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Union Budget 2018: Questions on crisis remain after ‘pro-farmer’ announcements, say Punjab agri experts

The experts said that the much-expected package or debt relief was missing in finance minister Arun Jaitley’s speech in Parliament. 

punjab Updated: Feb 01, 2018 23:44 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Union Budget 2018,MSP,Arun Jaitley budget
‘The agrarian crisis is much deeper than seen. The budget has not taken any concrete step to resolve the crisis.’ (HT File)

Experts in the field of agriculture in Punjab raised some questions about the possible implementation of announcements made in the Union budget, and noted that a much-expected package or debt relief was missing in finance minister Arun Jaitley’s speech in Parliament.

On the announcement that farmers will now get cost-plus-50% as minimum support price (MSP), which is primarily going to cover wheat and paddy, farmers unions demanded to revise the very method of calculating MSP. “The authorities take into account lower input cost,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of a faction of the Bhartiya Kisan Union.

RS Ghuman, professor of economics at Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Chandigarh, termed wrong the FM’s claim that cost-plus-50% on MSP was introduced in the previous kharif season. “And just 6% of farmers growing wheat and paddy in the country sell crop on MSP. How are we supporting all?” he asked.

On the rise of credibility limit for loans to farmers, a word of advice was put in BS Dhillon, vice-chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, “Farmers need to use the limit cautiously. The Centre announced to pump in Rs 11 lakh crore into the banking sector for more loans to farmers. But farmers should stop non-productive expenditure through loans taken for agriculture.” He said it “remains to be seen” how the announcements will benefit small farmers “who are 85% of the sector”.

“It’s a pro-corporate budget, with little focus on agriculture,” Ghuman commented further, adding, “The BJP-led NDA government has announced the budget with an eye on the 2019 polls. The announcements for agriculture need answers about implementation too,” he added, underlining challenges related to perishable commodities.“The government should have created a price stabilisation fund, so that money could be pumped into perishable food products to support the farmer.”

Lakhwinder Singh Gill, economist at Punjabi University, Patiala, called it a populist budget. “Increase in MSP to 1.5 times of cost is a welcome step; but it’s too late,” he said, pointing out that no assurance is given in the budget that, with the rise in prices of agriculture products thus, prices of other products will not rise.“The agrarian crisis is much deeper than seen, and that’s why farmers and labourers are committing suicides. The budget has not taken any concrete step to resolve the crisis,” he said.

Farmers Nek Singh Khokh from Nabha too clarified that MSP with the 50% formula was not implemented from the last kharif season. Jaswinder Singh Sangha, a farmer from Jalandhar, said increase in credibility limit for loans may lead to further burden on farmers.

First Published: Feb 01, 2018 23:42 IST