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Budget 2019-20 first take: The road to rural prosperity

“Sustainability has largely remained at the centre of this Budget”.

A truly agriculture and rural development-focused Budget has adequately met the twin objectives of growth and inclusiveness. When the agenda of doubling farmers’ income is being rigorously pursued by the government, a fresh slew of measures through this Budget will only firm up the prospects of agriculture and rural development sectors. The crux of the Budget is ‘sustainability’ in every aspect, be it agricultural practices or economic viability. An announcement of the formation of 10,000 new FPOs (Follow-on Public Offer) over the next five years is a step towards the same. With this, the economies of scale can be harnessed to achieve the goal of doubling farmers’ income by reduction in the input cost and assuring better price realisations by the farmers for their output. The incentives proposed for Women SHGs (Self Help Group) will not only lead to livelihood generation and women’s empowerment, but also nurture first-generation entrepreneurs though the MUDRA loans of ₹1 lakh. With the proposed interventions, not only farmers but rural entrepreneurship will get a necessary boost.

The government’s impetus is to promote non-farm activities to boost economic viability of farmers. Owing to climate change challenges, it has become imperative to explore viable and sustainable non-farm means of income generation. A new scheme — the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana — will give enough confidence to those in the fisheries sector to enhance their income with better fisheries management, infrastructure creation, increased production and productivity, and improved post-harvest management, bringing economic viability to the sector.

As the Government wants to extend the parameters of Ease-of-Doing Business and Ease-of-Living to rural areas, too, the emphasis on ‘Gaon, Garib and Kisan’ (‘village, poor and farmer’) will see upliftment of the lives of farmers and the poor equally. The government has shown that every person having the potential to bring about an economic revolution will be given equal opportunity. A new scheme — SFURTI — is an attempt in this direction. Rural artisans have received a holding hand from the government in a cluster-based development approach that will upgrade regional and traditional industries benefiting about 50,000 artisans. In early phases, the government focused on creating road infrastructure in rural India and now, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, a road network of 1.25 lakh kilometres will bring more villages to rural markets. This will channelise rural agricultural produce seamlessly.

To expand the income sources of farmers, there is a proposal to enable them to take up power generation activities on their field to transform the ‘Annadata’ (provider of food) to an ‘Urjadata’ (provider of energy). In the dairy sector, cooperatives will be encouraged to create infrastructure for cattle field management, milk production, processing and marketing.

In a nutshell, ‘sustainability’ has largely remained at the centre of this Budget.

Dr. Harsh Kumar Bhanwala is chairman, NABARD.

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