Union Budget: Disappointed by no increase in PM-Kisan payouts, say farmers
The agriculture sector, the country’s largest employer, has grown at an average annual growth rate of 4.6% in the last six years, according to data from the annual Economic Survey 2022-23.
Farmers on Thursday expressed disappointment over the Union Budget 2023-24, saying the government skipped a widely anticipated increase in income support under the PM-Kisan programme — a proposal that had figured in discussions during the Budget’s preparations.
Several farm activists HT spoke to said the government largely focused on agri-tech, while the pressing issue for farmers was lack of profitable prices for their produce. They also questioned cuts in overall spending for a sector that has held steady, propping up the wider economy despite shocks from the pandemic.
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The agriculture sector, the country’s largest employer, has grown at an average annual growth rate of 4.6% in the last six years, according to data from the annual Economic Survey 2022-23. The sector grew by 3% in 2021-22 compared to 3.3% in 2020-21, which are decent rates of growth. India has also emerged as a net exporter of farm products, which touched an all-time high of US$ 50.2 billion in 2021-22.
Yet, the individual incomes of farmers have not grown robustly. The terms of trade in agriculture, which refers to, roughly, the total prices paid by cultivators versus total prices received, continues to be unfavourable.
“Farmer income was to be doubled by 2022-23. The Budget made no mention of it,” said Kiran Vissa, a farm expert.
Sukhdev Nagi, a small farmer from Punjab’s Mansa district said the current sum of ₹6,000 a year under PM-Kisan was insufficient to cover rising input costs, which was flagged as a constraint by the Economic Survey.
The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), a flagship scheme to boost farm output, was allocated ₹7,150 crore for 2023-24, compared to Budget estimates of ₹10,433 crore in 2022-23. Compared to this, in the current financial year, the government managed to spend ₹7,000 crore, according to Budget documents.
The RKVY scheme gives states freedom to choose their own agriculture plans. “The cut in RKVY shows a trend to centralise agriculture in every way,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture.
The Union Budget 2023-24 has made severe cuts where it matters most, which are the two price support schemes, Kuruganti said, referring to the Market Intervention Scheme and Price Support Scheme (MIS-PSS) and Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Yojna (PM-AASHA). These schemes are designed to compensate farmers in case of unprofitable sales.
The government has allocated a mere ₹1 lakh for MIS-PSS for 2023-24, down from ₹1,500 crore in 2022-23 (both Budget and revised estimates being equal). Likewise, the allocation for PM-AASHA for 2023-24 is ₹1 lakh, compared to ₹1 crore (Budget estimates) in 2022-23. Revised estimates for this scheme are not available.
According to HT’s calculations, the total expenditure on agriculture through multiple ministries worked out to be ₹3.54 lakh crore compared to ₹4.69 lakh crore in 2022-23.