is far less than what should have been.
The reasons for this are plenty, one being the credit. A large chunk of income of a farmer goes in paying out interest for the amount the peasant borrows to purchase raw material. Freeing farmers from this cycle of debt will go a long way in increase their true incomes which would in turn reflect in the improved lifestyle.
Over the last two years, farmers have been protesting in several states, demanding better prices and debt write-offs. While loan waivers are short term solutions, the more sustained solution would be to lessen the dependence of the farmer from debts itself. Especially the borrowings from village money lenders who charge a very high rate of interest.
While the Prime Minister keeps mentioning that his government would double the income of the farmers by 2022, experts feel that it could be an unrealistic target. Sitharaman today stressed on the need to go back to the basics on Zero-Budget Farming, saying this model needs to be replicated throughout the country.
Just one proposal may not double the income, but at least it is step in the right direction. Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a set of farming methods that promises to end the reliance on loans and drastically cut production costs, ending the debt cycle for desperate farmers. Zero Budget farming was started in Karnataka where farmers used organic inputs in farms rather than chemicals and multi-cropped the land with their main crop. But then again, for it to work, farmers need to be trained and made aware of how to go about it. That is where the government ought to play a role.
Also, Farmers in the country can now practice cooperative farming by forming groups and the Centre has made a law that promotes such type of farming.
The Finance Minister announced that the government would invest widely in agricultural infrastructure and support private entrepreneurships in driving value-addition to farmers' produce from the field.
Lack of mechanisation and irrigation are also reasons that affect income of the farmer. Again these two areas are of kind in which an individual farmer cannot do much. The government must take up creating awareness about mechanised farming and provide easy loans to buy high end equipment. The finance minister in her budget speech also said that the government would work with state governments to allow farmers to benefit from e-NAM.