More agri infra schemes on the cards, says finance secretary

The cess has been imposed at different rates after reducing the customs duty of a number of items so that consumers are also protected.

Finance secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey has indicated that more schemes for agriculture development and infrastructure may be rolled out in FY22 as the government expects to generate Rs 30,000-35,000 crore from the agriculture infrastructure and development cess introduced in the Budget.

While the budgetary allocation for the department of agriculture and cooperation has been reduced by 8% to Rs 1.23 lakh crore for next financial year from the budget estimate of FY21, there is no new scheme announced.

“There is a reduction in the additional excise duty, which used to come only to the Centre (not shared with states) after this cess has been introduced. This amount collected through additional excise duty could have been spent on any scheme,” Pandey said, adding, the money collected through the cess will be spent only on agri infrastructure. A significant amount of this fund (collected through the cess) will also go to the states to build the agriculture infrastructure, which is very important and states will also get the benefit.

“There could be many areas like construction of warehouses, food processing facilities, and those could be covered under this programme. Once this cess is there, some more programmes could also be added,” Pandey said at the Indian Express Idea Exchange. The cess has been imposed at different rates after reducing the customs duty of a number of items so that consumers are also protected.

With a more realistic picture emerging from farmers’ enrolment data for the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi — only 10.5 crore have received the amount due after verification an income support of Rs 6,000 per year, against the government’s estimate of 14 crore — the government has brought down the allocation for the scheme to Rs 65,000 crore, from the FY21 BE of Rs 75,000 crore. The government has also earmarked Rs 900 crore for the Rs 1-lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund scheme, under which credit will be disbursed at subsidised interest.

Minister for agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar had said last week in Rajya Sabha that the funds won’t be a problem if more farmers are registered. So far, only 10.75 crore farmers have been registered under the scheme despite best efforts of the government, even as the target is to cover as many as 14 crore land-owning farmers. The Centre directly transfers Rs 6,000/year in three equal instalments into the bank accounts of PM-Kisan beneficiaries.

The funds for the flagship Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana of the food processing industries ministry has also been reduced by 35% to `700 crore for FY22.

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