A day after the economic survey highlighted Maharashtra’s agrarian crisis, the state budget presented on Wednesday sought to correct the situation with a mix of new schemes and increased budgetary allocations for the old ones.
In a state which has been witnessing nearly 3,000 farmer suicides a year, the Bharatiya Janata Party Shiv Sena government’s first budget tried to address issues such as poor irrigation, low productivity and reduce the dependence on rainwater. But the question is: are these steps enough?
In addition to the Rs. 4,000-crore relief package for the farmers affected by drought, hailstorm and unseasonal rains, the state has sought to waive off Rs 171-crore farmer loans.
After two droughts in four years, the state has pushed for a comprehensive programme — Jalayukta Shivar Abhiyan — to up the groundwater table in rural areas with an allocation of Rs 1,000 crore. Similar allocations have been given to programmes that seek to increase the land under irrigation. The state has also announced a new scheme for increasing agricultural productivity through “a convergence of various schemes like mechanisation etc” in areas such as Vidarbha, that have so far seen dry land farming.
Along with poor irrigation, the state is also grappling with poor agricultural production. For instance, the average production of cereals this year has dipped by at least 28%, while the average production of pulses has dipped by 40%. To improve the agricultural productivity, the state has announced the Motiramji Lahane Krushi Samruddhi Yojana. The scheme will be implemented through a pilot project in Yavatmal, a district with highest number of farmer suicides.
Another issue addressed in the budget aims is power cuts, which hassle farmers who irrigate their land using water pumps. The budget, through a Central scheme, has sought to install 7,540 solar agricultural pump sets.
The Opposition, however, rubbished the measures taken by the budget.
“The state has made announcements, but it hasn’t formed processes to implement them,” said Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil.