Govt opens coffers to woo farmers, poor
Not losing on the momentum of 'pro-poor' and 'pro-farmer' Budget as dubbed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016, the general budget 2017 showcased no differences as the welfare of farmers and marginalised workers still conquer the first position.
With a remarkable allotment of Rs 1,87,223 crore, a rise of 24 percent from the previous year, the government mentioned that its sole focus will be on rural areas, infrastructure and poverty alleviation with fiscal prudence. Lending a special treatment to rural employment scheme, the government announced Rs 48,000 crore for MGNREGA, which marks the biggest allocation till date. Last year, the number was Rs 38,500 crore.
While presenting the Union Budget 2017, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a total allocation for agriculture and farmers' welfare to be enhanced by Rs 10 lakh crore because agriculture is expected to grow by 4.1 per cent.
The agricultural sector will be offered a bonanza in the upcoming assembly elections, commencing from February 4, as aims to bring the farming community to BJP fold mainly in two politically crucial states -Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
In the previous year, the government had stepped up allocation for agriculture and farmers' to Rs 35,984 crore with a vow to double the farmer's income by 2022.
Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said, "It's a farmer and poor friendly budget which will meet the targets of the ministry towards the welfare of farmers."
Drawing a contradiction to the government's views, several activists have lamented on the MNREGA push. Social activist Nikhil Dey said, "Initially, the allocation amount for MGNREGA seems like a dramatic increase but it is just an increase by one per cent of Rs 500 crore because two supplementary allocations during the course of the year round up the allocation to Rs 47,500 crore."
Condemning the decision, he said that irrespective of the allocation, one needs to gauge the fact that MGNREGA will only work as per the legislation. "It needs to have adequate resources to meet the demands," Dey added. "We can see that 22 out of 34 states are thriving on negative balances. As per the ministry's own data, Rs 3,469 crores in pending liabilities are piled up after spending 93 percent of funds available for this financial year," he said.