A coalition of civil society groups has asked Narendra Modi government to announce a Rs 200,000 crore agricultural debt relief package in the forthcoming Union Budget 2018.
The coalition wants this amount, along with a matching contribution from state governments, to be used to provide meaningful debt relief to distressed farmers across the country. At least 25 percent of the package should go as debt relief from non-institutional loans to tenant farmers, sharecroppers, adivasi farmers and women farmers who did not have access to institutional loans, it says.
"Modi government has failed Indian farmers on multiple fronts. It is the most anti-farmer central government ever", said Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India, a coalition partner. He listed out a dozen reasons for terming it as anti-farmer, including the failure of the central government to double the farmers' income, provide price protection to farm produce and taking the lead in providing debt relief.
The coalition also reviews all the flagship social sector projects of the Modi government to suggest "stingy allocations and shoddy implementation".
In a "Green Paper", brought out in the context of the Budget, the groups called for the establishment of a Farmers Income Commission to find a permanent solution to address the agri-concerns.
A 10-point budget demand of the coalition includes a major increase in minimum price support for agriculture commodities, a Rs 25,000 crore outlay towards the existing Disaster Mitigation Fund, increased outlay for irrigation, risk reducing ecological agriculture, and the job guarantee scheme MNREGA. It also calls for the formation of a Credit Guarantee Fund to increase bankers' confidence in lending to non-land owning licensed cultivators or lessee farmers.
The coalition has also decided to hold a meeting of farmers' representatives from all parts of the country in a village in Greater Noida, near Delhi on February 1 to assess the Union Budget. The civil society groups who are part of the coalition are Kisan Swaraj Alliance, Jai Kisan Andolan, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, People's Action on Employment Gurarantee, Rythu Swarajya Vedika and Swaraj India.
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