Budget 2021: Nirmala Sitharaman says government committed to farmers' welfare
While presenting her third Union Budget today, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government is committed to the development of farmers, while also assuring that procurement of produce at the minimum support price (MSP) will continue steadily. Just as she mentioned farmers, chaos erupted in Lok Sabha with Opposition leaders demanding that the three contentious farm laws be revoked. Here's more.
Minister claimed payment to farmers increased substantially
Reaching out to farmers through her Budget, Sitharaman said the MSP regime saw a "sea change" to assure selling price is at least 1.5 times of the production cost. "This has resulted in an increase in payment to farmers substantially," she underlined. Separately, the agriculture credit target has been increased to Rs. 16.5 lakh crore for the financial year 2021-22.
Money disbursed to farmers doubled from 2013-14 to 2019-20
Divulging more details, Sitharaman informed that as compared to Rs. 33,874 crore given for wheat to farmers in 2013-14, Rs. 62,802 crore was disbursed in 2019-20. "The number of wheat growing farmers that were benefited increased in 2020-21 to 43.36 lakh compared to 35.57 lakh in 2019-20. That much of an increase within one year," she said, amid cheers from the ruling party members.
Money given for pulses and paddy also witnessed sharp rise
Similarly, for paddy, the money given to farmers in 2013-14 was Rs. 63,928 crore and it swelled to Rs. 1,41,930 crore in 2019-20. The number of beneficiaries also increased to 1.54 crore in 2020-21 from 1.2 crore last year. In 2013-14, a cumulative amount of Rs. 236 crore was paid for pulses. "In 2019-20, this was increased to Rs. 8,285 crore," she revealed.
As she highlighted government's achievements, Opposition demanded repeal of laws
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader focused on the steps taken for agriculture, the Opposition shouted slogans, demanding a repeal of the three laws passed in mid-September. The laws also sparked a protest, that has been continuing since November. Tellingly, the agitation turned ugly on January 26 when protesting farmers took over the Red Fort, hoisted flags, and clashed with cops in Delhi.
The Badals, former allies of BJP, held placards today
Notably, Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, held placards demanding a repeal of laws. Harsimrat was a part of the Union Cabinet until September; she had quit over the anti-farmers legislation. Meanwhile, to express solidarity toward protesting farmers, Congress MPs Gurjeet Singh Aujla, Jasbir Singh Gill, and Ravneet Singh Bittu donned black robes today.
Budget focuses on boosting farmers' income: PM Modi
Speaking on the Budget later in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said farmers and villages got the due attention. "Budget 2021 has a special focus on strengthening the agriculture sector, boosting farmers' income. Villages and farmers are at its heart. It has provisions for further strengthening APMC mandis through the Agri Infrastructure Fund," he said. He praised Sitharaman and team for the Budget.
Dialogue is the way forward: Sitharaman on farm laws
Unsurprisingly, Sitharaman spoke about farmers and the massive agitation in her press briefing today. She asserted that the government has never been reluctant to hold talks. The Finance Minister also reminded that her colleague, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, is willing to discuss the laws clause-by-clause with the protesting farmers. "We believe that dialogue is the way forward," she added.