What about farming in Punjab budget: Spike in outlay, ‘token’ for debt waiver, and call to diversify | punjab | Hindustan Times
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What about farming in Punjab budget: Spike in outlay, ‘token’ for debt waiver, and call to diversify

Telling farmers, “Akal naal vaah (cultivate smartly),” Manpreet started off by saying that productivity couldn’t witness a further increase now, and farming couldn’t sustain on growing for the central pool alone. He stressed on diversification into the allied sectors.

punjab Updated: Jun 21, 2017 09:56 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Punjab’s farming sector outlay this fiscal is Rs 10,581 crore, 9% of the total budget of Rs 1.18 lakh crore for the state.
Punjab’s farming sector outlay this fiscal is Rs 10,581 crore, 9% of the total budget of Rs 1.18 lakh crore for the state. (HT File Photo)

A 66% jump in allocation, plans to modernise, a call for diversification, and a “token” allotment for crop debt waiver marked the share of agriculture in Punjab’s 2017-18 budget, which was presented by finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal in the Vidhan Sabha on Tuesday.

Telling farmers, “Akal naal vaah (cultivate smartly),” Manpreet started the presentation of the new Congress regime’s first budget by saying that productivity couldn’t witness a further increase, and farming couldn’t sustain on growing for the central pool alone. He stressed on diversification into the allied sectors.

The outlay this fiscal is Rs 10,581 crore, 9% of the total budget of Rs 1.18 lakh crore. Additionally, Rs 10,255 crore has been set aside for electricity subsidy to continue free supply to the agriculture sector; this is 14% higher than previous fiscal’s Rs 8,966 crore.

What about waiver?

Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal interacting with the media after budget presentation in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh on Tuesday, June 20. (Sanjeev Sharma/HT)

The crop loan waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh to small and marginal farmers would require around Rs 20,000 crore. But the FM announced only Rs 1,500 crore for the 10.25 lakh targeted beneficiaries. This means Rs 14,600 per farmer, which is 7% of what’s promised.

Manpreet, speaking to the media later, termed the amount a “token” for now, adding: “We will come up with a package in the next budget, as the final report by the expert group is still not compiled.

Opposition Aam Aadmi Party and Shiromani Akali Dal rejected the proposal, calling it “a joke” and “a bluff” with the farming community. Both the parties staged a walkout in protest.

As for compensation for weather damage to crops, the FM announced a hike from the present Rs 8,000 per acre to Rs 12,000, though the manifesto of the Congress had promised Rs 20,000.

Having rejected the centre’s crop insurance scheme as not suited to Punjab, the government announced to constitute a committee under the state farmers’ commission to set up a Punjab Agriculture Insurance Corporation.

Also, the FM announced to merge all 20 district cooperative banks with the state cooperative bank, to make it give up to Rs 10,000 crore more credit to the farmers in a year. “This will help the banks increase their lending capacity.”

Modernisation, new policy

The budget announced to modernise the milk plants at Mohali, Jalandhar and Amritsar, spending Rs 110 crore, to increase daily handling capacity from 20 lakh litres to 25 lakh.

The government also plans to come up with a new agriculture policy within two months. At present there is no such formal policy.

The FM urged farmers to adopt horticulture, and said the government would constitute a marketing board for it. For development of piggery, two breeding farms would come up in Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur; and the one in Nabha would be upgraded.

There are plans to amend the law to make national and international markets reach out to products from Punjab.