After the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) victory in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections, the government's big focus in the next Budget will be on agriculture and the rural economy besides boosting minimum support prices (MSP) for farm produce. But, it still raises concerns if such efforts are enough to reduce farmers' suicide in India.
The February Budget is going to be the last full-fledged one that will be presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitely before the 2019 election.
The close results the Gujarat districts highlighted the farmers' issues that the government will analyse and address, the finance minister told the Economic Times on Monday. He also said that spending in rural India is a necessity and not populism (support for the concerns of the ordinary people).
However, it is not clear if the ruling party's efforts will be enough to stop distressed farmers from taking their own lives.
Government data released last week pointed out that as many as 26,339 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra alone from 2001 to October 2017. Around 12,800 of them took the step due to unproductive land and indebtedness.
"Some states are not doing enough for procurement and giving support prices. The Centre will keep putting pressure that farmers should get MSP," said Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh.
"Our initiatives to double farmer income and increase production will gain more speed," he added.
Last week, Jaitley said the government has decided to take up an important task to double farmers' income by 2022, in a bid to make farming a sustainable profession in the future. After the election results on Monday, he said the Centre will bring the agricultural economy to the spotlight in the February Budget.
"We have fairly ambitious plans in India and within our limits of our affordability, we have taken up the challenge of in the first instance trying to improve upon rural infrastructure and at the same time making sure that how do we ensure that their income is enhanced," said Jaitley.
"Observing that India has a huge population dependent on agriculture for livelihood, increase in the purchasing power of this group is extremely important for us because the growth of the larger economy depends on economic potential and power of this group itself," he added.
Radha Mohan Singh also said the government will intensify farmer welfare schemes and ensure their effective implementation as well as the payment of MSP.
"Farmers support us, otherwise we wouldn't have won," said Singh.
Farmers' distress being a major issue it should be addressed more aggressively by the government.
Although the government has already been trying to help the agricultural sectors through introducing various facilities like building roads, electrifying villages, developing irrigation and also providing dwellings besides boosting credit availability, and making crop insurance available to the farmers' – reports suggest that more than 12,000 suicides were reported in the agricultural sector every year since 2013.
According to a Mint report, 2,414 farmers committed suicides in Maharashtra between January 1 and October 31 this year.