As agrarian distress is seen as a crucial issue for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government on Monday announced a cash assistance of Rs 5,000 per acre to farmers across the state. Besides, the state government will also pay the premium for farmers adopting the crop insurance scheme.
Additionally, Banerjee also announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh in case of death of a farmer between the 18-60 age group. With farmers and rural India likely to be the key campaign theme in 2019, TMC would hope that the string of sops appeals to the 71.23 lakh farmers in the mostly agrarian state.
Bengal’s cash assistance scheme echoes the Rythu Bandhu policy made famous by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao. Rythu Bandhu is a support scheme for farmers that takes care of initial investment needs that ease the farmers’ debt burden. It provides a grant of Rs 4,000 per acre per farmer each season for the purchase of inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, labour and other investments in field operations.
Stressing the importance of the farming community, Banerjee had last week said the income of farmers in Bengal had tripled during the past seven years of TMC rule. “In Bangla, the average annual income of farmers has tripled from Rs 91,000 (in 2010-11) to Rs 2.91 lakh (in 2017-18). We have also waived the tax and mutation fee on agricultural land,” she had tweeted.
Following announcements of farm loan waiver by the new Congress-led governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, BJP too has stepped up doling out sops for the farming community. Jharkhand has also announced a cash assistance of Rs 5,000 per acre to over 22.76 lakh small and marginal farmers across the state. The money will be directly transferred to their bank accounts.
Last week, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also approved the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme, under which Rs 10,180 crore will be spent over three years, till 2020-21, for providing financial assistance to cultivators and landless agricultural labourers in the state.