Budget 2014-15 has no substantive proposals to address farm livelihoods in India: ASHA

Reacting to the budget announcements made by the Finance Minister today, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) expressed its deep disappointment that the government has not come up with anything substantive in terms of decisive shifts in policy directions, to address the crisis in farm livelihoods in India. In many ways, this belies the promises made by the BJP in its election manifesto, said a press statement by the farm advocacy platform. After disappointing the farmers with practically no increase in MSPs, there is further disappointment from the budget having no provisions for ensuring higher incomes for farmers – 50% above cost of cultivation as promised by BJP manifesto.

Much of what has been announced is a continuation of earlier government’s policies and schemes. In fact, our emphasis has been on the fact that this plethora of schemes are not synergised enough to deliver any significant improvements in farm livelihoods. The recent NCRB data shows that there were 11772 farm suicides in 2013 – yet, the budget does not take cognisance of this.

“While budget after budget, we hear promises around agricultural credit or warehouse receipt schemes and the like, there are serious flaws in design and implementation of these schemes. Agricultural credit largely misses out the really needy farmers, and more and more it is agri-businesses which are garnering support available under credit funds.

In fact, accountability of these interventions not being in the form of improved net incomes for farm households is a major lacuna.

As a network that believes in sustainable agricultural development, we have been presenting a case for how ecological agriculture improves net incomes for farmers and also brings down public financing burden on the government. While bringing down cost of cultivation for farmers, this also protects productive resources. This requires the right kind of investments in agri-research, innovative extension as well as organic produce marketing.

Despite promises made in the BJP Manifesto, organic farming in this budget appears to have been relegated to only the North Eastern States. This is indeed disappointing. We hope that the climate change national adaption fund announced for 100 crores will be used for promoting and incentivising agro-ecological approaches since these are the approaches to create resilient systems in the context of climate change.

We also hope that the government realises that soil health cards or soil testing labs will not ensure adoption of sustainable soil management practices; organic farming will. There is enough evidence on this, and the government has to show the political will to address soil health issues by directly promoting ecological agriculture and not superficial schemes around soil health cards.

The additional support available under PRODUCE for 2000 producer collectives is welcome; similarly, support for landless cultivators is absolutely necessary and has been rightly included in this budget. We also hope that the price stabilisation fund is not made the excuse towards dismantling of the procurement system in this country (there has been an orchestrated effort in the recent past around this, and ASHA cautions the government against any such move); that it is indeed made into a win-win option for farmers and consumers by putting into place a price deficiency payment system in place for producers, so that consumers do not bear the burden of food inflation and producers get what is due to them for performing an important function for the entire nation: that of feeding the country.

For more information, contact: Kavitha Kuruganti at 9393001550 and Dr Ramoo at 9000699702.

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