Budget 2019: Government announces Zero Budget Farming to save farmers from debt trap
Agriculture in India is in need of a fillip. On one hand, water is running out and our fields are filled with chemical fertilisers. On the other hand, technology intervention in this industry is low.
In the 89th Union Budget of India, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced several measures to revive the sector.
She said, "Considering the fact that majority of people still live in villages and depend on agriculture and traditional industries, the ‘Scheme of Fund for Upgradation and Regeneration of Traditional Industries’ (SFURTI) aims to set up more Common Facility Centres (CFCs) to facilitate cluster-based development to make the traditional industries more productive, profitable and capable for generating sustained employment opportunities."
The focus sectors are bamboo, honey, and khadi clusters. SFURTI envisions setting up 100 new clusters during 2019-20, which should enable 50,000 artisans to join the economic value chain.
Further, to improve the technology of such industries, a Scheme for Promotion of Innovation, Rural Industry and Entrepreneurship’ (ASPIRE) has been consolidated for setting up of Livelihood Business Incubators (LBIs) and Technology Business Incubators (TBIs).
The scheme contemplates setting up of 80 LBIs and 20 TBIs in 2019-20 to develop 75,000 skilled entrepreneurs in agro-rural industry sectors.
She added that the Centre will work with State governments to allow farmers to benefit from e-NAM and the Agriculture Produce Marketing Cooperatives (APMC) Act should not hamper farmers from getting a fair price for their produce. Both ease of doing business and ease of living should apply to farmers too.
"We shall go back to basics on one count - Zero Budget Farming. Steps such as this can help in doubling our farmers’ income in time for our 75th year of Independence," said the Finance Minister.
Zero Budget farming was started in Karnataka where farmers used organic inputs in farms rather than chemicals and multi-cropped the land with their main crop.
"Very excited to see Zero Budget natural farming mentioned. That's the business startups like ours supports. That’s one of the fundamental methods we apply in growing our crops. Relying on no chemicals and avoiding the use of external inputs as much possible to reduce costs," said Shameek Chakravarty, Founder of Farmizen. He added that this may not increase a farmer’s revenue but will increase their profits.
Ensuring India’s water security and providing access to safe and adequate drinking water to all Indians is also a priority of the Government. A major step in this direction has been the constitution of the Jal Shakti Mantralaya, integrating the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
This new Mantralaya will look at the management of India’s water resources and water supply in an integrated and holistic manner and will work with state governments to ensure Har Ghar Jal (piped water supply) to all rural households by 2024 under the Jal Jeevan Mission.
This Mission, under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, will focus on integrated demand and supply-side management of water at the local level, including the creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge, and management of household wastewater for reuse in agriculture.
The Jal Jeevan Mission will converge with other Central and State Government Schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across the country.
Sitharaman said, "We will invest widely in agricultural infrastructure. We will support private entrepreneurship in driving value-addition to farmers’ produce from the field and for those from allied activities, like bamboo and timber from the hedges and for generating renewable energy. Annadata can also be Urjadata.”
Dairy through cooperatives will also be encouraged by creating infrastructure for cattle feed manufacturing, milk procurement, processing, and marketing.
She added that she places on record her appreciation for farmers who have made India self-sufficient in pulses. "I am sure they will repeat such a success even in the production of oilseeds. Our import bill shall be reduced by their seva," she said.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)