A green revolution in the east?
The government has attempted to give new direction to the failing agriculture sector in a bid to boost productivity. As a pointer to the changed thinking, the FM announced several measures while keeping budgetary allocations for existing schemes static or even lowering them in some cases. Loan waivers, however, continue to be a key intervention in the countryside, proving that Congress recognizes the political and social benefits of the measure. Pranab Mukherjee increased subsidy on short-term farm loans from 1% to 2%, making interest subvention available to farmers who make payments on time, and thus effectively bringing the farm loan rate to 5% for them. The scheme that Congress felt had helped it gain ground in the hinterland has been extended by another six months to June 30. The FM has also promised additional Rs 50,000 crore for farm credit, raising the amount for the next financial year to Rs 3,75,000 crore. The change in thrust was also reflected in the commitment to extending the green revolution to the east — Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, eastern UP, West Bengal and Orissa. An allocation of Rs 400 crore has been made for this. At the same time, the UPA government all but shut down a brainchild of the PM that had fallen through policy cracks — the National Rainfed Area Authority. It reduced budgetary support for development of rainfed areas by 93%. Instead, the government decided to pump Rs 300 crore under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana to organize 60,000 ‘‘pulses and oil seeds villages'' in rainfed areas and provide integrated intervention for water harvesting, watershed management and soil health enhancement in dry lands.