In order to woo the farming class ahead of the Lok Sabha elections 2019, the Congress manifesto on agriculture spelled out a series of assurances aimed at improving the lives of farmers including a promise that those unable to pay their debts will not face criminal charges.
“Debt is a civil liability and we will not allow criminal proceedings to be instituted against a farmer who is unable to pay his/her debt,” the manifesto said.
Accusing the BJP of driving the agriculture sector into a “deep crisis”, the Congress said that various decisions taken by the ruling government has led to a situation where cash-based “agricultural economy was devastated” and “farmers and farm labourers were left to fend for themselves”.
Farmers comprise one of the largest sections of voters in India and all political parties, irrespective of ideology, make promises to this particular economic class.
In its 22-point agenda for the farmers, the Congress stated that it will not only continue providing loan waiver but also work to ensure ‘Karz Mukti’ (freedom from loans) for farmers.
The grand old party also promised to present a separate ‘Kisan Budget’ to ensure priority to the issues affecting the agriculture sector.
Besides, the party also said that its flagship agricultural programme MGNREGA will be re-designed to increase the guaranteed days of employment up to 150 days in cases where 100 days have been achieved in a block or district. The manifesto said that labour will also be utilised in the Waterbodies Restoration and the Wasteland Regeneration Missions.
“Congress promises to establish a permanent National Commission on Agricultural Development and Planning consisting of farmers, agricultural scientists and agricultural economists,” the manifesto read.
The party also promised to “completely re-design the BJP government’s failed Fasal Bima Yojana (Crop Insurance Scheme)” claiming that it “has only enriched the insurance companies at the cost of the farmers”.
Among other promises made to farmers in the manifesto, Congress said that it will repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committees Act, replace Essential Commodities Act 1955 with a law that can be invoked only in the case of emergencies, and double the funding in 5 years for teaching, R&D, agriculture-related pure sciences and applied science.