The lower house of India's parliament witnessed an uproar among the opposition parties on Monday, as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, during her budget presentation, said “our government is committed to the welfare of the farmers.”
Since the Delhi borders are witnessing protests among farmers seeking the revocation of three recently-issued farm laws, the statement appeared to have given some room for the opposition parties to criticise the government's agricultural liberalisation policy.
The opposition parties demanded that the government repeal the farm laws, which were passed by the Narendra Modi-led government in September 2020.
However, the finance minister continued to deliver her budget speech.
Key agriculture announcements
Some significant announcements for the agriculture sector included the enhancement of agriculture credit target to over $226 million for fiscal year 2022.
To boost the addition of value in agriculture and related products and their export, the scope of “Operation Green Scheme” that is presently applicable to tomatoes, onions, and potatoes, will be enlarged to include 22 perishable products.
The minister mentioned that the minimum support price (MSP) system has undergone a sweeping change that has resulted in an increase of payments to farmers.
A thousand more wholesale vegetable markets would be integrated into the government's national digital agricultural trading platform "eNAM".
To benefit farmers, the customs duty on cotton has been raised from nil (0) to 10% and on raw silk and silk yarn from 10% to 15%.
To improve agricultural infrastructure, an Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess was proposed.
All this came as farmers continue to protest on Delhi's borders with the neighbouring states of Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur.
Farmers Protest Against Farm Laws
Thousands of farmers from the north Indian agricultural states oppose the three laws; the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020.
The farmers have been protesting on the outskirts of Delhi and have blocked roads in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana as they demand a complete rollback of recently-passed agricultural laws by the central government.
One of the main concerns of farmers is that these laws signal a threat to the state procurement system that sets designated agricultural market minimum selling prices, a basic government-assured price for the harvest.