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After Karnataka & MP, Centre too plans separate Agriculture Budget

The first Agriculture Budget is slated to be presented before parliament as early as 2018, a year prior to the next general elections.

According to sources, the government has started working on the proposal, which would be finalised very soon. “The proposal, which is at discussion level, is aimed at giving a special push to shrinking agriculture sector as well as to assess the gross domestic production of the country in a better way,” a source said, adding that the plan is to present it in  Parliament in 2018, the fourth budget presentation of Modi government.

“States like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka started the practice of presenting a separate agriculture budget, which has proved beneficial to farmers. On similar lines, the Centre is also planning to have a separate farm budget each year. The government may also bring out a comprehensive survey of agriculture as like the Economic Survey presented in Lok Sabha before the general Budget,” the source said.

Notably, Karnataka was the first to start this practice, when BS Yeddyurappa was at the helm of affairs, which was replicated by Madhya Pradesh’s Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The move which is aimed at wooing farmers before going to the polls in 2019, has however been flayed by farmers’ bodies. Commenting on it, chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj Ajay Vir Jakhar said, “Budget is an exercise to balance the account books and as there is no existing revenue model in agriculture sector, it’s doubtful that there would be much to celebrate for farmers in the proposed budget.”

“If the Centre wants to introduce a separate agriculture budget, it must also have plans to generate revenue out of it, which means agricultural income would come under the tax ambit,” Jakhar said, adding that though it’s not yet in the public domain, but farmers bodies would definitely support the move, if it benefitted farmers.

Commenting on the Centre’s move, former agriculture minister Charan Das Mahant said, “There’s a need to have a separate farm budget to resurrect the dying agricultural sector, which was once the lifeline of our economy. The sector’s contribution into GDP has reduced to about 15 per cent despite it supporting almost 60 per cent of India’s total population.” Mahant had initiated for a dedicated farm budget during the UPA regime.

On the move, farmer activist Nikhil Dey said, “Since, agriculture is the lifeline of country and farming sector is in very bad shape, bringing a separate budget is not going to help them as it would encourage other irrelevant activities.” The Centre in its annual budget for 2016-17 had doubled the allocation for agriculture and farmers’ welfare to Rs 35,984 crore and about Rs 11,000 crore more has been sought for implementation of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna. 
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