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Ahead of the Panchayat elections in West Bengal, the state’s outlay for agriculture and rural development in 2018-19 saw a rise of nearly 82 per cent over this year’s spend. In terms of budgetary allocation for 2018-19, over 2017-18, the rise was about 29 per cent. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced the state Panchayat elections would be held over the next two to three months, much ahead of the August deadline. West Bengal has already been providing pension to farmers, and this year the monthly pension was raised from Rs 750 to Rs 1,000. The number of beneficiaries has also been raised from 66,000 to 1,00,000.
Besides, state finance minister Amit Mitra proposed exemption of the mutation fee for agricultural land sold for agrarian purposes. This year, the government distributed 12,74.89 acre agriculture land to landless people and created a corpus of Rs 1 billion to ensure that farmers get the due price of their produce. Although a number of development schemes by the state government does not fall under the outlay for agriculture or rural development, much of the spend is targeted in rural areas. This includes monthly payments under Kanyashree, the state’s flagship girl education scheme, which has been raised from Rs 750 to Rs 1000. In addition, the state government will provide Rs 25,000 as one-time assistance to girls for the wedding in families with annual income less than Rs 150,000. According to Mitra, the average annual income of a farmer in West Bengal has increased from Rs 91,000 per annum in 2011 to about Rs 239,000 per annum in 2017-18.