AIKMS, Peasants

AIKMS Statement on Union Budget 2018-’19

Union Budget presented by Arun Jaitley has failed to address agricultural distress and rising rural unemployment in the country. It is full of lies and and false claims, a “Hindutwa” privelege of RSS/ BJP.

The peasant crises particularly intensified with every step to liberalize the economy and hand over controls over input supplies and purchase, storage and agro processing of crops to MNCs and corporates and winding up of govt. agricultural securities and welfare.

It resulted in steep rise of fuel prices, winding up of input subsidies, reduced maintenance of irrigation and other infra and then GST and Demonitization ruined small agricultural traders and peasants, leading to huge losses, rising indebtedness, increase in protests and firing  and repression on them by BJP govt.

Anti Pakistan propaganda of RSS/ BJP not withstanding, it must be highlighted that as on 29, January, 2018  Petrol and Diesel prices in India are the highest in the sub continent. Petrol per litre costs Rs 76.16 in India while it is Rs 46.92 in Pakistan, Rs 41.27 in Afghanistan, Rs 52.94 in Srilanka, Rs 68.00 in Bangladesh and Rs 56.31 in Bhutan. Diesel cost per litre too shows similar trend. It is Rs 66.51 in India, Rs 51.74 in Pakistan, Rs 42.18 in Afghanistan, Rs 39.29 in Srilanka, Rs 49.66 in Bangladesh and Rs 51.95 in Bhutan.

Far from providing relief to the peasantry, the FM has proceeded after falsely claiming that his govt. is already providing MSP at 1.5 times the cost of production for Rabi crops and will soon do so for Kharif crops. Fact is that the govt. announces a MSP for only 24 out of thousands of crops. During last 3 years MSP rates announced for most crops have been upto 20% below the cost assessed, labelled as C2 by the Committee on Agricultural Costs and Pricing, CACP. Only for wheat it has ranged 20 to 30% above C2, but for paddy it has only been 6 to8% above C2. Since the govt. procures mainly only wheat and paddy, only these crops do not suffer regular losses.

FM has announced a committee headed by Niti Ayog for payment of cost differential when prices crash, a scheme which provides partial relief to a small section of farmers, as seen in Madhya Pradhesh’s Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana. Rather than increase govt. procurement, this budget has refused to do so.

A major crises issue has been crop losses due to calamities, pests, spurious and adulterated seeds, pesticides fertilizers. Though the govt. made heavy announcements on PM Fasal Bima Yojana, an answer to a question in the Rajya Sabha shows that private insurance companies collected more than Rs 22,000 crores as premium and paid only Rs 12,000 crores, making a windfall of more than Rs 10,000 crores. The budget has suggested no course correction on this.

No announcement has been made for loan waivers for farmers, although corporate taxes are being reduced every year in keeping with US policy, long standing corporate loans are being waived and banks are being recapitalized. On the other hand farm credit allotment has been increased to Rs 11 lac crores, without any relief to peasant debts, which officially stood at Rs 12.6 lac crores last year, a rise of 55% in 3 years of Modi rule.

Surprsingly, on rural employment, the govt. has made no declaration. Even allocation for Mnrega has not been announced. During first 3 years of Modi govt, during 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 though total labour payments were Rs 24,187 cr, 30,890 cr and 40.784  cr labour days of work generated have stagnated at 166 cr days, 235 cr days and 235 cr days respectively and the scheme has been riddled with extremly low wages, unprecedented corruption and delayed payments, an issue which even went to the Supreme Court.

The FM was also expected to provide measures for improving irrigation, provision of cheap fertilizers, quality seeds, procurement, but he has only made announcements for increasing 22,000 E-trading centres which will help corporates to procure at the cheapest rate. He has announced tax support for private investments in agro processing, but no govt investment, promotion of cluster farming which will undermine the land holding rights of small and marginal farmers, promotion of farmers producer and marketing organizations which will become agencies for MNC procurement when govt. procurement is not there.

In short “Kisano ki Loot and Corporate ko Choot” will continue.

The FM has claimed without any substance that Indian agricultural exports will be increased from $ 30 billion to $ 100 billion. Fact is that exports which were Rs 1.37 lac crores in 2013-14 have come down to Rs 1.06 lac crores (approx. $17 billion) in 2015-16. On the other hand during Modi regime imports of agricultural produce has gone up from $ 16.5 billion in 2013-14 to $ 21.4 billion (Rs 1,40,000 cr) in 2015-16;

On the rural health sector the announcements are to ensure capacity utilization of private sector/ corporate hospitals by filling up their empty beds. Rs 1200 cr will be spent on health and wellness centres to be run by ASHA workers with private sector participation to provide some initial investigation and treatement and then refer patients to higher care centres. For this the tax exemptions in personal income tax has been raised as well as family health insurance has been raised to Rs 5 lacs. But there is no proposal to improve govt. hospital care.

Other announcements made for education infrastructure, roads, airports have also all been linked to private sector and will only end up displacing the poor rather than provide any relief.