India, New Delhi: Today, India pledged to spend $5.2 billion dollars to double the income of struggling farmers and also boost a rural employment scheme as it unveiled its annual budget under pressure to balance much-needed spending with fiscal prudence. India is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy, but years of drought and a failure to create jobs for a burgeoning young population has left millions of rural Indians struggling and led to deadly protests in recent weeks.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said India’s estimated 120 million farmers were the “backbone of the country’s food security” as he pledged to spend Indian Rs359bn on the country’s vast agriculture sector. Jaitley told parliament as he presented the budget in parliament, “We need… to give back to our farmers a sense of income security”.
The initiative would increase the income of farmers over the next five years through a series of measures including boosting a crop insurance scheme, increasing access to markets and a massive injection of funding to village councils. He added, “For rural development as a whole I have allocated Rs877.6bn in this budget”.
That includes a major hike in spending on a rural employment scheme introduced under the last government and a pledge to ensure all the country’s villages have electricity within two years. Jaitley said the government would increase spending on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which guarantees 100 days of employment on public works each year for any household that requests it.