Prof. M S Swaminathan’s reactions to the Union Budget 2015-16
Former Member of Rajya Sabha
Indications of budget proposals and priorities are usually given in the address of the President of India at the Joint Session of Parliament. In his address, the President has stressed that Kisan is the sentinel of our food security and that value added agriculture, market reform, use of technology and improving productivity in areas with untapped potential are important. 2015 is the International Year of the Soil and the Government is proposing to issue soil health cards to all farm families. This should help in promoting balanced fertilisation. Also, a price stabilisation fund will be established for perishable commodities with an initial outlay of 500 crore. Much stress has been placed in creating more irrigation facilities and the Prime Minister has also been repeatedly emphasising the need for improving water use efficiency through a More Crop per Drop of Water approach. Another area mentioned by the President is the conservation of indigenous cattle breeds. Food processing and youth involvement are other priority areas.
The Economic Survey 2015 has recommended the setting up of a national market for agricultural commodities. Earlier the National Commission on Farmers had strongly advocated the establishment of an Indian Single Market which will avoid impediments in the movement of agricultural commodities throughout India. The Economic Survey also recommends a re-look at genetically modified crops, since they can play an important role in enhancing the productivity of small farms as well as food security and sustainability in an era of climate change.
The Union Budget presented today by the Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley addresses some of the issues mentioned both in the address of the President as well as the Economic Survey.
Thus, the budget proposes to allocate adequate funds for irrigation as well as for soil health monitoring and enhancement. Renewable energy particularly solar power generation will receive substantial support. Agrobased industries and digital connectivity will be given importance, so that skilled job creation in rural India can be facilitated. Subsidies will be reviewed and made effective in relation to the purpose for which subsidies are given. Rural infrastructure development will receive 15000 crore while minor irrigation will be provided 5200 crore. The credit available to farmers will be increased to 8.5 lakh crore. A MUDRA Bank will be established with a Corpus of 20000 crore for helping small and backward entrepreneurs. Empowerment of youth with new skills and entrepreneurship qualities will receive special attention from the MUDRA Bank.
In the field of agricultural research and education, horticultural research will be strengthened by establishing a PG Institute of Horticultural Research in Punjab. The Kerala Agricultural University will be upgraded. Child nutrition and healthcare will receive an additional allocation of 1500 crore for the ICDS programme. Public procurement of agriculture commodities will be reviewed. Announcement of Atal Innovation Mission is a welcome initiative for encouraging scientific innovation.
By and large, the budget aims to consolidate the gains already made in the area of agriculture and gives further push to areas like small farm productivity and non-farm employment. Since State Governments will have substantial additional resources and since agriculture is a state subject, I hope many of the location specific problems in agriculture and rural development will receive the needed attention from State governments. The budget recognises that agricultural progress is fundamental to national wellbeing since a majority of the population depend upon agriculture for their livelihood. I therefore would like to complement Shri Arun Jaitley for the steps he has proposed to improve rural infrastructure, small farm productivity and profitability and youth employment and entrepreneurship.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.