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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

‘Landless not covered under PM Kisan plan’: Economic Affairs secretary Subhash Chandra Garg

Economic Affairs secretary Subhash Chandra Garg also said, “There are lots of programmes that would generate employment. Entire expenditures create lot of employment. The budget speech cites so many of them. I don’t want to go over them again. All the programmes create jobs.”

budget Updated: Feb 03, 2019 15:48 IST
Rajeev Jayaswal
Rajeev Jayaswal
Hindustan Times
Department of Economic Affairs [DEA] secretary Subhash Chandra Garg.
Department of Economic Affairs [DEA] secretary Subhash Chandra Garg.(Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)
         

After the mega budget announcement of Rs 6,000 per month income assistance to millions of small and marginal farmers, the government’s aim is to act quickly to provide respite to the stressed farm sector, which is under tremendous distress due to a glut situation, says Department of Economic Affairs [DEA] secretary Subhash Chandra Garg in a conversation with Rajeev Jayaswal. Edited Excerpts:

In the proposed ‘PM Kisan’ yojana, the eligibility criterion is the size of landholding. Don’t you think that many joint families may show small sizes of landholdings in names of their different relatives and claim the benefit?

Let’s not get too much waylaid or diverted by what might be possible. The estimates of 12.5 crore actually is higher than the number of farm families. The idea is to provide assistance to as many people [small and marginal farmers] as possible.

I don’t think it is worth spending so much time so long they are small and marginal families, the assistance should be available. Because other means of assistance available to you in the form of subsidised inputs or MSPs [minimum support prices] and other things at this moment are not delivering that much support. Therefore, there is a top up or supplement [income support] required.

The pricing situation in the farm sector is not very favourable for farmers...the agricultural inflation is close to zero. That is what is reflected in the prices. So the government was convinced that the farmers need support. That is why small and marginal farmers who earn much less from their land should be getting this support.

But, what about the farmers who don’t own land?

There are two types. One is a landless labourer, who works as a labourer. There are many people in villages who work on somebody else’s farm as labourers. They cannot be covered under this scheme. They are covered by the NREGA [Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme]. There is a small segment who don’t own land, and might be engaged in farming on ‘batai’. But, my understanding is that most farmers who do ‘batai’ have their own land also, even the land size is very small. So, they are covered in that sense. But in few cases, where somebody is not having land but might be doing farming on a sharing basis, then the person cannot be covered under the scheme. But, they also, like agricultural labourers, are entitled to work under NREGA.

Critics say that the budget has not focused on education and employment.

How do you say that education is missing? We have increased allocation for education, and good increase worth mentioning in the budget. It was mentioned in the budget speech.

People were expecting some major policy decisions related to education.

It was an interim budget. You should be able to attain to only those issues that are very pressing... Education is very important matter and the government took several decisions in the last budget. There would be greater focus on this area in the full budget also. This time focus was on three-four major interventions to take care of middle class, farmers and unorganised labourers.

What about unemployment?

There are lots of programmes that would generate employment. Entire expenditures create lot of employment. The budget speech cites so many of them. I don’t want to go over them again. All the programmes create jobs. About Rs 28,00,000 crore that the government spends creates direct employment. Then these programmes also create indirect employments. I think, that’s the way the government does. Policy level changes may be taken later [in the full budget].

Recently, there was some controversy about the unemployment data...

Are you referring to the employment and unemployment survey? I think, the government decided that suvery which was done every five years was too late. Therefore, the decision is to have an annual survey. My understanding is that the data collection for the year has been done and quarterly update is to be completed. They expect to release it soon. Let’s wait. It will be a better system that will provide annual as well as quarterly data. That could be helpful in making policies and allocating resources.

First Published: Feb 03, 2019 15:48 IST