After day-long opposition attacks on the government's big-ticket announcement of cash transfers to farmers, Union minister Arun Jaitley ripped into the opposition, demanding that they stop shedding "crocodile tears" for the farmers. The agriculture sector, he pointed out was not just the responsibility of the Federal government. "I'm sure opposition parties can top up the central scheme," he added.
The government's long-awaited announcement follows a setback in the assembly elections in three heartland states. The reason was partially seen as a pushback by angry farmers, who have been holding intermittent protests over the last two years, demanding loan waivers.
"Loan waivers are never a solution to the farmers' problems in the long run. Income support is," said Mr Jaitley from the US, where he had gone for medical treatment. The interim budget today was presented by Union minister Piyush Goyal, who is filling in for the finance minister since last week.
Through the day, opposition parties have kept up an unrelenting attack on the government, alleging that the sum of Rs 6,000 a year fell far short of what farmers, crushed under huge loans, needed.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said Rs 17 a day was an "insult" to the farmers. His party has called it "peanuts" and said the interim budget has become a full-scale budget geared towards elections.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has questioned why the government has not announced a single agenda for the farmers since it came to power.
CPI's Mohammad Salim called the government's move "an admission of failure". "You said you wanted to double the income of farmers. Now you are admitting that it was a hoax," he added.
Critics have also pointed out that the states are doing better to help farmers - citing the example of Telangana, which has promised Rs. 8000 per acre to farmers under its Ryata Bandhu scheme. Under it, a farmer with a 2 hectare holding (approximately 5 acres) would earn around Rs. 40, 000 a year. That's nearly six times more than the Centre's Rs. 6,000 promise.
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