Kickstarting the series of pre-Budget meetings, finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday met representatives of agricultural sector, wherein he stressed on the need to focus on higher agricultural productivity through use of latest technology and high-yielding crop varieties in order to double farmers’ income by 2022.
Later in the day, Jaitley also held pre-Budget meeting with representatives of various trade unions. In his meeting with agricultural representatives, Jaitley said that in order to increase the price benefits to the farmers, it is necessary that they are provided timely market information and both computer and mobile-based software applications are developed to link farmers to consumers.
He also said there is a need to revisit the incentive structure of farming, besides focusing on reducing wastage and improving marketing of farm produce.
Jaitley emphasised on leveraging technology — especially for high-yielding and resistant variety seeds, efficient utilisation of water for irrigation, adoption of latest IT to increase resilience to nature by phasing sowing, watering and harvesting operations. The finance minister also said that there is a need to revisit the incentive structure of farming. He said there should be focus on reducing wastages and enhancing farmers earnings as well as improving marketing of farm produce.
“The finance minister said that for efficient implementation of the National Agriculture Market, there is need to integrate the more than 550 regulated mandis in the country by 2017 for which the states need to reform the APMC Act,” a finance ministry statement said.
Representatives of various agricultural groups said that one of the major suggestions was to “provide sufficient funds to District Cooperative Banks where most of the farmers have their bank accounts”.
The farmer groups also suggested that banks be directed to implement the scheme of differential rate of interest to the agriculture sector both in letter and spirit and said cargo hubs and dry ports should be encouraged at the production centre of agri products.
Other suggestions included new schemes to bail-out farmers from debt to be announced in the upcoming Budget and cold chain provision for horticulture and minor vegetables. In the second meeting with trade unions, Jaitley said the government needs to identify labour-intensive industries and new areas where jobs can be created like renewable energy and reusable resources and providing employment linked training as some of the ways to capitalise on the demographic dividend.
Trade unions’ representatives suggested that the upcoming Budget should help in creation of more jobs/employment opportunities. They also asked for an increase in the minimum wages to Rs18,000 per month.
They requested for an increase in minimum personal tax exemption limit to Rs 5 lakh and pension for workers be to Rs 3,000 from Rs 1,000 along with credit to MSME sector at 4 per cent.
Other suggestions included more focus in the Budget on social security schemes for the workers especially those working in the unorganised sectors along with payment of uniform wages for same work for contractual and regular workers.