NEW DELHI: With about a month to go for the Election Commission to announce the dates for the Lok Sabha elections, the Narendra Modi government is set to unveil a targeted income support scheme for farmers soon.
Having solicited inputs from various quarters, the Union cabinet is expected to discuss the package on Monday to help farmers buy agricultural inputs and avoid moneylenders.
Sources said the government is considering a direct transfer of cash to farmers who possess less than five acres of land and the amount will be equivalent to 50 per cent of the basic input cost on seeds, fertilisers and pesticides.
“The scheme will not be universal but targeted and will aim to cover marginal and small farmers, possibly with less than five acre land holdings,” the sources said.
The proposal is also in line with Modi’s stated position to double farmers’ income by 2022 by linking it with procurement of inputs, including better quality of seeds, fertilisers and machinery.
“The scheme is likely to be a wholesome package for the farmers. It will free them of accessing loan at a high cost from informal sources, besides helping improve productivity,” the sources said.
Why it’s different
According to sources, this proposal targets only small farmers while Telangana’s agriculture income support scheme offers Rs 4,000 per acre per season without any cap on landholding.
A BJP-linked think tank, after consultations with officials of the NITI Aayog, the Ministry of Agriculture, leaders of farm organisations and farm sector experts, has already submitted a comprehensive report to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The think tank, the sources said, has sought “regular income support to a certain section of farmers who are vulnerable by capping landholding size to five acres.” A member of the think-tank said the NITI Aayog has separately shared inputs with the PMO wherein it has recommended that 50 per cent of the Central funds being currently utilised for various farm sector subsidy programmes be given directly to the farmers through direct benefit transfer.
The think-tank’s reasoning is that such a move would plug leakage of farm subsidies, currently about 2 lakh crore annually, besides helping initiate the process of unbundling of government dole out through subsidised programmes run through private and public sector companies.
The NITI Aayog has been advocating radical reforms in the agricultural sector, including moving away from the minimum support price (MSP) regime, which according to the think-tank has led farmers to excessively focus on crops which are already in surplus.