Finance minister Arun Jaitley met trade unions and farmers groups on Tuesday, starting the process of pre-Budget consultations with key stakeholders.
Jaitley said to achieve the goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 there was need to improve storage and marketing facilities for agri produce so that farmers get better price, a statement issued by the finance ministry said.
He said there was need for water conservation, incentivising agro processing and balanced use of fertilisers in order to ensure higher agriculture productivity.
Farmers groups suggested that India has constantly pursued ‘Food Policy’ and Budget 2018-19 is an opportunity to shift to ‘Farmers’ Policy’. There is need to reduce pressure on the land by creating off-farm jobs, they suggested according to the finance ministry statement.
A ‘Price Deficiency Payment Mechanism’ was suggested for those crops where procurement cannot be ensured to provide more remunerative prices to farmers.
Other suggestions included an ‘Agriculture Debt Relief Package for the entire country, deeper focus on dairy, fruit and vegetable items, starting ‘Operation Veggies’. The focus should be on TOP —Tomato, Onion and Potato — as there is maximum volatility in their prices.
Thrust to warehouses, cold storages at the local level and give boost to agro processing, food and fertilisers subsidy through DBT, higher prices for urea and lower for other fertilisers. More focus to piggery, bee keeping, honey production, mushroom production and fisheries, and tax reliefs to the plantation companies were some of the other suggestions.
In a separate meeting, the trade unions presented a common memorandum of 12 point charter of demands.
The demands included allocations for social sector including health and education that can be funded by taxing the rich who have capacity to pay, effective measures against deliberate tax and loan repayment faults, minimum wages for all workers, stop disinvestment and strategic sale of PSUs and same wages for contract workers as permanent workers doing same work.
No FDI in crucial sectors like defence production, railways, retail trade and financial sector among others, higher exemption ceiling of.`5 lakh for income tax and EPF benefit for unorganised sector workers were some of the other suggestions.