Source: The Hindu Businessline

Meet Jaitley for pre-Budget discussion



Experts from the agriculture sector have sought measures to offset the impact of inflation on crops and income security for farmers and also debated the farm loan waiver at a pre-Budget meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday.

This was the first such meeting and the Finance Minister will meet more sectoral groups this week to get their proposals for the Union Budget 2018-19, which is likely on February 1.

As the farm sector provides employment to nearly half of the country’s total workforce, its prospects will play a crucial role in the upcoming Assembly elections as well as the 2019 general elections.

Pointing out that the median income of farmers in 2012 was just ₹1,600 per month, B Dasaratha Rami Reddy, Secretary General of the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association, said, “The farming community of India demands an Income Security Act for farmers as well as tenant and farm labour.”

Ashok Gulati, former Chairman of the Commission of Agricultural Costs and Prices, said that structural reforms in agriculture should be addressed rather than farm loan waivers.

He also called for buffer stocking of those commodities whose prices are trading below their minimum support price to control food inflation. “In the last three years agricultural growth has fallen below 3 per cent. Some commodity prices have gone below minimum selling price,” he said.

Ajay Vir Jakhar, Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, said that a minimum price must be set for all crops such as onions and tomatoes where the Central government intervenes to reduce prices of food. “Make budgetary allocations to set up the ‘Farmers’ Income Commission’ for securing ‘income security’ on the lines of the Seventh Pay Commission,” he said.

Underlining the Prime Minister’s plan to double farmers’ income in the next five years, Y Sivaji, an agriculture expert and a former Member of Parliament, said the government should announce MSPs for more agricultural products and they should be linked to the inflation in input costs. He also called for a “national policy” on loan waivers to farmers and providing them social security benefits like pension.

Experts also demanded removal of the Essential Commodities Act, including all agriculture inputs and equipment under zero per cent under the Goods and Services Tax and effective implementation of crop insurance and irrigation projects.

Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, Expenditure Secretary AN Jha and Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar also attended the meeting.  (Source: The Hindu Businessline)