The higher limit for interest-free loans and more money for irrigation should bring cheer to the agriculture sector, which is plagued by farmer suicides and low growth.
Finance Minister Sunil Tatkare said while presenting the Budget that one fourth of the irrigation outlay of Rs 7,366 crore would go to the distressed Vidarbha region.
Maharashtra, despite having the most large dams in India, has among the least irrigated areas — 17 per cent — compared to other states. Vidarbha’s is even lower.
The crop loan waiver was extended by six months, while a special grant of Rs 30 crore was given to Vidarbha’s suicide-affected six districts.
Farmers can now get interest-free loans up to Rs 50,000 from the earlier Rs 25,000. This scheme will mainly benefit farmers who don’t default on payments.
The government also plans to increase loan disbursement in all categories by Rs 2,500 crore this year.
Tatkare announced an integrated farming mission to increase foodgrain production that would focus on pulses, clean cotton, soil health and skill development.
To achieve this, farmers who successfully manage micro-irrigation schemes will get additional subsidies. The state gave a boost to farm mechanisation by providing an additional 25 per cent subsidy, thus raising it to 50 per cent.
The government focused on post-harvest management, which was largely ignored. A post-graduate course in the subject will be started at the agriculture college in Roha.
Kishore Tiwari, of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, said the provisions were inadequate. “The government hasn’t talked about farmer’s food and health security.”
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said: “We have done justice to farmers. The Budget’s focus is agriculture.”