The Congress on Wednesday asked the government to announce a national farm loan waiver and a minimum income scheme in the upcoming Union Budget, as well as spell out measures to ensure farmers’ income doubles by 2022.
Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan demanded a reduction in GST rates on agriculture inputs to less than 5 per cent and said the government should announce measures like universal basic income to put more money in the hands of farmers and the poor so that their consumption increases.
He demanded that the government bring petrol and diesel under the GST regime, saying it will help provide relief to farmers who have been paying higher rates.
The Centre has earned over Rs 13.5 lakh crore by way of taxes on petroleum products, Chavan said.
“The BJP government, instead of producing any results, has only been busy in changing the goalposts during the past 5.5 years, sometimes by giving a target of year 2022, and sometimes by raising divisive issues for distracting the attention of people,” he said.
The BJP came to power with the promise of giving 50 per cent profit on the cost of farm produce to farmers, he claimed.
But, so far, farmers have been left at the mercy of their fate and “the government has been only trying to mislead them with false ‘jumlas'”, Chavan alleged.
“In all the budgets of the BJP, till date, farmers have suffered deception of mirages and numerous promises were made to mislead them. In the Budget 2020, we hope and request the finance minister that the farmer who is the ‘annadata’ of this country should not be betrayed any more,” he said.
Chavan said the government must tell by how much income of farmers has increased in the last five years, as part of its promise of doubling their income by 2022.
“We want to know, as we are aware that nothing has happened so far. The budget should also provide a detailed outline of how to double farmers’ income by 2022 and what steps have been taken,” he told reporters.
The government should announce a national farm loan waiver on the lines of the previous UPA government’s step undertaken in 2008 to benefit 14 crore farmer families in the country, Chavan said.
“We demand that the government should put more money in the hands of 95 per cent poor who live in rural areas and help improve consumption through schemes like MNREGA.
“The government should also bring a universal basic income scheme to ensure that there is direct benefit to people and money should go into their accounts directly to help improve consumption levels,” he said.
Chavan, a former chief minister of Maharashtra, said for farmers’ income to double by 2022 the agriculture sector has to grow by at least 12 per cent compounded annually.
But, under the Modi government the agriculture sector has seen a growth of only 2.9 per cent in the last five years, he claimed, asking how this will double farmers’ income.
He said this has created doubts over the government’s claims of making India a USD 5-trillion economy by 2024, as the agriculture sector has a contribution of over 15.5 per cent in the country’s GDP but it is growing slowly.
“How will India’s dream of becoming a USD 5 trillion economy be accomplished,” he asked.
The Congress leader alleged that the BJP government has given far lesser minimum support price to farmers than its commitment, yet they are not getting the declared MSP.
He alleged that it is BJP’s conspiracy to lock-out the Food Corporation of India (FCI) as its government has virtually stopped releasing food subsidy amount to the corporation during the past five years and Rs 1.74 lakh crore payable to FCI by the BJP government is still outstanding.
Chavan also accused the central government of owing money to states, with Rs 15,000 crore to Maharashtra alone. The central government is not honouring its commitment to states, he alleged.
He also said that the global community is also worried about the statistics provided by the central government on the economic parameters, including the GDP growth.
“There is a lot of jugglery of figures going on and therefore, the credibility of India is being questioned,” he alleged.
The Congress leader said the zero budget natural farming is a “bogus scheme” and there should be a scientific investigation into it.
He also alleged that the crop insurance scheme is a “failure”, as only big insurance companies are benefitting, going by the compensation of only Rs 153 crore paid against premium collected to the tune of Rs 25,000 crore from farmers.
“This is very unfair,” he said.