Source: News Bharati English19 Mar 2017 09:30:02

Mumbai, March 19: Boosting a rural sector and agriculture is the focus of Maharashtra Budget 2017-18 which was unveiled by Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.  The new budget aims to address farmers concerns, facilitate agriculture and boost rural economy.

While tabling the Budget 2017-18 Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar termed the budget as ‘agriculture centric.’ He said that “the government is committed to increase the investment in agriculture and initiate a number of steps to provide for more irrigation, power, and rural communication. The state’s economy grew at a strong 9.4% in financial year 2016-17.”

The state reported a fiscal deficit of 2.2% of GDP. It expects to reduce this to 1.5% of GDP in the new fiscal. Borrowings for the new fiscal have been pegged at Rs 38.892 Crores compared to Rs 49,454 Crores last year. For the year 2017-18, the government has estimated revenue receipts of Rs 2.43 lakh Crores while the expenditure is estimated at Rs 2.48 lakh Crores, Mungantiwar said.

In the agriculture sector, the state government said that it has allotted Rs 8,233 Crores for the water resources department and another Rs 200 Crores to improve agricultural production. In addition, a special World Bank project targeting the drought prone regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha, entailing a spend of Rs 400 Crores, has been budgeted for. Rs 1200 Crores has been earmarked for the government’s flagship program- Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan - which aims to establish the Marathwada water grid.

As the budget was presented, the opposition protested and demanded a discussion on the farm loan waiver issue. However, Mungantiwar maintained that the government is committed to a loan waiver only for those farmers who are heavily indebted. This, too, would only be considered after proper consultations with the central government, he said.

To improve the state’s infrastructure, the government has set aside Rs 7,000 Crores for maintenance and improvement of roads, as against Rs 4347 Crores last year. "Over the next 5 years, we envisage approximately a requirement of Rs 1 lakh Crores to finance capital expenditure of key infrastructure," said Mungantiwar. Separately, Rs 710 Crores has been set aside for the metro rail project in Mumbai.

Mungantiwar said the government proposes to double the farm income by 2021. To achieve this, it has decided to focus on irrigation, electricity, farm ponds, food processing, technology, marketing, group farming and agriculture credit.

A substantial provision of Rs 979 Crores has been made in the budget for electrification of agriculture pumps and to clear backlog in eastern Vidarbha. An amount of Rs 125 Crores has been allocated under the Punjabrao  Deshmukh interest subsidy scheme. The government proposes to take steps to enable farmers to get remunerative prices for their produce and double their income, he said.