A truly agriculture and rural development-focussed Budget, it has adequately met the twin objectives of growth and inclusiveness.
When doubling of farmers’ income agenda is being rigorously pursued by the government, a fresh slew of measures through this Budget will only firm up the prospects of the agriculture and rural development sectors. The crux of the Budget is ‘sustainability’ in every aspect, be it agriculture practices or economic viability.
An announcement of formation of 10,000 new FPOs 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 farmer’s income by reduction in input costs and assuring better price realisations by the farmers for their output.
The incentives proposed for women SHGs will not only lead to livelihood generation and women empowerment, but also nurture first-generation entrepreneurs though the MUDRA loans of ₹1 lakh. With the proposed interventions, not only farmers, but also rural entrepreneurship will get the 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 — Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana — will give enough confidence to those who are in fisheries sector, to enhance their income with better fisheries management, infrastructure creation, increasing production and productivity, improved post-harvest management bringing economic viability of the sector. As the government wants to extend the parameters of ease-of-doing business and ease-of-living to the rural areas too, the emphasis of ‘Gaon, Garib and Kisan’ will see the uplift of rural lives of farmers and the poor, equally. The government has shown that every person having potential to bring economic revolution will be given an equal opportunity. Another 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. Now, under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, a road network of 1.25 lakh km will bring more villages to rural markets. Enhancing the prospects of agripreneurs, the ASPIRE scheme will create 50,000 skilled rural entrepreneurs, especially in the rural agriculture sector.
To expand the income sources of our farmers, there is a proposal to enable them to take up power generation activities on their field to transform the Annadata to an Urjadata. In the dairy sector, cooperatives will be encouraged to create infrastructure for cattle field management, milk production, processing and marketing.
For relieving farmers from uncertain prospects, the States will be forced to implement e-NAM mechanism for better operations under the APMC Act. Going back to the basics, as the Finance Minister rightly said, is a need of an hour, particularly when the issues of climate change and depleting natural resources are engulfing the sector.
The concept of zero-budget farming, which some farmers have exemplarily proved to be viable, will boost the confidence of farmers. With conventional means, the farmers will be able to enhance their income levels by keeping the input costs under control. The goal of “Har Ghar Jal” by 2024 shows the sensitivity to the issue of water availability and its scarcity, equally. Striking a balance between the demand and supply of clean water, we can see a robust infrastructure being created for tackling ground-water recharge, rain water harvesting, etc. I feel, a regulatory framework will be needed to implement this resolve.
Integration of funds from various Ministries to fund the Jal Shakti Abhiyan may see critical water blocks being regained. In a nutshell, ‘sustainability’ has largely remained at the centre of this Budget.
(The author is the chairman of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development)