Nirmala Sitharaman Feb2022

View from India: Budget green signal for agriculturists

Image credit: Government of India

The Union Budget for 2022-23 prioritises the areas defined as engines of India’s growth towards becoming a five-trillion economy, with a focus on digitisation to strengthen online markets, as well as strong support for agricultural advances.

Digital is the crux of diverse verticals, so it’s understandable that in her Budget earlier this month the Union Finance Minister (FM) Nirmala Sitharaman (pictured) has initiated efforts to build an industry-ready workforce. The efforts, understood as skilling programmes, include industry partnerships to promote continuous skilling avenues, sustainability and employability. The National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) will be aligned with industry needs. That apart, entrepreneurial opportunities are likely to emerge from the Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood (DESH-Stack) eportal. It aims to empower citizens to skill, reskill or upskill through online training. It will also provide API-based (application programming interface) trusted skill credentials, payment and channels to find relevant jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

What is interesting is that drones are being promoted through varied applications. Drone start-ups will be given the necessary encouragement to package Drone-As-A-Service (DrAAS). The initiative, titled Drone Shakti, could open up the skies for start-ups to customise services through drones. Skilling programmes will roll out in select Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) across states.  

Drones are being introduced as an agri service. Use of ‘Kisan Drones’ will be promoted for crop assessment, digitisation of land records, spraying of insecticides and nutrients. It appears to be a green signal for the agriculture sector. FM has announced that chemical-free natural farming will be promoted throughout the country. Farmers’ lands within 5km-wide corridors along river Ganga will be a focus at the first stage. Packages will be rolled out for farmers to adopt suitable varieties of fruits and vegetables, and to use appropriate production and harvesting techniques.

“We welcome the initiatives for farmers in the Union Budget of 2022. That the Government will launch a scheme of private public partnership (PPP) mode with the involvement of public sector research and extension institutions along with private agritech players and stakeholders of agri value chains, is also an encouraging step towards creating efficient building blocks and greater reach. All in all, a good budget for the agri sector,” said Dr Kishore Indukuri, Founder and MD, Sid’s Farm.

The Budget has come up with initiatives that could probably beef up the domestic market. One such initiative is design-led manufacturing. “We are thrilled to see the announcement of the PLI (production led initiatives) scheme for design-led manufacturing, this will help in getting ready with Make in India products and solutions. We welcome the government’s commitment to the R&D sector and formalising the same by allocating five per cent of the universal service obligation,” added Sanjeev Gupta, MD and CEO, Lahari. The continued emphasis on flagship PLI schemes could boost job creation in the economy and contribute to making India a global manufacturing hub.

A key takeaway is that defence R&D will be opened up for industry, start-ups and academia, with 25 per cent of the defence R&D budget earmarked for it. Private industry will be encouraged to take up design and development of military platforms and equipment in collaboration with DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) and other organisations through the SPV (special purpose vehicle) model. An independent nodal umbrella body will be set up for meeting wide- ranging testing and certification requirements.

All this could pave the way for newer experiments and innovations in science and engineering. Perhaps less explored materials may find new applications from this. And with this, new job opportunities are likely to emerge. “The main thing that makes us happy as a design university in the new budget is that it focuses on animation, gaming, visual effects and comics and talks about promoting this sector. Another point is that the budget announcement has recognised the need for urban planning and urged AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) to focus on it. It is a matter of happiness because the way urbanisation is increasing in the country, it is paramount to recognise the need of urban planning,” observed Dr Sanjay Gupta, Vice Chancellor, World University of Design. To think of it, the announcement opens up new opportunities in urban planning, and this could probably be integrated in the creation of smart cities as well.

Other sunrise opportunities could come from the application of technologies such as artificial intelligence, geospatial systems and drones, semiconductor and its eco-system, space economy, and genomics and pharmaceuticals. By themselves these technologies can provide solutions in various areas. But when they combine with other technologies or are interspersed with engineering disciplines, their impact increases tremendously. This gives them immense potential to assist sustainable development at scale and modernise the country. It could provide employment opportunities for youth, and make Indian industry more efficient and competitive.  The finance minister has presented a forward-looking budget that focuses on a long-term plan for the country with digitisation, urban development, and sustainability at its core.

“The Union Budget 2022 expectedly has turned out to be a growth-oriented budget. Another impactful announcement is the confirmation of the auction of 5G spectrums this year which will improve accessibility, speed and the availability of the internet across India and particularly in rural areas. This budget’s emphasis on Digital India will further attract investment and put India firmly on the global innovation map,” explained Ramanujam Komanduri, Country Manager, India, Pure Storage.

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