At a time of growing farmer discontent, a reduction of agriculture budget is surely hard to justify


Keeping in view the escalating farmer discontent in India in recent times, many people had reason to expect that the union government will respond by significantly raising the budget for agriculture, particularly in the context of  some of its most favored schemes. But when the union budget for 2021-22 was presented recently, they were in for a rude shock as even the agriculture budget had taken a hit. In fact even some of the most favored schemes of the government in the agriculture sector have faced cuts.

In order to understand the full impact of this we need to remember that in addition the budgets of some of these schemes were revised downwards in the previous financial year 2020-21, as can be seen from the fact that the revised estimates (RE) are lower than the budget estimates (BE) for this year.

So to have a more complete view, we need to see this at two levels. First, we should see to what extent these schemes or the entire sector were deprived of funds during the financial year 2020-21. For this we can compare BE for this year with RE for this financial year. Secondly, to understand to what extent the allocation in the new budget for 2021-22 decreased, we can compare the BE for the previous financial year with the BE for the new financial year.

If we look at the BE for 2020-21 for the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare ( excluding  Interest Subvention), then this amounts to  Rs. 113224 crore. However  the RE for this year faced a big cut and was reduced to Rs. 96926 crore. ( one crore=10  million). The BE for the new year 2021-22 ( Rs. 103549 crore) for the new year is still lower than the BE for the previous year by about Rs. 10000 crore.

The scheme of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi ( PM-Kisan) is the most publicized scheme of the government. Despite this the BE for 2020-21 of Rs. 75000 crore was reduced to RE of Rs. 65000 cr, a big cut. For 2021-22, the BE remains reduced to Rs. 65000 cr.

Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana is another highly publicized scheme, but its allocation is spread across several departments/ministries. According to a review of the budget by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountabilty (CBGA), if we add up all these allocations, then the BE of Rs. 11378 cr. was reduced to RE of Rs. 8206 crore in 2020-21. In the case of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana this reduction was from Rs. 3700 crore to Rs. 2551 crore, a very big decrease. Even the National Food Security Mission faced a cut from BE of Rs. 2100 crore to RE of Rs. 1864 crore.

Parampragat Krishi Vikas Yojana is supppsed to promote traditional wisdom in farming. Its budget was cut in the previous year from Rs. 500 crore to Rs. 350 crore, and this year the BE mentioned at Rs. 450 crore is still lower than the BE of the previous year.

The Budget for the National Mission on Horticulture faced a cut from Rs. 2300 crore to Rs. 1610 crore while moving last year from BE to RE.

The White Revolution also lost  some of its fervor as, according to the CBGA review,  the budget for this  was reduced from BE of 1805 cr. to RE of Rs. 1642 cr. in the previous year, while the BE for the new year 2021-22 stands even lower at Rs. 1177 crore.

The budget for the National Bamboo Mission was cut from Rs. 110 crore to Rs. 94 crore in the previous year, and is placed at Rs. 100 crore in the new year.

The budget provision for the important scheme called the Market Intervention Scheme and Price Support Scheme (MIS-PSS) in the Ministry of Agriculture was cut  from Rs. 2000 crore to Rs. 996 crore in the previous year , and for the new year the BE at Rs. 1500 crore is still much less than the BE of the previous year.

The scheme of the formation and promotion of 10000 farmer producer organizations has been much talked about but its budget last year was cut  from Rs. 500 crore to Rs. 250 crore.

Thus clearly the budget for several schemes of the agriculture sector was reduced significantly in the previous year, and while we see a moderate increase in the allocation for some schemes in this budget, in the case of other schemes there is a reduction with the net result there is overall a reduction in the budget for the department of agriculture, cooperation and farmer welfare in the latest budget. All the declines will appear to be even more in real terms if the impact of inflation is also provided for, as it should be to understand the change in real terms.

While this is not a complete assessment of allocations for farmers as their welfare and economic well-being is also affected by allocations of other departments and ministries, nevertheless the budget of the department( and the schemes) examined here is the core component of the allocations made for the progress of farming and a reduction in this reflects poorly on the high claims made by the union government regarding its high commitment to the progress of agriculture and the economic well-being of farmers.

Another aspect of budget allocation that deserves attention is that while the government and the sangh parivar keep giving a lot of lip sympathy to protecting traditional wisdom in farming ( which can contribute much to ecologically  protective farming as well) in fact cuts are made regularly in the main specific scheme meant to promote this—the Parampragat Krishi Vikas Yojana. This is true of the previous financial year as well of some other recent years, and the BE for this scheme in 2021-22 is also less than the BE for the previous financial year.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author who has been involved with several social movements.



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