Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today hinted that the Rs 500 a month cash dole to small farmers may be increased in the future as the government's resources grow and said states can top up this amount with their own income support schemes.
He also slammed Congress president Rahul Gandhi for ridiculing the scheme announced in the Interim Budget for 2019-20 by equating it to Rs 17 a day dole, saying the opposition leader must "grow up" and realise that he is contesting a national election and not a college union poll.
The plan to give Rs 6,000 cash to 12 crore small and marginal farmers every year together with government schemes for giving them a house, subsidised food, free healthcare and hospitalisation, free sanitation, electricity, roads, gas connections, twice the amount of credit at very cheap rate are all aimed at addressing farm distress, Mr Jaitley said.
"This is the first year where it (farmer income support scheme) has begun. I am sure as the government resources improve, this can be increased," he said.
On nearly 15 crore landless farmers being left out of the scheme, he said they have rural employment guarantee scheme MNREGA plus other benefits for the rural population.
"What is the biggest thing that the Congress claims that they ever did? P Chidambaram announced a Rs 70,000 crore farm loan waiver... (but) actual distributed was only Rs 52,000 crore. (Also), CAG said a large part of that money went to traders and businessmen and converted itself into a fraud," he said.
The present government, he said, is "starting off over and above the lakhs of crores we are putting into rural areas."
"We are starting off with Rs 75,000 crore a year and I foresee this amount increasing in the years to come. And if the states top it up, some states have already started with the scheme, I think the others must emulate them, it will increase," he added.
Mr Jaitley, who is in the US for medical treatment, said the state governments too have a responsibility to address farm distress by bringing their own income support schemes.
"Some state governments have started it," he said. "So my advice to what I call the 'nawabs of negativity' is ask your own state governments to top it off with their own income support schemes. Ideally, like the GST, this is a case where all political parties must defy party lines and in the spirit of cooperative federalism, have a centre plus state scheme," Mr Jaitley said.
He said most of the central schemes are divided into 60:40 ratio, so "let us enhance this to 60:40 in the spirit of cooperative federalism" and instead of "giving criticism, let the states give 40 (per cent)."
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