Piyush Goyal, minister for railways and coal, who presented NDA’s last budget, spoke to Sidhartha on BJP’s manifesto. He details specific promises and the source of funding to fulfil them:
What will be the extent of increase in coverage of the PM-Kisan scheme if it is to cover all farmers and what was the rationale for expanding its scope?
We have kept it at two hectares and we plan to cover 12 crore farmer families, and work is going on at a breakneck speed. One instalment has already gone and we are constantly asking states to share the list of beneficiaries. One genuine issue that came to our attention was that in many areas farmers have larger holdings but (they) are rain-fed or suffer from drought or flooding. There are areas like Bundelkhand which are very dry. Farmers, small and large, have collectively helped India become self-sufficient in foodgrains and other crops. So, we thought every farmer should get the benefit. This will add probably three crore or so (to total).
How do you cover share croppers and tenant farmers?
We are looking at more and more ways to empower them. We will have to work on creating the database of tenant farmers to give more benefits. Tenancy records are not available. The difference between BJP’s manifesto and anybody else’s manifesto is that we look at doability. For us the credibility of what we say is very important.
What will be the scale of the pension scheme for small and marginal farmers?
We will work it out once we come back. Now that we have the database of farmers because of PM-Kisan, it will help us with the pension scheme. It is unfortunate that many states are not allowing benefits to citizens, especially the poor and farmers. Why are they politicising welfare measures?
What is the rationale of interest-free loans of up to Rs 1 lakh for farmers who pay on time?
Small farmers face challenges on profitability. Very often there is stress around the ability to service interest. Therefore, the loan duration will be one to five years and they won’t have the pressure to repay loans after every cropping season. Very often, that also creates pressure on the farmers as they have to borrow to repay this loan. All that is an unnecessary burden. With the interest subvention (subsidy), over 10 years, whole loan will become free.
How much will all this cost and where are you going to get the money from?
Every one of our promises is budgeted. We have looked at the growth in revenues and our ability to service all these promises. The country is becoming more honest and without increasing the tax rates the base is expanding. Several of our schemes such as Ujjwala, Saubhagya and building toilets are getting over and will not need budgetary support. So, thousands of crores will now be available to service new areas, particularly for the poor and the farmers.
For the middle class you have promised lower taxes. What are the details of the plan?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley have given relief to the middle class in one form or another. The PM spoke about respect for honesty and respect for honest taxpayers. We believe that our taxpayers and businessmen are basically honest people and create jobs, wealth and infrastructure. We want the middle class to have more money in their pockets so that the family can spend for the welfare of their children and parents.
You have a very ambitious investment target of Rs 100 lakh crore. Where is the money going to come from and will the economy have the capacity to absorb this much investment?
Resources are not a constraint. People want to invest in an economy that has the kind of potential that we offer. The funding plan includes budgetary support, viability gap funding, investment by PSUs, etc. As we expand highways, ports, railways, we will create investment and job opportunities. Investing Rs 100 lakh crore in infrastructure itself will have a nearly Rs 25-30 lakh crore labour and employment component. We have drawn up sector-wise plans. In railways for instance, we have a Rs 25 lakh crore plan but we have included around Rs 8 lakh crore or so. We have looked at the five-year component.
The opposition has been attacking you on your jobs record. Does the manifesto really address the issue?
It’s elementary. There are two ways – you empower a person or you make him dependent on a dole. You teach him to fish or you give a temporary fish and then you run out of fish. But when you teach him to fish, there is a huge ocean out there and a man will never run out of fish. That’s what PM Modi believes in and that’s what BJP believes in. That’s economically prudent, that’s good for the nation. The whole Sankalp Patra (manifesto) is an agenda for empowerment.