New Delhi: The government on Monday eulogised farmers as the “real heroes of India’s success story” in its interim budget for 2009-10, while outlining steps taken for their well-being including debt waiver and high support price for their produce.
“... the real heroes of India’s success story were our farmers. With record procurement of 22.7 million tonnes of wheat and 28.5 million tonnes of rice for our public distribution system (PDS) in 2008, our granaries are full,” finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said presenting the interim budget in Parliament.
The praise for peasants, most of whom are subsistence farmers, comes ahead of general elections due in a few months.
The minister presented statistics to hard-sell the government’s initiatives to prop up the agriculture sector and improve the conditions of roughly about 60% of the country’s population depending upon it.
“In the period between 2003-04 and 2008-09, our government increased the Plan allocation for agriculture by 300%,” Mukherjee said.
The farm sector, which contributes about 18% to the country’s overall GDP, grew at an average of 3.7% in the last four years, he said. The sector had grown at an average of a dismal 2.5% during the 10th Five-Year Plan (2002-07).
That apart, the production of foodgrains increased by about 10 million tonnes each year to reach an all-time high of over 230 million tonnes in 2007-08, he added.
The minister said the farm debt waiver scheme, announced in the last budget, was implemented as scheduled and early reports have pegged the relief at Rs65,300 crore covering 3.6 crore farmers.
“The credit disbursements have already gone up from Rs87,000 crore in 2003-04 to about Rs2,50,000 crore in 2007-08 marking a three-fold increase,” he said, adding that the government is implementing a revival package involving a financial assistance of around Rs13,500 crore in 25 states to strengthen the short-term co-operative credit structure.
“The government will continue to provide interest subvention in 2009-10 to ensure that farmers get short-term crop loans up to Rs3 lakh at 7% per annum,” the minister said.
The Centre launched the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana last year with an outlay of Rs25,000 crore with the objective to achieve a growth rate of 4% during the 11th Five- Year Plan (2007-12), he said.
The minister also projected a good outlook for this year. “Despite a high base, the outlook for 2008-09 is encouraging with the country receiving normal rainfall during the agricultural season.”
The central issue prices under the targeted public distribution system have been maintained at the level of July 2000 under the below poverty line and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) categories and at July 2002 levels for the above poverty line (APL) category despite higher procurement costs and higher international prices during the last five years, the minister said.
To ensure sufficient remunerative prices to farmers, the government has raised the minimum support price (MSP) for the common variety of paddy to Rs900 (including bonus) for 2008-09 from Rs500 a quintal in 2003-04, he said.
The support price for wheat, too, was also raised to Rs1,080 a quintal for the year 2009 from Rs630 in 2003-04.