Arguing that the BJP government has been deceiving farmers ever since it came to power in 2014, the Congress on Wednesday asked the government to give relief in the Budget by slashing GST rates on farm produce and products and announcing national farm loan waiver and minimum income schemes to put more money in the hands of farmers and the poor to increase consumption.
The Congress also asked the government to spell out measures to ensure that farmers’ income doubles by 2022 and increase the allocation for MGNREGA.
Addressing a press conference, former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the BJP had come to power by promising that it would ensure 50 per cent profit to farmers over the cost of production, but the government has left farmers at the mercy of fate.
Chavan said the government had announced setting up of an agri-market infrastructure fund with a corpus of Rs 2,000 crore in the 2018-19 Budget but has utilised only Rs 10.45 crores or just 0.5% of the allocated money. “Setting up of 22,000 markets was proposed but work has started for only 376 and even those markets have not been made fully operational,” he said.
“Similarly in the Budget speech of 2019, the Finance Minister promised substantial investment in the agriculture and allied fields. A scheme was announced to constitute 10,000 new farmer producer organisations and fisheries industries. We would request the Minister of Finance to kindly enlighten us about the fate of those announcements in her Budget speech,” he said.
Chavan demanded that the government should bring petrol and diesel under the GST regime, arguing that it would help provide relief to the farmers, who have been paying higher rates. He claimed that the Central government had earned over Rs 13.5 lakh crore by way of taxes on petroleum products in the last five-and-a-half years.
“The BJP government is the first government that has imposed taxes on agriculture by putting GST on fertilizers (5%), tractor and agriculture equipment (12%) and pesticides (18%). Despite the repeated announcements of bringing petrol and diesel under GST, the farmers are bearing the brunt of increased prices of diesel on account of Central Excise Duty/Custom Duty/State Taxes,” he said.
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