The debates about the union budget for 2018-19 are going on, especially the help it will give to the farmers and other marginalised sections of the country.
To get an on-the-ground reality check and to know what farmers feel about the budget, we spoke to the National Convener of All India Farmers Alliance (AIFA), Dr Rajram Tripathi.
Dr Tripathi is also a banker-turned-farmer who grows more than 70 varieties of medicinal herbs in Dantewada village, Bastar district, Madhya Pradesh. He is also the chairman of the farmers’ cooperative company Central Herbal Agro Marketing Federation of India (CHAMF), which helps more than 22,000 farmers across the country and is a pioneer in the export of medicinal herbs.
Dr Rajaram Tripathi clarified various points and also suggested some measures that should be taken to help farmers:
1. The Budget proposes to raise institutional credit for agriculture to Rs 11 Lakh Crore for 2018-19.
Dr Tripathi – This proposal is going to benefit only high-end farmers with larger land areas and those already well-versed in marketing their produce. The previous records prove that increasing the loan limit doesn’t help small farmers very much. Instead, it leads them to get trapped into taking more loans and sometimes suicide – when they are unable to repay it.
Suggestion: The biggest problem while getting a loan is not the limited amount but the process – which involves a lot of hassles. The procedure to get a loan for farmers should be simplified. Moreover, most of the loan given is for chemical fertilisers, pesticides and seeds.
The policies should be such that farmers would not require loans at all. And if at all they do, it should be a simple and immediate process.
2. The Minimum Support Price of all crops shall be increased to at least 1.5 times that of the production cost.
Dr Tripathi – This surely is a good thing. However, it might be difficult to implement on the ground when the system to measure the investments made by a farmer is not in place. A proper system to calculate the production cost is a must before this.
Also, since this year’s produce will be sold next year, the policy is not going to give any immediate help to farmers.
Suggestion – While deciding the MSP, the labour involved, rent of the land and the expenditure on machinery should also be considered. In addition to this farmers also have to spend on the transport of their products and other small expenditures at the market. All these expenses must be considered while deciding the production cost.
3. Allocation for food processing doubles to Rs 1,400 crore.
Dr Tripathi – The finance minister has allocated Rs. 1,400 crore whereas every year fruits and vegetables of around Rs 92,000 crore are either spoiled or have to be dumped due to lack of storage, transportation and processing facilities.
Suggestion – Along with processing units there is an urgent requirement of storage and transportation facilities. Funds should be utilised well to stop the wastage too.
4. Rs 200 crore allocated for the development of small-scale and cottage industries in rural areas.
Dr Tripathi – Rs 40,000 crores have been allocated to develop already developed 99 cities into smart cities. On the other hand, there are more than 2,36,000 villages in India constituting 68.84% of the total population. So one can guess how much money would go to each village out of the allocated figure.
Suggestions – This sector needs a lot more attention as well as funds to employ the youth and stop migration from the villages towards cities. Also, it is important to encourage age-old small-scale industries and ancient rural art too.
5. Coverage of up to Rs. 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.
Dr Tripathi – This policy might benefit in places where there are proper medical facilities. But rural areas like ours fail to get basic medical attention. In such cases, the insurance holder is not able to get medical aid – even if they have insurance.
Suggestion – Proper hospitals, doctors and medicines should be of high priority in remote areas. Once these are in place, only then giving a premium for insurance will be worth it.
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