Separate farm budget likely this year

Government may include irrigation and related sectors in it

The new DMK government under M.K. Stalin is exploring the possibility of a separate budget for the agriculture sector, in line with one of the promises in its election manifesto.

According to sources in the government, the proposal is at a discussion stage. It is not yet decided whether it should be on the lines of the Railway Budget (since discontinued) or who will present it in the Assembly or whether it will be a sub-budget, officials told The Hindu.

It is also not clear whether the decision would be announced in the Governor’s address to the Assembly.

Instructions have been issued to all departments to explore and chalk out ways to implement the promises made in the DMK’s election manifesto.

The DMK manifesto had said: “To increase agricultural productivity and output and to protect farmers’ welfare and well-being, the government will introduce an annual budget for agriculture after consulting farmers’ associations and other organisations.”

Focus on farm sector

Many farmers associations across the country and a few political parties had been demanding a separate budget for agriculture. “A separate budget would mean that the government is keen on focusing on agriculture. A separate session in the House would help legislators discuss for a few days about how funds are spent on this sector,” an official said.

Another official said it would not mean much to the exchequer. “The Finance Department would have to approve all the figures. At the most, the Agriculture Department will get to decide how it could spend the funds allocated to it for various schemes. Also, it would be an expenditure budget since there would not be much revenue generated from the sector.”

A source said the government may club irrigation and related sectors with the agriculture sector so that the budget could cover all aspects of agriculture.

As per the interim budget for 2021-2022 presented earlier this year, farmers and agricultural labourers form nearly 50% of the population in Tamil Nadu.

The total allocation for the agriculture sector in the revised estimates of 2020-21 was ₹11,109.48 crore and in the interim budget estimates for 2021-22, a provision of ₹11,982.71 crore was made for this sector.

There are about 79.38 lakh operational land holdings across Tamil Nadu, of which 92.51% belong to small (2 ha) and marginal (1 ha) farmers.

They operate about 62% of the total cultivable land, according to the Agriculture Department’s policy note for 2020-21.

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