Union Budget 2016-17 focuses on rural India and agriculture

Announcing the Union Budget 2016-17, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has given special emphasis on rural development and agriculture sector. 28.5 lakh hectares to be brought under irrigation, 14 crore farmers to be given Soil Health Cards by March, 2017, 5 lakh acres of rainfed areas to be brought under organic farming, allocated Rs 2.87 lakh crore to Gram Panchayats and Municipalities, 300 Rurban Clusters will be developed, 38,500 crore to MGNREGA with a focus on rural infrastructure development.
Union Budget 2016-17 focuses on rural India and agriculture

The Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley while presenting the Union Budget 2016-17 today said that his Government intends to go beyond Food Security and give back a sense of income security to our farmers. In this regard, his Government intends to double the farmers’ income by 2022. He allotted Rs 35,984 crore for agriculture and farmers’ welfare. He said that his government intends to address issues of optimal utilisation of water resources, create new infrastructure for irrigation, conserve soil fertility with balanced use of fertiliser and provide connectivity from farm to market.  

The Finance Minister said that out of 141 million hectares of net cultivated area only about 65 million hectares are irrigated. In this regard, he announced ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana’, to be implemented in a mission mode to bring another 28.5 lakh hectares under irrigation. He said that 89 projects under Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) will be fast tracked which will help to irrigate another 80.6 lakh hectare. He promised to complete 23 of these projects before March 31, 2017. These projects require Rs 17,000 crores next year and Rs 86,500 crore in the next five years. 

The minister announced to create a dedicated Long Term Irrigation Fund in National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) with an initial corpus of Rs 20,000 crore. A similar progrmme for sustainable management of ground water resources, with an estimated cost of Rs 6,000 crores has been proposed for multilateral funding. He also said that allocations under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act (MGNREGA) will be used for creating at least 5 lakh farm pond and dug wells in rain fed areas and 10 lakh compost pits for organic manure production.

Jaitley has set the target for Soil Health Card Scheme coverage to 14 crore farm holdings by March, 2017. This will help farmers to make judicious use of fertiliser. He said that 2,000 model retail outlets of Fertiliser companies will be provided with soil and seed testing facilities in next 3 years. He announced a policy to convert city waste to compose under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Fertiliser Companies will co-market these compost.

The Finance Minister announced ‘Parmparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana’ for  bringing 5 lakh acres of rain fed areas under organic farming. He launched a scheme ‘Organic value chain development in North East Region’ to make their organic produce find domestic and export markets.  Number of pulses districts under National Food Security Mission has been increased to 622.

Jaitley announced that a Unified Agricultural Marketing E Platform, National Agriculture Market will be dedicated to the Nation, on the birthday of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar on April 14, this year. He also said that, the completion target of ‘Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana’ will be advanced from 2021 to 2019, to connect the remaining 65,000 eligible habitations. 

The Finance Minister announced 3 specific initiatives to ensure minimum support price (MSP) reaches to all farmers. First, the remaining State will be encouraged to take-up decentralised procurement.  Second, an online Procurement System will be undertaken through the Food Corporation of India. Third, effective arrangements will be made for pulses procurement. 

Jaitley announced that four new initiatives to make dairying more remunerative to the farmers.  First, ‘Pashudhan Sanjivani’, an animal wellness programme and provision of Animal Health Cards (Nakul Swasthya Patra). Second, an advanced breeding technology. Third, Creation of E-Pashudhan Haat, an e market portal for connecting breeders and farmers. Fourth, a National Genomic Centre for indigenous breeds.  He said that these projects will be implemented at a cost of Rs 850 crore over the next few years. 

The Finance Minister announced an allocation of Rs. 2.87 lakh crore as Grants in Aid to Gram Panchayats and Municipalities (228 per cent increase compared to previous five years) as per the recommendations of 14th Finance Commission.  He said that every block in the areas of drought and rural distress will be taken up under ‘Deen Dayal Antyodaya Mission’. These districts would also be taken up for priority under ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana’. 

Jaitley announced that 300 Rurban Clusters will be developed under the ‘Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission’ to incubate growth centre in rural areas by providing infrastructure amenities and market access for the farmers. He committed to achieve 100 percent village electrification by May 1, 2018. He proposed to make priority allocation from centrally sponsored scheme, to reward villages that have become free from open defecation.

In order to spread digital literacy in Rural India, the Finance Minister has approved 2 new Schemes viz. ‘National Digital Literacy Mission’ and ‘Digital Saksharta Abhiyan’ (DISHA).  He proposed to launch a new Digital Literacy Mission Scheme to cover around 6 crore additional households has been revamped under Digital India initiative and will be implemented as a Central Sector Scheme with effect from April 1, 2016. This will be critical for dispute free titles. He proposed a new structure scheme, ‘Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan’ to help Panchayat Raj Institutions deliver Sustainable Development Goals. 

The minister has proposed Krishi Kalyan Cess @ 0.5% on all taxable services. Its proceeds would be exclusively used for financing initiatives relating to improvement of agriculture and welfare of farmers. It will come into effect from June 1, 2016.

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