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Union Budget a Statement of ‘Sheer Hopelessness’, say Farmer Leaders

SKM assails budget for “concealing data” about farmers’ incomes.
Union Budget a Statement of ‘Sheer Hopelessness’, say Farmer Leaders

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: Farmers’ organisations on Wednesday said in the Union Budget 2023-24, the Centre has “literally taken revenge” on farmers for their historic movement that forced roll-back of the three farm laws, by reducing allocations in every major scheme, including Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana and PM Fasal Bima Yojana.

Ashok Dhawale, president, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) told NewsClick that farmers expected the finance minister to announce something to assure them minimum support price (MSP) as per the Swaminathan Commission formula of providing them 1.5 times remuneration of the cost prices.

“The BJP government has refused to implement the MSP as per the M.S.Swaminathan Commission recommendations of C2+50 % nor has it ensured legal guarantee for MSP leading to increasing distress for farmers. This budget does nothing to mitigate the situation,” he said, adding that the government is “exacting a revenge from farmers for the humiliating defeat suffered by it at the hands of the historic united farmers’ movement which forced it to withdraw the three pro-corporate farm Acts.”

Dhawale said farmers were battling challenges like climate change, recession and rising input costs. Yet, the Centre chose to drastically cut allocation for agriculture sector from Rs 1,24,000 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 1,15,531.79 crore this year. Citing the example of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, which provided monetary assistance to 12 crore farmers, Dhawale said that Rs 60,000 crore was not enough.

“Even on the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, in comparison with the 2022-23 Budget Estimates of Rs.15,500 crore, this Budget only has proposed Rs.13,625 crore. The Green Revolution, which was earlier advertised as core scheme and had an allocation of Rs.6,747 crore in 2021-22, had no allocation in the last as well as this year’s budget.

There has also been a drastic cut in fertiliser subsidies from Rs.2,25,000 crore in 2022-23 Revised Estimates (RE) to Rs.1,75,000 crore in Budget Estimates (RE) of 2023-24, a 22% cut of Rs.50,000 crore. “Such a move could have an adverse impact on productivity and impact production of foodgrains,” he added.

Dhawale said the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana has been drastically cut from Rs.10,433 crore to Rs.7,150 crore. The allocation for Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sinchai Yojna has been cut from Rs.12,954 crore in 2022-23 BE to Rs.10,787 crore.

 “If we look at the allocation for rural employment, which was Rs.1,53,525.41 crore in the RE of 2022-23, it has has been drastically cut to Rs.1,01,474.51 crore in the 2023-24 BE. The allotment for MGNREGS has been cut from Rs.89,000 crore in RE of 2022-23 to only Rs.60,000 crore in the 2023-24 BE.

“This is at a time when an estimated 2.72 lakh crores are required if the government intends to provide the legally guaranteed 100 days of employment,” he added.

 
Dharmendra Malik, spokesman, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Apolitical) said that the budget seems like a routine exercise which has very little to offer to farmers. “We are very disappointed that there has been no increase in monetary allocation for buying grains under the Central pool. The Centre has been focusing on encouraging consumption of cereals but how will it happen unless there is no money to buy them,” he said.

Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a collective of farmers unions which spearheaded historic farmers struggle to repeal farm laws, too criticised the budget for “concealing data” about farmers’ incomes.

An SKM statement read: “Union Budget 2023 is silent on Doubling Farmers Income. There were no figures given in the Budget. It may be recalled that according to the Govt., it was Rs.8000 per month in 2016 (the year of announcement) and was to be increased to Rs.21,000 per month in 2022, so that the grand announcement of doubling income becomes reality. After 3 years, it was found to have been Rs.10,200 and perhaps now it is a maximum of Rs.12,400. Thus, out of the targeted increase in income of Rs.13,000, only Rs.4,400 has been achieved, that is only one-third of the target. In any case, the Govt has dishonestly stopped giving data on this and has hoodwinked the farmers.”

The SKM leaders said while the Govt has irrationally resisted the demands of farmers for MSP and its guarantee, this budget has removed “even the fig-leaf” with which the government was trying to cover its meagre efforts to ensure that farmers get MSP.

Flagship schemes like PM Annadata Aay Sangrakshan Abhiyan (AASHA) have seen a steady decline in allocation. Two years ago, it was Rs.1,500 crore. In 2022, this was reduced to Rs.1 crore. Only Rs.1 crore to secure 150 million farming households!

Similarly, the Price Support Scheme (PSS) and MIS (Market Intervention Scheme) was reduced from Rs.3,000 crore to Rs.1,500 crore in 2022, and this year it is an “unimaginable” Rs.10 lakh, it said. In effect, the government has buried AASHA, PSS and MIS and with that the fate of farmers getting MSP has been buried, the SKM added.

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