The Congress today jeered at the long-awaited, big interim-budget announcement by the government today -- a populist scheme of cash transfer to farmers instead of subsidy. The anger of farmers has been seen as one of the reasons for the BJP's electoral setback in the heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and there were hopes of substantial cash award ahead of the coming national elections. But the figure announced by the government breaks down to Rs 500 a month and is no more than "peanuts", senior party leader Ahmed Patel declared.
The brand new Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi programme allocates Rs 6,000 a year to small farmers, which will be transferred directly to bank accounts of the beneficiaries in installments of Rs 2000. Making the announcement, Union minister Piyush Goyal -- who presented the union budget today instead of Arun Jaitley - called it a "historic decision" that involved an outlay of Rs 75,000 crore.
The Congress was not impressed. Ahmed Patel tweeted:
They promised Rs 15,00,000 but giving land owning farmers only Rs 500 a month— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) February 1, 2019
For the crime of implementing demonetisation, inflicting unprecedented agricultural distress & imposing a flawed GST, this 500 rupees compensation is peanuts
"Rs 6,000 a year or Rs 500 a month for farmers won't be a transformative move. This government seems to specialize in building castles in the air," Congress's Shashi Tharoor told NDTV.
Yogendra Yadav tweeted:
#Budget2019 actually rubs salt in the wounds of farmers— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) February 1, 2019
The 'historic' 6,000 rupees a year for a family of 5 translates to Rs. 3.3 a day.
This is even lower than MNREGA or old-age pension!
Without naming the detractors, Piyush Goyal later said, "There has never been such a huge measure for farmers in our country... Many times, people from big khandans don't understand the condition of small farmers from their air conditioned rooms".
The Congress had announced its own 'historic" decision earlier this week - a Minimum Basic Income for the poor if it was voted to power.
While Congress chief Rahul Gandhi did not mention any amount, party leaders had indicated it will be between Rs 1100 to 1800 a month - way above the Rs 600 the 2016-17 Economic Survey had earmarked for the Universal Basic Income.
The idea of the Universal Basic Income was not considered by the government, which said it was not "politically feasible". But in face of widespread farmers' discontent, fanned by the Congress, there have been talks of measures to improve their situation.
The government's plan does not compare favourably even with the programmes in states like Telangana and Odisha.
Telangana's Ryata Bandhu scheme promises Rs 8000 per acre to farmers, which means 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 6000 promise.
Odisha's Kalia scheme promises Rs 10,000 per farmer to all small and marginal farmers, regardless of landholding. But they also offer Rs 12,500 as a one-time payment to landless farmers, a category not mentioned in the Budget.
"The scheme for farmers will go a long way in doubling their income... There are so many farmers who don't take loan. Those farmers will benefit every year," said BJP chief Amit Shah.