Announcement on handloom clusters in Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand welcome

Negative sparks fly with thumbs down in sharp reactions to the budget as the agriculture community maintains that it is not going to benefit from the sops such as the seven per cent interest subvention on short term crop loans and the lollypop of additional three per cent on prompt repayment.

“There are not much relief for farmers in the budget. How many are able to reap a good harvest and repay loans in time? We are striving to stay alive amidst turbulent price rise on all fronts. It's simply a gimmick,'' says G. Ajeethan, technical secretary, Consortium of Indian Farmers' Associations, Tamil Nadu.

The higher credit allocation to schemes such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the plans to extend its duration could spell direct trouble for farm operations. The MGNREGS scheme drains farm labourers who are lured by the easy money to opt out of farm work, he notes.

The Finance Minister, instead of offering sops, must devise means to help farmers get remunerative prices for their produce. The Centre should fix the support price in consonance with the inflationary trend, says Mr. Ajeethan, who is also the general secretary of Tamil Nadu Banana Growers' Federation.

The proposed boost for food processing industry through establishing National Mission on Food Processing would be of relevance only if the mission took cognisance of micro, small and medium enterprises.

Announcement on setting up two mega handloom clusters in Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand, and establishing three handloom weavers' service centres in Mizoram, Nagaland and Jharkhand is good news for the industry. Complemented with other small benefits to the handloom sector the industry could survive the test of time for the present, according to Handloom Export Promotion Council chairman S. Gopalakrishnan.

While the mega clusters could bring in a lot of funds for handloom weavers and entrepreneurs, the service centres could channel government schemes and fund disbursal to identified beneficiaries in the region, Mr. Gopalakrishnan points out.

However, as a home textile exporter he expresses disappointment over not finding anything special in the budget to stimulate the textile export industry. Lack of policy initiatives plagues the budget that holds nothing to guide the textile industry through the path of progress. As for excise duty cuts on machinery imports Mr. Gopalakrishnan asks when the industry itself is struggling, how many of us are going to increase production capacities and how many would benefit from the move? Widening the service tax net could adversely impact the textile sector.