Mumbai: The Maharashtra government will spend nearly half of its entire budget for 2016-17 on the agriculture sector—not surprising for a state which has seen acute rural misery and a spate of farmer suicides after two consecutive droughts.

According to Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar who presented the budget in the state legislature on Friday, the government’s focus was on the farmer. Mungantiwar himself belongs to the Vidarbha, a region hit by the farm crisis.

The budget estimates a revenue deficit of 3,644 crore in 2016-17. It expects revenue income more than 2.2 trillion and revenue expenditure of 2.24 trillion. Mungantiwar said the revenue deficit in 2015-16 estimated at 3,757 crore at the start of the current fiscal has gone up to 9,289 crore.

“This increase in revenue deficit is largely on account of the drought relief measures," the minister said.

In the state’s 56,997 crore annual plan, agriculture got 26,891 crore under various programmes. Of this, the largest allocations have been made for irrigation and water conservation, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and the state’s contribution to the National Crop Insurance scheme.

The state will spend 7,850 crore on irrigation schemes. Mungantiwar said the state had completely utilised the 2015-16 allocation for irrigation, which was 7,272 crore.

The state will pay 1,855 crore premium for the National Crop Insurance Scheme. The government also proposed a 1,035-crore food security programme in 14 districts of Aurangabad, Amravati and Nagpur divisions, on this scheme.

For the implementation of the Centre’s Housing For All by 2022 programme, Maharashtra will contribute 700 crore in 2016-17.

Mungantiwar said the government in 2015-16 extended direct financial assistance worth 5,002 crore to farmers hit by drought and other natural calamities. The latest budget sets aside 3,360 crore for this purpose as a precautionary measure.

In a bid to promote agro-processing, the budget proposed a grant of 25% of the project cost or a maximum of 50 lakh for an agro-processing unit. Mugantiwar, who allocated 50 crore for this, said the outlay may be increased depending upon the response to this incentive.

The budget also accepted the long-pending demand from the industry in Marathwada and Vidarbha for lower energy tariff.

Mungantiwar said industrial units in these two regions would be charged a lower power tariff compared to other regions. The state would bear 1000 crore subsidy in 2016-17 on account of this. The minister, however, did not specify the extent of tariff reduction.

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