Karnataka: Agriculture sector needs its own ‘guarantee’ to thrive

The allocation for agriculture has decreased over the years. The solution to agrarian crisis depends on marketing and value addition seems to be the ruling assumption.
With climate change looming, the earlier conceptual framework of drought needs to be changed radically.
With climate change looming, the earlier conceptual framework of drought needs to be changed radically.(File photo | EPS)

BENGALURU: The budget expectedly engaged at length over the issue of tax devolution and tax framework.

While announcing the implementation of guarantees, the government had claimed that it won’t affect the development trajectory. The budget boldly claims, “These programmes are aimed at creating a just and fair society by redistribution of wealth.”

Fair enough. However, as the state is yet to achieve prosperity, the need to invest in agriculture and allied sectors is seen in bold relief by the negative growth in the sector. The drought situation that has led to the negative growth of 1.8% in agriculture is proof enough to underscore the vulnerability of the sector in a state like Karnataka where over 60% area is rain-fed (second only to Rajasthan).

With climate change looming, the earlier conceptual framework of drought needs to be changed radically. It needs a bold approach to propose ideas and programmes to face the climate change impact. The vulnerability of agrarian world is exacerbated not only by the escalating cost of cultivation, but also by distorted practices. In such a context, agriculture too needed a guarantee to make it more resilient.

That is what is precisely missing in the budget.

The allocation for agriculture has decreased over the years. The solution to agrarian crisis depends on marketing and value addition seems to be the ruling assumption. The course correction at production level (depletion of soil nutrients, overdependence on chemical inputs, water crisis etc.) is at the core of the crisis.

The budgetary programmes for the sector betray this lack of understanding by prioritising value-addition and marketing. Most of these programmes are under the PPP model! Obviously, this reduces the role of the state and allows private investment to control agri-produce marketing.

That brings us to the core of the paradox. The Karnataka government is trying to project a Karnataka Model within the tax and devolution framework which it is opposing only in terms of greater share. It is obvious that it is unlikely to win this battle as the central government controls every possible platform of the tax framework. The idea of asserting federal autonomy is just. But the governments live by the year, practically.

The budget’s wholehearted adherence to a liberalised economy thwarts its ambition of achieving a paradigm shift in terms of redistribution of wealth. At least a long-term vision that a paradigm shift in terms of equitable distribution “lies in revitalising agrarian economy” should have prompted the government to invest more on the agriculture sector, be it greater support to sustainable agriculture or price stabilisation.Guarantees have helped crores of families, yet certain sectors need similar huge investments. The inability of the government to restructure its priorities have resulted in trying to accommodate the demands of every sector without the financial deep pocket.

The government should have invested in agriculture on par with guarantees. Its indifference/ inability will lead to inevitable stagnation that will aggravate the crisis, ultimately allowing it to reach a tipping point of no return.

KP Suresha

Consultant on sustainable agriculture and rural livelihoods

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