Just like Bollywood, when it comes to budget announcements, we are often swayed by grand and dramatic gestures. What works best is seemingly those larger than life sounding promises. Similar to how the audience feeds on Salman Khan’s dramatic-life-threats to the villain, the analysts seem to feed on pithy one-liners in the budget document. While the actual content and rationale, often takes a backseat in mainstream commentary and analysis.
When it comes to loans, the buzzword is ‘waivers’, when it comes to taxing, buzzword is ‘relief’ and when it comes to business, buzzword is ‘exemption’. But beyond the economy of buzzwords, lies the real challenge of the Karnataka government, to fix the gaping hole created by the withdrawal of Central support to the state plans.
In order to understand the Karnataka budget 2016-17, one has to place it in the context of conditions of decline in agricultural growth, fall in food grain production and the prevailing drought situation.
The budget takes up all these challenges and deals with them through the creation of enabling conditions for people, specially farmers, in order to give an overall boost to the agriculture sector in the state. The formation of the State Agricultural and Farmers Welfare Committee for addressing the varied grievances of the farmers is a futuristic step, bringing together all agriculture related departments under one forum.
The budget invokes the vision of modernization of agriculture through innovation and technology. Not only does it propose to identify Special Agricultural Zones and ‘model agricultural villages’, budget introduces the idea of ‘start-ups’. The budget allocates Rs. 10 crore as initial investment for the Agri start-up plan, so that industries are more closely linked to the needs and output of agriculture.
Even though agriculture is a primary source of income for a majority of the people in the state, government plans and policies are big on short-term reliefs. Long-term strengthening of the agriculture sector requires training on better farming techniques for which Rs. 15 crore has been set aside in the budget.
Emphasis on drip and sprinkler irrigation, soil health program and construction of rural infrastructure through the Krishi Bhagya have been forms of long-term strengthening and prioritization of the agriculture sector. These measures, in addition with the decision to abolish the agricultural income tax, are a move towards instilling confidence in agriculture as the top priority of this government. To summaries, if the budget were a movie, the vision of better technology, digitization and skill development would be the background score.