Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has taken the right step by presenting a pro-farmer budget for promoting agricultural growth. I have always mentioned through my columns that the government must take steps to revive the agricultural economy. Already farmers are committing suicide due to crop failure and weak monsoon in several parts of the country. By presenting the farmer friendly budget the government is trying to woo farmers ahead of crucial assembly election in states like West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Uttar Pradesh. Often the opposition had criticized the government for being corporate friendly and anti-farmer. Through this budget the government is also sending a message to the opposition that it is serious about resolving the problems faced by farmers.
It is necessary that we empower the District magistrate and his subordinates right to the “patwari” (Lekhpal) level. The gram panchayats and gram sabha needs to be strengthened because they are the ones who will get the work done by mobilizing the village manpower. The government must go for decentralization of power by empowering gram panchayats. Guidance must be provided to farmers for improving the soil quality. Soil testing must be undertaken so that farmers can produce better yield at lower cost.
Steps must be taken to enhance the production of wheat, rice, pulses and sugarcane. Perishable crops should be preserved in cold storages while foodgrains can be stored in warehouses. The government must increase the minimum support price offered to farmers for the crop cultivated by him. Right now farmers are cultivating crops but they don’t get better price for their produce which makes cultivation unaffordable to them due to rising costs. Minimum support price is the minimum price paid to the farmer for procuring food crops. It offers an assurance to farmers that their realisation for the agricultural produce will not fall below the stated price. The government uses the MSP as a market intervention tool to incentivise production of a specific food crop which is in short supply. It also protects farmers from any sharp fall in the market price of a commodity. The share of agriculture in the India’s GDP has fallen steadily from around 25 per cent in the early part of the century to less than 17 per cent now. But almost half of India’s population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood.
The gram sabha will provide for grazing places for cows and buffaloes and ensure that ponds and wells exist for cattle to drink water. The government must take steps to allocate more funds for improving the quality of education and initiative must be taken to address child dropout rates from schools. More funds should be allocated for primary health care needs. MPs and MLAs should regularly visit rural areas for understanding the problems faced by people residing in these areas. They should interact with farmers for knowing about the reason behind high farmer suicide rates.
Another aspect that bothers me is that eating out has become very expensive in the budget. If food becomes expensive how will the common man survive? We call ourselves as a developing nation but how will India progress if people are not able to afford two square meals? People should have access to clean drinking water but today many regions of the country are facing severe drought. The government must take steps to eliminate water scarcity.