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Posted at: Feb 2, 2019, 7:22 AM; last updated: Feb 2, 2019, 7:22 AM (IST)

Budget ignored organic farming: Environmentalists

Balwant Garg

Tribune News Service

Faridkot, February 1

At the time of growing momentum toward sealing an ambitious deal to save the environment, soil health and larger issue of food security in a sustainable manner, India’s interim Budget for the coming financial year, presented by Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday, admitted the need for organic farming, but environmentalists said it was more of a lip service rather than pointing to some concrete steps and appropriate allocations to promote sustainable agriculture in the country.

“Funding for the organic farming sector in 2019 Union Budget has been decreased from Rs 360 crore to Rs 325 crore. Even out of Rs 360 crore allocated in the last budget, the government could spend only Rs 300 crore to promote organic agriculture,” said Kiran Kumar Vissa, an IIT alumnus and national co-convener of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).

Instrumental in raising the problems of farmers in the public domain since 2008, Kiran had quit his job to work full time as a social activist focusing on agriculture and natural resources five years ago after working for over nine years in the US.

Every year, the Central Government spends crores on chemical fertiliser subsidies but, alas, there is not even a single penny of subsidy, incentive or bonus to the farmers who have shifted to ecologically sustainable natural farming, said Kavitha Kuruganti, who is also associated with ASHA, a nation-wide alliance of organisations working to improve farm livelihoods.

In his budgetary speech, Piyush Goyal on Friday said the government wanted to transform irrigation through micro-irrigation route and organic farming, which takes much less water.

“The officiating Finance Minister’s statement to promote organic farming by combining modern technology with traditional practices verbally sounds good but it should have been supported with strong political will and clear cut policy shift towords organic farming managed by communities and farmers groups.

It also needs re-orientation of agriculture research agenda to support organic farming,” said Umendra Dutt, director, Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM), a voluntary oganisation, promoting organic and natural farming in Punjab.

“Organic farmers are being neglected in Punjab. The state government even failed to utilise the centre-allocated funds to promote organic farming in Punjab. Besides, the Union Government, the state government must introduce support measures in budget 2019 to ensure sustainability of the sector and to encourage more people to get involved in organic growing,” he said.

“Organic production has developed over the last number of years and it is vital that these farmers are supported to ensure that it continues,” said Dutt.

Of the 528 major districts in India, fertiliser consumption in 78 districts is over 200 kg/ha and Punjab tops all these districts in use of fertilisers with heavy subsidy up to 70 per cent. 

However, more than 500 farmers in the state who have adopted natural farming are getting no incentive or bonus to save biodiversity, soil and water conservation, and chemical mitigation, said Vinod Jyani, a farmer with vast acreage under natural farming at Kathera village in Fazilka.

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