JAIPUR: Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje chose to focus on the agriculture sector in her last budget before assembly elections are held in the state later this year. The centre-piece is a loan waiver that is expected to benefit nearly 22 lakh small farmers and cost the state an extra 8000 crores. The farming sector had been key focus area in the recently announced Union budget as well.
The Chief Minister has also waived tax on irrigated agricultural land, which will benefit nearly 50 lakh farmers. A loan relief commission has also been set up to consider long-term solutions to farmers’ debts. The loan waiver, however, will only apply to farmers who have taken a loan from the agricultural cooperatives. Those who have bank loans will receive no benefit.
“Be it improving education, strengthening infrastructure, providing affordable healthcare or ensuring growth and new opportunities for the youth – we have left no stone unturned in our efforts to build a #NewRajasthan,” the Chief Minister later tweeted.
The opposition Congress – which has repeatedly highlighted the distress of the agrarian community — called the budget election-oriented and suggested that the government is trying to please the farmers, especially in view of its loss in the by-elections in the state’s two parliamentary and one assembly seat.
“The government has recalled the existence of farmers just eight months before the elections,” said Sachin Pilot, who has led the party to victory in the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats and the Mandalgarh assembly constituency.
The Congress leader pointed out that the waiver applies only to loans from cooperatives and not banks and added, “Rs. 50,000 is not enough to buy a bullock these days.”
The loan waiver and its associated burden comes as the state’s debt quotient has gone up from 1.21 lakh crore of 2014 to 2.29 lakh crore in 2018.