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Distressed farmers unhappy with Budget

Distressed farmers unhappy with Budget
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Leaders and activists representing farmers in the State feel acche din (good days) are nowhere in sight for drought-hit farmers as this year’s Union Budget has nothing radical to offer them. Of the total budgetary outlay of Rs 20 lakh crore, agriculture with 17 per cent contribution to the country’s GDP, accounts for a paltry 1.9 per cent (Rs 35,000 crore). Agriculture in the State is plagued wit

Vijayawada: Leaders and activists representing farmers in the State feel acche din (good days) are nowhere in sight for drought-hit farmers as this year’s Union Budget has nothing radical to offer them. Of the total budgetary outlay of Rs 20 lakh crore, agriculture with 17 per cent contribution to the country’s GDP, accounts for a paltry 1.9 per cent (Rs 35,000 crore). Agriculture in the State is plagued with absentee landlordism.

Consequently, 80 per cent of the land in the Krishna and Godavari deltas is under cultivation by tenant farmers. Suicides stalk the tenant farmers due to higher lease rates, soaring cost of production and poor returns. Peasant leaders and experts feel that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley failed to address these basic issues. The claim of increased budgetary allocation for agriculture sector in 2016-17 also got brickbats from farmers organisations.

Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham spokesman B Balaram lamented, “When more than 60 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture and allied activities, at least 10 per cent of the budget must be reserved for agriculture. The current allocation makes up for only 1.9 per cent of total budget.”

He also emphasised the need to establish a price stabilisation mechanism in order to tide over the current agrarian crisis.
It is disheartening to note that surveys reveal that the number of farmers evincing interest to give up agriculture has been on the rise. Peddireddy Chengal Reddy, Secretary General of Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Association, cited the lack of economic viability for agriculture as the reason for the alarming trend.

However, he saw the proposal of 100 per cent FDI in food marketing and manufacturing as a step in the right direction. He observed, “Allowing FDI will bring in competition and strengthen the entire supply chain of the food processing industry, thereby benefiting farmers.” The perceived gap between the allocations made last year and implementation on ground is also being criticised by the farmer leaders.

Experts say linking up MGNREGA with farm activity will bring down production cost by as much as 30 per cent. Thus, labour for agriculture work will be available at lower wages, thereby bringing down the cost of production. On a brighter note, budget proposals such as an e-market for agriculture and crop insurance policy got thumbs up from peasants.

Akkineni Bhavani Prasad, a peasant leader, opined that e-Market for agriculture is an admirable first step, as it will help farmers in getting a fair market-determined price for their produce. He added that the proposed crop insurance policy, which covers all the stages right from plantation, will motivate farmers to continue in agriculture.

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