The session was orgniased by #IMPRI Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) as part of IMPRI 4th Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations and Analysis of Interim Union Budget 2024-25. The session shed light on the rural parts of India which underpins the nation’s economic and social fabric, dissecting the budget’s allocations and their potential impact on the lives of countless individuals.
The Chair of the session was Dr. J Dennis Rajkumar, Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. He sets the context for the discussion by highlighting the importance of the rural sector in the Indian economy and the need to understand the challenges it faces.
Seven esteemed panelists provided invaluable insights, meticulously analyzing the allocations for rural development and agriculture, exposing potential shortcomings and emphasizing areas needing greater focus.
Renowned academicians and economists offered expert opinions, examining the implications for vital sectors like handloom, agriculture, and infrastructure. Beyond mere statistics, the discussion uncovered the human stories, aspirations, and struggles of rural communities, shedding light on how the budget might affect their lives. The panelists also presented insightful recommendations on strengthening the budget’s rural focus, promoting growth, equity, and resilience, offering pathways forward for inclusive development.
What the panelists highlighted?
- Dr. Anamika Priyadarshini is the Senior Specialist Researcher at the Center for Catalyzing Change. She provided an overview of the rural development and agricultural budget for the year, noting that while there has been a notable rise in the capital expenditure outlay, the allocation for rural development and agriculture is less than 6% of the total budget, which is lower than the trend in recent years. She mentioned that the PM Kisan scheme, a flagship program that provides income support to farmers, has seen no increase in allocation and that the basic income support measures announced in the budget were not based on land records, which means that many cultivators will not be eligible.
- Dr. Ramanjaneyulu GV is the Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He discussed the challenges faced by the handloom sector, including a decrease in allocation and increasing taxes, which has led to a decline in employment and a shift of workers from skilled to unskilled labor
- Dr Parashram J. Patil is an Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He emphasized the need for more investment in agriculture, arguing that the PM Kisan scheme is a compensatory mechanism and that more needs to be done to address structural issues in the sector.
- Professor Santosh K. Singh is a Visiting Professor at IMI. He highlighted the government’s new initiatives in rural immunization and Kheti Kisani, which he sees as positive steps towards making rural India more inclusive.
- Professor Nalin Bharti is a Professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Patna. He discussed the importance of transparent and accountable governance at both the state and central levels for delivering welfare to the people in rural areas.
- Dr Donthi Narasimha Reddy is a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. He highlighted that the handloom sector budget has been consistently decreasing in real terms over the past 28 years, while textile allocation has increased. In 1997-98, the handloom budget was 197 crores, while in 2024-25, it remained at 200 crores, despite inflation. Additionally, taxes like GST have been imposed on handloom products, making them less competitive compared to other sectors. He emphaised on the National Fiber Policy that encourages man-made fibres and discourages natural fibers like cotton, which in turn, disadvantages the handloom sector. This policy contributes to the decline in handloom employment and the shift of workers to unskilled labor. The need for increased allocation, supportive policies, and recognition of the sector’s contributions to the rural economy and sustainability goals were his focus points.
- Dr Jawed Alam Khan is a Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI. He very critically highlighted the challenges in implementing Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centers. He acknowledged the well-documented issues with Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) in terms of beneficiary coverage and data problems. He also underscored the need for more funding for Health and Wellness Centers, but expressed concern about the lack of involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs) in their implementation.
In conclusion, the session on “Rural Realities and Interim Union Budget 2024-25” provided a thorough examination of the budget’s implications for rural India. It underscored the need for increased investment, transparent governance, and inclusive policies to address the challenges faced by rural communities. The discussions emphasized the importance of prioritizing sectors like agriculture, handloom, and healthcare, while also highlighting the significance of local institutions in effective implementation. Overall, the session called for concerted efforts to bridge the gaps in rural development and ensure equitable growth and sustainability across the country.
IMPRI’s 4th Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations and Analysis of Interim Union Budget 2024-25
Watch the event at IMPRI #Web Policy Talk
Swetha Shanker is a visiting researcher and assistant editor at IMPRI.