Even as the 2019 parliamentary elections are fast approaching, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government has gone all out to woo farmers in the state in its second budget since it came to power in 2016. The government set aside Rs 10,550.85 crore for the agriculture sector, up by Rs 1,634.6 crore from last year. In addition to this, the government has also announced a slew of sops and subsidies in ancillary sectors, including power, animal husbandry, dairy, fisheries, and energy.
While agricultural loan waivers are part of the Rs 82,673.32 crore allocated for Subsidies and Transfers, the government has proposed to disburse crop loan to an extent of Rs 10,000 crore. An interest waiver on crop loan has also been announced to the tune of Rs 200 crore.
In his speech on Friday, Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who is also in charge of the Department of Finance, presented the budget stating that, contrary to earlier reports, the revenue deficit of the state is projected to drop to Rs 14,315 crore, as opposed to the previously estimated Rs 19,319 crore.
Stating that the development strategy in farming sector has shifted from increasing crop productivity to increasing farm productivity and farmers income, the government data states that of the 79.38 lakh operational holdings in Tamil Nadu, 92.51 percent are small and marginal farmers.
Speaking to TNM, Elankeeran Veeramani, the President of the Federation of Cauvery Delta Farmers Association, says that while the Organic Certification Centres to promote organic farming is a welcome move, the budget is a let down on farm loan waivers.
“In states like Telangana, there are ample farm loan waivers. We also expected the same but we are disappointed. Former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had promised this. We had requested the government not to split us into big and small farmers since the waiver was available only to those with less than 5 acres of land. We approached the Supreme Court over this,” he laments.
Agriculture in the state also took a hit with the onslaught of Cyclone Gaja, a severe cyclonic storm that hit coastal and delta regions of the state in November last year. The cyclone left a trail of destruction in its wake, destroying hundreds of acres of prime agricultural crops, livestock and power lines across Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram, Thiruvarur, Thanjavur, Trichy, Pudukkottai, Dindigul and Puducherry.
“During 2019-2020, this Government will notify more crops and expand the coverage under crop insurance. Further, cloud burst and natural fire will also be included under localised calamities, in addition to hail storm, landslide, inundation, etc. Rs 621.59 crore has been allocated in the Budget Estimates 2019-2020 as State Government share of the premium,” the government announced.
With regard to the state's push for micro-irrigation schemes, the government has proposed to cover another 2.0 lakh hectares under the scheme during 2019- 2020 with an outlay of Rs 1,361 crore. Further, the government will assist another 5,000 Integrated Farming System (IFS) units in 25 districts at an outlay of Rs 101.62 crore
Meanwhile, PR Pandian, President of the All Farmers Organisation Association, says that the budget offers nothing new.
“The plans are all the same as before, they have just adjusted the figures for this year. This year, they have expanded agricultural Machinery Custom Hiring centres (to borrow farm equipment) in rural areas. The fact remains that our agricultural fields need security and this finds no mention in the budget. Late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had promised us that the government will not carry out the hydrocarbon projects across the state. This government is not following her way. The DMK government called its scheme Uzhavar Santhai, the AIADMK government is called it the Kaigari Virpanai Maiam (Centre for Sale of Fruits and Vegetables). That’s the only difference. They need to safeguard our lands first. That’s what we need,” he says.