Budgetary allocation for agriculture doubled

Budgetary allocation for agriculture doubled

Reaching out to farmers facing back-to-back droughts, the Centre on Monday more than doubled the budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector with an emphasis on improving irrigation and reducing the burden of loan repayment.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated Rs 35,983.69 crore to the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare as against the Rs 16,646 crore set aside in last year’s Budget.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet initiatives—crop insurance and irrigation schemes—have got a lion’s share of the budgetary allocations. The finance minister has set aside Rs 5,500 crore for the “Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana” up from the Rs 2,589 crore last year. The scheme aims at bringing 50% farmers under the insurance cover.

Making drought-proofing a priority area, Jaitley said as many as 28.5 lakh hectares of land will be brought under irrigation during 2016-17, through the “Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana”.

He pointed out that out of the 14.1 crore hectares of net cultivated area, only 6.5 crore hectares were irrigated. The minister said 89 projects, under the accelerated irrigation benefits programme that were languishing will be fast-tracked to bring 80.6 lakh hectares of land under irrigation.

“These projects require Rs 17,000 crore next year and Rs 86,500 crore in the next five years. We will ensure that 23 of these projects are completed before 31st March, 2017,” said Jaitley.

The minister has also set aside Rs 15,000 crore for interest subvention on farm credit and Rs 500 crore to boost production of pulses, a commodity that was in short supply last year.

To ensure timely flow of credit, the government has set an all-time-high target of Rs 9 lakh crore for disbursal of agriculture credit, a Rs 50,000 crore increase from the Rs 8.5 lakh crore last year.

The government also announced creation of a dedicated long-term irrigation fund in Nabard with an initial corpus of about Rs 20,000 crore.

In a bid to ensure that all farmers get the minimum support price, Jaitley said the states would be encouraged to take up decentralised procurement, undertaking online procurement of food grains through the Food Corporation of India and making arrangements for procurement of pulses, an area that has been in the domain of private traders so far.

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