Farm procurement increased, credit target hiked: FM in Budget speech

Sitharaman's speech was marred by Opposition MPs' slogans demanding repeal of the three farm laws

Agriculture
“The sole purpose to hold a sit-in protest at Parliament was to make the government listen to us. We are sitting on a protest for more than 60 days in Delhi, but the government is not listening to us,” said Labh Singh, a farmer.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday said the Centre is committed to the welfare of farmers, while making several Budget announcements related to the farm sector, even as the farmers’ protest outside Delhi continue against the government’s agri reforms.

Presenting the Union Budget 2021-22 in the Parliament, Sitharaman said agri procurement has increased steadily and benefited farmers. Her speech was, however, marred by slogans raised by Opposition MPs demanding repeal of the “black” farm laws.

The minister said 43.36 lakh wheat-growing farmers had benefited from the government procurement under MSP as against 35.57 lakh previously. “Farmers paid ₹75,100 crore on wheat MSP in FY21,” she announced.

She also said that the agriculture credit target has been raised to ₹16.5 lakh crore in 2021-22. “Agri infra fund would be made available to APMCs to augment infrastructure facilities,” said the finance minister, who, for the first time, used a tablet to make the announcements, going paperless amid the ongoing pandemic.

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“Agri Infra Fund has been increased to ₹40,000 crore, Micro Irrigation Corpus doubled to ₹10,000 crore,” she said.

Meanwhile, Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Aam Aadmi Party’s Bhagwant Mann and Rashtria Lokantrik Dal’s Hanuman Beniwal stood on the aisles of the House with placards, registering their protest against the three farm laws and demanding their withdrawal.

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Farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi’s border points, including Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur, since November, demanding a complete repeal of the farm laws which have now been kept on hold following court order.

The farmers, who are also demanding legal guarantee on minimum support price for their crops, have held several rounds of talks with government representatives, but the deadlock continues as the government has been firm on not repealing the laws which, according to them, will benefit the farmers and increase their income.

(With inputs from agencies)

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