With Maharashtra in the grip of its worst ever agrarian crisis, the Devendra Fadnavis government adopted in its second state budget the Narendra Modi government’s focus on reviving the distressed farm sector.
Simultaneously, in a clear departure from Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s fiscal consolidation mantra, the state recast its fiscal consolidation targets, pushing back by another two to three years plans to post a revenue surplus.
In a replication of the Union Budget for 2016-17, the distressed farmer was the focal point of Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar’s Budget speech in the state legislature on Friday. Presenting his Budget estimates for 2016-17, Mungantiwar dedicated the coming year’s budget to the ‘baliraja’ or the farmer, expending nearly 40 minutes of his two-hour speech to the farm sector.
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He said, “The spirit of overall development of the farmers and rural development constitutes the core of this budget.” The minister added that 2016-17 would be observed as the ‘Shetkari Swabhiman Varsh’.
Defying calls from economists to increase tax revenue, Mungantiwar’s Budget estimates anticipated a decline in the share of tax revenue in total receipts from 8.06 per cent in 2015-16 to 7.97 per cent in 2016-17. The tax proposals spelt out by Mungantiwar Friday are expected to mop up just Rs 363 crore.
On expected lines, the lion’s share of the outlays were for various schemes in the agriculture sector, totalling Rs 25,000 crore. Officials said this implied a 20 per cent increase in public investment on development and non-development works in this sector.
The government’s focus for revival of the rural economy appeared to be on water security, farm allied businesses such as dairy and fisheries and rural employment.
Given Maharashtra’s abysmal record in irrigation that shoulders much of the blame for successive crop failures, the key among Mungantiwar’s farm sector allocations was towards completing pending irrigation projects. The Rs 7,272-crore allocation in 2015-16 was completely disbursed, he announced, and said a total budgetary provision of Rs 7,850 crore had been made for 2016-17.
“As a result, 28 projects will be completed and additional water storage of 770 million cubic metres will be created,” he said.
As much as 1.68 lakh hectare will thus be brought under irrigation. In addition, irrigation potential of another 1 lakh hectare will be utilised through the completion of Waghur, Bavanthadi, Lower Dudhna, Lower Wardha, Lower Panjhara Tillari and Nandur Madhveshwar Phase II dam projects.