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Rural Infrastructure to witness 14.34 lakh Crore Rs- 360° Approach for Rural India

An agriculture credit of Rs 11 lakh crore in addition to a specific agriculture budget of Rs 63,836 crore had been announced in the Union Budget 2018

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It is a time for government to learn from recent distress, said Prabhakar Kelkar, vice president of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh. The budget proposals for rural India by Finance Minister reflects the healing touch by government to millions of rural masses. If key points are considered, it reflects that recommendation of opting a holistic approach for the entire rural system rather than agriculture only. Government has considered what the BW Businessworld agriculture panel suggested. (Read Agriculture Need Holistic Attention: Pre-Budget Round table for agriculture).

Huge Quantitative Allocations

An agriculture credit of Rs 11 lakh crore in addition to a specific agriculture budget of Rs 63,836 crore had been announced in the Union Budget 2018. Addressing the parliament during his budget speech, Union Minister for Finance, Arun Jaitley said, “Government is eyeing for a massive 100 billion USD agriculture export target in this financial year. As we are witnessing a complete paradigm shift in the nation our priorities will also stick to facilitate rise from poor to wealthy.” Focus area of agriculture will remain to enable the farmer for better income generation. A collective in-farm and no-farm income will be targeted said Jaitley.

A 360 Degree Approach

Blowing the trumpet of government’s achievement, the 275 Million Tonne (MT) production of food grains and a 300 MT horticulture production had been credited to efforts of the current government along with farmers’.  A major announcement of successfully fixing minimum support prices for the recent Rabi crop as ‘Input cost+ 1.5’ along with a pre-determined MSP for this Kharif crop with the same formula had been announced. This can be seen as a direct address to demands of farmer unions asking for implementation of Swaminathan commission’s recommendation. Though, such formulae had been criticized by former CACP chairman SS Acharya who terms it as ‘another policy matter unless the root causes of distress selling can be addressed’. It seems that government is fully prepared as, Jaitley had also targeted any possible criticism and announces efforts of collective approach with coordination of provincial governments and regional mandi’s to make all the efforts to let the benefit reach to farmers.

Focus on Marginal Farmers

Another focus area had been collective effort for a better demand and production forecast mechanism for agriculture production. Target of 585 agriculture produce marketing committees (APMC) to E-NAM will be completed till March, said Jaitley, though 487 APMC’s had already been attached to E-NAM. Another major announcement had been a specific address to a major group of marginal and small farmers, who find it difficult to make it to APMC’s. GRANS will be created as support providers which will be connected with 22,000 village mandi’s (rural haat’s) and they will be connected to E-NAM as well.        

Funds, Tax Exemption & Value Addition

The announcement of the fund of Rs 2,000 crore has been made for agri market and infrastructure. Major announcement of 100 per cent tax rebate to farmer producer’s organisations will be another major point the government has addressed. This can be seen as a serious effort to boost the morale of those FPO’s which has emerged as benchmark for success, says B Jatwa, Secretary of Forest Produce Mandi of Udaipur. A new revolution named operation ‘Greens’ will be started to focus on perishable items like potato, tomato, and onion. There will be a Rs 1,400 crore fund for the support of the establishment of agro-processing units had also been proposed. State of art facility for mega food parks, a new bamboo mission of Rs 1,200 crore along with change in bamboo production definitions had been proposed. Another interesting part has been ‘the announcement for the purchase of extra energy generated by solar power units used by farmers for agriculture & allied purposes’. Raw cashew will also be given relaxation from five per cent to 2.5 per cent in excise duty. 

Pumping Irrigation 

NABARD has been given an expansion mode to facilitate new micro irrigation system for long term irrigation scheme. 96 specific arid zones are identified and a fund of Rs 2,600 crore is proposed to handle irrigation in those areas. A new fund of 10,000 crore Rs to focus upon aquaculture and animal husbandry had also been proposed. It can be a boost to the untouched dimensions as India is world’s largest shrimp producer and still find it difficult for a massive but untapped potential of aquaculture production in water reservoirs.

It is Rural

A total of Rs 14.34 lakh crore had been the proposed budget for rural infrastructure improvement besides agriculture. Rs 575 crore as rural livelihood schemes, with 51 lakh new houses for rural area. A special fund to address feminisation with a Rs 7, 5000 Crore fund for women self-help groups. Schemes to promote farm fields free from human excreta and a new scheme for development of Gobar-Dhan (bio-fertilizer and bio-gas) may also be giving new dimensions to rural area.

Traditional Agriculture & Stubble Burning on Cards

Cluster of agriculture to focus on the specialty production of a certain area will also be a part of government’s proposals. A special treatment for aromatic and medicinal plants will also be on cards of government. A new fund will also be established to handle mechanical options to get rid of stubble and a fund to handle the stubble burning menace has been established by government for in-situ management.

Reacting to the budget RS Sodhi, MD of India’s largest cooperative group Amul said, “It is definitely a 360-degree approach by government. I feel that the Rs 10,000 crore fund for aquaculture and dairy has been biggest after operation flood. Covering allied sector like dairy in credit scheme is a most welcome step by the government. Sodhi added that he was expecting dairy produce to be covered under MSP as it runs hand in hand with marginal farmers.       

Antony Jacob, CEO of apollo munich health insurance reacts to it and says,”This announcement by FM is poised to strengthen the market connectivity. This initiative of connecting farmers to directly access cost-effective inputs, like fertilizers, chemicals, etc. and receive optimal pricing for their crop produce through the government-sponsored program will certainly go a long way in increasing the income of 49 per cent of our people who are involved in the agriculture industry. This, in turn, will drive consumption and employment in general.                       

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