Maha budget: Sops for farmers, agriculture sector
The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government on Monday announced interest-free crop loan for farmers from this financial year. The farmers will be able to get crop loans up to ₹3 lakh and the interest amount against the loan will be paid by the state, state finance minister Ajit Pawar declared while tabling the state’s budget 2021-22 in the Assembly on Monday. He also announced several measures to help farmers and upgrade agricultural infrastructure. The budget also has sops for farmers in the form of 33% concession on power bills. The state will waive ₹30,411 crore of pending power dues under the scheme, Pawar said.
“Paying interest on crop loans is a problem farmers often face. To free them from interest burden, the government has decided to provide zero percent interest crop loans to farmers who take crop loans upto a limit of ₹3 lakh,” Pawar said in his budget speech in the Assembly.
Agriculture is the only sector in Maharashtra that has registered a growth in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, according to the state’s Economic Survey.
Pawar announced upgrade of basic facilities at the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), where farmers bring their produce for sale. “Most of the premises of the APMCs lack the necessary basic facilities for the farmers. It is imperative to provide these facilities. ₹2,000 crore scheme will be implemented for strengthening APMCs,” the finance minister announced.
“It has been decided to implement a policy for providing power connection to agriculture pumps of those farmers, who have not yet been provided with power connection. It will be done either through conventional or solar power connection to the applicant farmers. The state government will give a share of capital of ₹1,500 crore every year to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) to implement the scheme,” he said.
The state failed to implement two schemes announced in the last budget owing to the economic crisis that had gripped the state following months-long lockdown. It has also reduced the allocation of funds for agriculture and allied activities this year.
The farmers who have been paying their loans regularly in the past three financial years were supposed to get an incentive of upto ₹50,000. It had also declared a discount of ₹2 lakh for one-time settlement against a crop loan.
The finance minister clarified that they have put the schemes on hold and they will be implemented when the state’s economy will be back on track.
Ajit Nawale, general secretary, Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha (AIKS) said that they welcome the number of schemes declared and underlining the role of agriculture in economic growth by the finance minister but the government should consider implementing the schemes declared in the last budget and a demand for waiver in power bills raised by the farmers.
During this budget speech, Pawar said that the government intends to implement the “Maharashtra Agro Business Network Project (Magnet) for small and marginal fruit and vegetable growers by spending ₹1000 crore. It will be implemented for six years with an aim to increase farmers’ income.
While presenting the budget, the finance minister also supported the ongoing agitation by the farmers against the contentious farm laws.
In order to increase the productivity of agribusiness, it is necessary to focus on agricultural research. Though the previous government had announced, but now the MVA government will provide four agricultural universities ₹600 crore in three years ( ₹200 crore every year) for research, which will be useful for agricultural upliftment, he added.