BENGALURU: “Agriculture is the priority sector of our government. In each of my budgets, I have been giving a big share of State’s income to agriculture,” Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said presenting his budget. Despite the budget outlay for the sector, ryot organisations are not too happy - considering the crisis that has hit the community due to consecutive droughts. Though the budget announcements are welcome, the allocations are inadequate to protect the farming community, they said.
Speaking to Express, K S Puttannaiah, MLA and farmer leader, said, “The state should have announced initiatives to improve the overall status of agriculture. However, there is no economic policy in the budget document that indicates the same,” he said.
The amount allocated to the sector is immaterial unless the state government ensures fair prices for crops. “Currently, farmers are awaiting minimum support price for their crops, which the Centre is yet to release. If you ask the state, they point at the Centre. In this pointing game, who will help the farmers?” he asked. The state should have launched a scheme ensuring steady income in agriculture, he said.
Badagalapura Nagendra, general secretary of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha described the budget as ‘ordinary’. Loan waiver in cooperative banks and up to Rs 1 lakh in commercial banks was expected by the farming community, like it was done in Congress-ruled Punjab. However, there has been no announcement on that front,” he said.
Moreover, there is nothing on generating employment in agri-based industries such as food processing, he said. However, increased allocations for irrigation, cultivating millets and initiatives in animal husbandry are welcome. “The budget announcements are being made in the eve of elections, when one is not sure whether the announcements will materialise,” he said.
Kuraburu Shanthakumar, president of Karnataka State sugarcane grower’s association said Siddaramaiah had not considered waiver of more agricultural loans, which was one of the most important demands from the fraternity. Similarly, there has been no increase in support price for crops, which was required, he said. Other announcements, such as Raitha Belaku scheme and Rs 20 cr to procure sugarcane cutting machines are welcome, he said.
Schemes such as Raitha Belaku have been welcomed by farmers. Experts say that there is a shift to new techniques such as hydroponics, which will yield benefits.H Shivanna, former vice-chancellor of University of Agricultural Sciences, said hydroponics was being effectively used in arid regions. “Hydroponics and protective cultivation can be combined to increase the yield of crops, even in regions where rainfall is sparse,” he said.
The shift to such techniques is essential as utility of water is being stressed at a period of extreme water scarcity, he said. Some of the decisions, such as providing impetus for millet cultivation and support for groundnut cultivation were essential towards increasing farmers’ income and yield.