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Upping Minimum Support Price (MSP)

This has been a major pet peeve of the farming community. A bumper produce on the back of healthy monsoons for two consequent years did not translate into profits for them on account of the government deliberately keeping the MSPs of most crops low to tame inflation. It beat the very purpose of the tool which requires the government to buy the entire agricultural produce in case of overproduction at the threshold price to save farmers from being wrecked by mounting losses due to price fall. To fix the issue, the government could make provisions for higher MSPs and bring in more agricultural products under its ambit in this year’s budget.

Budget 2018: What can the farming community expect?

Despite a win again with a comfortable margin, the Gujarat assembly elections in December 2017 proved to be a wake-up call for the ruling BJP. With arch-rival Congress winning 72 of the 127 seats in the rural and semi-urban areas, it was a clear indication that it is not very popular with the farmers in Modi’s own home state. BJP’s policies that haven’t done much to alleviate rural distress in the state is to be blamed for it.

Not just Gujarat, farmers are seething in the rest of the nation as well because of mounting losses resulting from demonetisation, low selling price of their produce and few alternate employment opportunities to supplement their paltry income – all a result of the government’s alleged greater focus on the corporate sector.

And if it fails to address the issue immediately, the 2019 general elections could actually prove to be a nail biting contest for the BJP for 60 percent of the population still call farming their livelihood in India.

Luckily, it still has chance to fix it, thanks to the Union Budget 2018-19 to be presented on 1 February.

Feeling the heat, finance minister Arun Jaitley has already announced that agriculture would be a top priority in the upcoming budget. Political pundits predict he wouldn’t shy away from announcing a few populist measures in it, which even though may fail to address the deeper structural issues plaguing agriculture, will definitely help BJP win over the support of the farming community.

In this slideshow, we take a quick look at some such possible announcements – populist or not – that have high chances of rocking the upcoming budget.