Bareilly: Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a target on Sunday for the central and state governments to double the income of India’s farmers by 2022, as he listed a day ahead of the Union Budget his administration’s agricultural initiatives to counter Opposition allegations of being “anti-poor”.
Modi referred to the lilting song “Jhumka gira rey, Bareilly ke bazaar mein” from the Hindi film “Mera Saaya” to strike an instant chord with a large gathering at a rally in the backwoods of this Uttar Pradesh district, while he also hailed farmers as the pride of the nation.
“I had never been here in the past. But I have definitely heard ‘Jhumka gira rey’,” he said, drawing applause from hundreds in the crowd mostly comprising farmers. “I wish to double the income of farmers by 2022 when India will celebrate 75 years of Independence. Farmers today want at least one member of their family to take up a job because they believe that their family cannot survive on agriculture alone.”
As droughts or untimely rains become frequent, farm incomes have little protection in a country where agriculture supports half of the population. Many farmers exposed to risks commit suicide.
The Prime Minister attempted to hard-sell the country’s first crop insurance scheme, which he called a “protective shield”, and talked about a raft of initiatives including plans to launch an e-platform in April to market agricultural products as part of efforts to shore up the farm community.
“We need to diversify agriculture into traditional farming, make better use of wastelands and animal husbandry to improve agricultural production,” he said.
Modi has addressed a series of rallies in the countryside this year, seen by analysts as a move to placate rural voters after unseasonable rains and drought in parts of India destroyed produce and dented the Prime Minister’s popularity, leading to electoral losses for the BJP.
Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s biggest and most politically crucial states, goes to the polls next year.
The BJP that swept the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls is up against two formidable regional outfits – the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) – in addition to the Congress, which has repeatedly alleged that the Centre is run by powerful industrialists.
Modi said while most governments wait for an election year to roll out welfare schemes and incentives for farmers, this is not the case with his National Democratic Alliance government.
“The states where some work has been done in the farming sector have witnessed progress. But in the states having the approach of ‘chalta hai’ (let it happen) and ‘election time pe dekh lenge’ (will see at the time of elections), the fate of the farmers has been left to God,” he said, in an apparent dig at the state’s SP government.
(With agency inputs)