Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday said every budget over the past four years has added value to the lives of farmers unlike the ones presented by Congress-led governments. The Congress never bothered about farmers, the minister told ANI in an interview after presenting the budget earlier in the day.

Goyal was reacting to comments from Opposition leaders that the budget was presented with an eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

When asked about a National Sample Survey Office report on employment, which showed that unemployment rose to a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-’18, Goyal said the talk about loss of job might be “a narrative”.

He said the economy has formalised ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government took measures against black money. “No one has carried out an analysis of how this formalisation has changed the economy,” he said. “It is obvious that the benefits of formalisation were reaped by the people of the country. The economy has consistently grown at 7%-7.5%, this talk about loss of jobs might also be a narrative.”

In the budget, Goyal had announced that farmers with land up to two hectares would get Rs 6,000 per year in their bank accounts in three equal instalments. “Instead of being looked at as Rs 500 per month for farmers, it has been introduced as a supplemental income,” he told ANI.

“They are our ‘anndaata [food providers]’ and provide us food security...,” the minister added. “Sitting over here it’s very difficult to imagine how important this Rs 6,000 is in the life of a small farmer.”

Goyal said the government would prioritise micro-irrigation and organic farming. “In the next 10 years, will make sure everybody get benefit of good irrigation facilities,” he added.

The minister alleged that the Congress has never bothered about farmers. “Why is it that they [Congress] never bothered for the healthcare of the farmers like we did?” he asked. “Why is it that they never bothered to ensure electricity to all as we did? Except making tall promises they did nothing.”

On the tax rebate for individuals earning less than Rs 5 lakh a year, Goyal said over three crore people would benefit from this. “We’ll get a final data when the final tax returns of the next year come,” he added. “We have not disturbed the tax rates. We just made the change that those with an annual income less than Rs 5 Lakh will have to pay zero tax.”

In the budget, Goyal also announced a monthly pension for workers in the unorganised sector, a Rs 75,000 crore to benefit farmers, a tax rebate for individuals earning up to Rs 5 lakh a year.

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