While former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis praised the Union Budget as ‘inclusive’ and one that aimed to make India ‘self-reliant’, farmer leaders in the State trashed it as being “extremely disappointing” for farmers.
Speaking to reporters in poll-bound Goa, Mr. Fadanavis – who is the BJP’s Goa election in-charge - said the Budget, presented by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, aimed to make India atmanirbhar (self-reliant) and balashali (strong) and was designed to take the country towards progress.
“The budget has touched all sectors. What is most important is that even after the country has suffered the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Budget has projected a 9.2% growth,” said the BJP leader.
Stressing the Budget’s benefits for farmers and the agriculture sector, Mr. Fadnavis said that Ms. Sitharaman’s announcement of earmarking Rs. 2.37 lakh crore as direct payments for minimum support price (MSP) to wheat and paddy farmers for the fiscal year 2022-23 was the biggest allocation in the farming sector the country had seen so far.
The announcement is viewed as a consequence of the months-long farmers’ agitation demanding a guaranteed MSP for farm produce. The agitation ended with the government finally repealing its three contentious agriculture reform laws of 2020 in November last year.
“The budget has also given a special thrust on agricultural start-ups, which will eliminate middlemen and commission agents between the market and farmers,” said Mr. Fadnavis.
Farmer leaders like Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) chief Raju Shetti and Dr. Ajit Nawale of the Left-affiliated All Indian Kisan Sabha (AIKS) hit out at the Budget, stating that it failed to take into account the soaring costs of agricultural production and inputs.
Mr. Shetti claimed that the Finance Minister’s announcement of the 2.37 lakh crore MSP procurement was actually lower than the Rs. 2.47 lakh crore MSP procurement allocation in last year’s Budget.
“For all the Finance Minister’ talk about digital revolution in agriculture, one cannot cultivate grain and grapes on Facebook and Instagram…the MSP procurement sop is no good unless there is a firm legislation on it,” said Mr. Shetti, speaking to The Hindu from New Delhi.
He further alleged that earmarking for the agriculture sector was just 3.76% as compared to 4.36% in last year’s budget.
“The Modi government had promised 60 lakh new jobs. But the two sectors – textiles and sugar – which have the maximum potential in generating employment, find no mention in the budget in this regard,” claimed Mr. Shetti, a former two-time MP from Hatkanangale in western Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district.
Dr. Nawale of the AIKS said that the Central government had not announced any new scheme to provide basic protection to farmers nor made enough financial provision to protect the prices of perishable crops like tomatoes, onions, vegetables and fruits.
“The Centre’s policies have led to rising costs of agricultural production with farmers suffering due to a dramatic surge in petrol, diesel, electricity and fuel prices. Farmers had hoped that production costs would reduce by a reduction in fuel prices, but instead, the Union Finance Minister has reiterated ‘zero-budget’ farming based on highly unscientific concepts,” he said.