Farmers that YourStory spoke to are overjoyed that the Interim Budget has made them top priority but also say that there’s a need to ensure benefits reach those who need them.
Narayan Reddy, a 54-year-old farmer who grows organic crops, was thrilled with Finance Minister Piyush Goyal's Interim Budget. Apart from announcing a Rs 75,000 crore package for farmers, the BJP-led Union Government announced that it would spend Rs 20,000 crore on farmers in the coming year. Budget 2019 also allocated an annual grant of Rs 6,000 for farmers who own less than 5 acres.
“I hope the benefits are released this year. We were thrilled with the fact that an emphasis was placed on organic vegetables. We are already working with retailers that supporting that revolution,” says Narayan Reddy, speaking from his farm in Varthur Hobli, Bengaluru.
The Interim Budget offered a host of goodies for Indian farmers. The Minister announced that the government would take an interest subvention of 2 percent for farmers in distress; if farmers paid the loans on time, a further 3 percent subvention would be offered.
Says Pratibha N, a 25-year-old farmer who owns a three-acre farm on the outskirts of Bengaluru,
“We also liked the fact that there was on emphasis on digitising villages. Unfortunately, we do not know when villages will get free WiFi and how that will benefit us. Data must be gathered on why crops fail and how farmers can change cropping patterns.”
Other announcements that won farmers over included the interlinking of rivers, which would improve irrigation in distressed areas, and the fact that farmers would get 20 percent more on the minimum support price of the produce.
But there were some complaints as well.
“All these announcements are fine. But little do Indian farmers know that they are killing the soil with the kind of chemicals they use to grow crops. The budget did not talk about improving farming for the future. Current cropping patterns are misleading because they are fertilizer fed. The government should use technology to improve farming methods and use data to change farming. These sops are election-oriented and they don't solve any purpose for us in the long run,” said Sunil S, a farmer near Bannerghatta, a rural suburb on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
While the government was expected make this a pro-farmer budget, agritech startups feel that the government could have addressed a lot more beyond the Rs 6,000 per year.
Shameek Chakravarty, Founder of Farmizen, an app that lets Bengalureans rent out space on a farm, said:
“I believe that the government should focus on bridging the gap between consumption, supply chain, and production. The yearly support of Rs 6,000 does not really impact a farmer’s life.”
While middle-class India revels in the fact that the tax sops will bring more money into their pockets, farmers feel the sops will benefit them if the government manages to reach the needy on time, manage water supply, and help in guaranteed price discovery for their crops. Will the government be able to manage it this time?