In a trend that continued from the first budget presented by the JD(S)-Congress coalition government in power in Karnataka, a slew of farmer-oriented measures were announced by Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Friday. Rs 100 crore has been released to take up drought proofing watershed activities till 2024 for drought relief by the state government as more than 150 taluks in the state have suffered from severe drought.
“Due to droughts and floods, our farmers have suffered. The other big issue is that farmers are not getting the market price they deserve,” Kumaraswamy said while presenting the budget.
Out of 176 taluks in the state, 156 have been affected by drought in the rabi season (October to January), further aggravating the crisis plaguing farmers in the state. Kodagu district meanwhile was devastated by landslides in August 2018 affecting the produce of thousands of small farmers, particularly coffee growers in the district.
Kumaraswamy also claimed that Rs 5,450 crore has been released as part of the coalition government's flagship farm loan waiver scheme in July 2018.
A grant of Rs 6,500 crore for waiver of loans of farmers with commercial banks and a grant of Rs 6,150 crore for farmers with loans in cooperative bank was announced. A total of Rs 46,853 crore to the agriculture-related departments is in the budget.
This includes Rs 145 crore for the development of the Israeli irrigation model and Rs 40 crore for the development of Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). The Israeli irrigation model makes use of drip irrigation methods to conserve water, while ZBNF is a set of natural farming methods where cost of growing and harvesting plants is zero.
Grants have also been announced to encourage pomegranate, grape and mango growers as well as for bee and gherkin farmers. Millet farming has once again received special attention with a cash incentive of Rs 10,000 per hectare announced under the ‘Raitha Siri’ scheme. Moreover, a Rs. 510 crore grant was included to provide minimum support price to 12 notified farm produce in all Agricultural Produce Market Committees.
However, a glaring omission among the series of farmer-friendly initiatives was the ‘Raitha Belaku’ scheme announced by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in 2018. Under this scheme, farmers in drought affected areas are supposed get a monthly Rs 5,000 per hectare if the monsoons fails. The scheme did not figure in the previous budget announced in July 2018 and has been scrapped in favour of the loan waiver scheme. This means that the Rs. 3,500 crore earmarked for the project last year will not be released.