Budget is the one of the most important tools of measurement of the performance and priorities of the Government. After the longest non-violent farmers’ movement against the Modi government, the anti-farmer image of the government was clearly established. Surrendering to the farmers’ movement, the Union Government accepted all their demands, including the repeal of three agricultural laws, as well as the formation of a committee on the guarantee of the MSP. Under these circumstances, it was expected by most that the budget 2022-23 would not only have an increase in the budget allocation for agriculture and allied sectors, but in a bid to reform this government’s anti-farmer image and to satisfy the agitating farmers, many new announcements will also be made in this budget. Hence, before arriving at any conclusion, it becomes essential to carefully evaluate the budget allocations and budget announcements.
Budget 2022-23 declared 3.84% of the total budget allocation for agriculture and its allied sectors, which was 4.26% last year. That means, 0.40! reduction of the total budget of agriculture and allied sectors. Similar reduction has also been seen in the budget for rural development. In this budget, the budget for rural development has been reduced from 5.59! to 5.23. If agriculture and rural development are looked at jointly, then 1% of the total budget has been reduced from both of them. If we compare these data to last year’s budget then it is found that the budget allocation of agriculture and rural development has been cut by approx. Rs. 40,000 crores.
It becomes necessary to evaluate the budget allocations of schemes related to agriculture and rural development. Allocation for PM Asha Yojana related to the agriculture sector has been reduced from Rs. 400 crore to Rs. 1 crore. In order to ensure MSP for the crop, the allocation for PSS and MIS schemes has been reduced from Rs. 3,595 crore to Rs. 1,500 crore. Although the Union Government has been talking about supporting farmer cooperatives, the budget of Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) has been reduced from Rs. 700 crore to Rs. 500 crore. A budget of Rs. 700 crore was allocated last year to help farmers stop stubble burning (parali), which has been completely abolished in this budget. The budget of Pradhan Mantri FasalBima Yojana has been reduced from Rs. 16,000 crores to Rs. 15,500 crores this year. The base of rural development scheme MGNREGA allocation is reduced to only 72,034 Crore rupees, as against Rs. 97,034 crore spent last year. Last year, MGNREGA funds were exhausted in many states just five months before the completion of the financial year. The Agriculture Infrastructure Fund was announced with much fanfare. Out of its Rs. 1,00,000 crore, only Rs. 2,400 crore has been spent so far. This year, the government’s contribution to the fund has been reduced to Rs. 500 crore from Rs. 900 crore last year.
In order to get a clear picture of the priorities of the government, it becomes necessary that the important announcements related to agriculture in this budget are carefully evaluated. The Finance Minister has particularly emphasized in budget speech that in the year 2021-22, a record purchase of 1,208 lakh tonnes of paddy and wheat worth Rs. 2.37 lakh crore has been made by the Central Government from 1.63 crore farmers at MSP. This announcement was presented in the budget speech as if it was a historical work of the government. Through this announcement, the Finance Minister told the commitment of the government towards guarantee on MSP. Whereas in the last year i.e. 2020-21 financial year Rs. 2.87 lakh crore was spent on the purchase of 1,286 lakh tonnes of paddy and wheat at MSP from 1.97 crore farmers. That is, in the last financial year, both the total price value and the total quantity of wheat and paddy purchased at MSP have come down. Here a clear contradiction emerges that on the one hand the government has promised to constitute a committee on the guarantee of MSP while on the other hand no provision has been made in the budget for procurement on MSP. Not a word has been mentioned in the budget regarding the purchase of other crops at MSP.
In the context of promotion of organic farming, it has been announced in the budget that the Central Government will make special provisions to promote organic farming in the 5 km corridor on both sides of the river Ganga. Although no separate budget has been allocated for it. This announcement made in the name of agricultural development is nothing more than encouraging religious sentiments through the name of river Ganga. It is worth noting here that the Modi government has been continuously announcing ‘Zero Farming’ in the last 4 budget speeches. This announcement is also a mere repetition of the previous ones. This budget also does not mention what is the progress report of ‘Zero Farming’ that has been announced in the last 4 budgets speech consecutively. A special feature of this budget speech was that for the first time after 2016, the slogan of doubling the farmers’ income till 2022 was completely missing in the budget speech. This promise was being repeated in every budget speech since 2016. Now this time, no such report for the progress of farmers’ income has been reported. Not a single word was mentioned in the entire budget speech on farmers’ income. From this it seems one can easily conclude that the Modi Government is only up for high end announcements and slogans in the budget to make it to the Media Headlines, but has no faith in giving account of these announcements. A new slogan of ‘Drone farming’ has been also given in this year’s budget. It has been announced in the budget that spraying of chemicals or pesticides from Drones will be promoted. It is nothing more than a declaration for the sake of declaration. Anyway, spraying with drones is useful for large-scale corporate farming. In India, more than 86% of the farmers have less than one hectare of agricultural land. The announcement of departure is tantamount to a lewd joke from the farmers. The farmer wants a fair remunerative price for his produce, in return the government is giving him a new slogan of ‘Drone Farming’.
From the analysis of the above figures of the budget, it becomes clear that the areas related to agriculture and rural development have been completely neglected in this budget. Although agriculture and rural development have never been among the priorities of the Modi government to say the least. There has been a continuous reduction in the budget for agriculture and rural development since 2015. In the previous budget speeches, the slogan of doubling the income of the farmer was repeated unabashed. But this time, merely 3 minutes were spoken on agriculture and rural development in the record 91 minutes budget speech. There has been complete silence on the old announcements and promises in the budget. From this it can be concluded that the Modi Government, which was defeated by the farmer’s movement, has taken revenge against the farmer’s movement in this budget. On the one hand, there is a financial cut in the budget for agriculture and allied activities, while on the other the farmers have been completely excluded from the budget speech.
The Author is an Assistant Professor, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.