Union Budget presented by the Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley is devoid of any attention to the problems faced by the common people. It showers further concessions on the MNCs and corporate and increases economic burdens on the people. There are no measures for addressing unemployment and the ills plaguing the major sectors of Indian economy mainly agriculture and industries. Industrial production is stagnant and whatever growth has been registered in agriculture is due to favourable weather conditions. This Budget is marked by total neglect of the main sectors- agriculture, industries, health, education and social sectors.
Mr. Jaitley has acclaimed demonetization and consequent increased deposits in the Banks but the Govt. has used this to lower interest rates whose main beneficiaries will be foreign and domestic corporate. There is no waiver of the loans for peasants, agricultural labourers, small businesses and other sections of poor people. Finance Minister has also not addressed the question of rising NPAs of the Public Sector Banks which have reached over 12% of their total lending. While the Govt. has commended itself on demonetization, there was not even acknowledgement of the sufferings of the workers, peasants and middle classes.
In this Budget and preceding it, Modi Govt. has tried to increase the tax net and tax burden on the people. Goods & Services Tax (GST) and cashless transactions are meant to draw increasing sections into the tax net. The projected increase in revenue by 17% even while the growth rate is projected by the Govt. to be between 6.75 to 7.5% is due to increasing the tax burden on the people. The increase in indirect taxes will only increase the burden on the people and fuel increase in the prices of essential commodities. While Mr. Jaitley has complemented himself on low rate of inflation the reality is that price rise of the commodities used by the common people is much higher.
The Finance Minister has called Indians as non-tax compliant and India having one of the lowest tax/GDP ratio. This however hides the fact that while between more than half or nearly two third of the tax collections in developed countries are spent on social sectors, in India this expenditure is virtually miniscule.
Govt. talks about providing employment but there are no measures for the same in the Budget. Employment generation has been low and has further slowed down in the recent years. Mr. Jaitley has only talked of self-employment and not announced any measures to spur the employment. This ‘Swayamsewak’ is enamoured by the ‘swayam’ and does not think it is the Govt. responsibility to provide employment.
There is a lot of rhetoric of investment in the agriculture and rural development but that is only an eyewash. The large increase is in the credit flow to the agriculture while peasants are sinking deeper into debt burden and peasants’ suicides owing to them are continuing. There is no attempt to address the causes of this increasing indebtedness of peasantry, there is no attempt to lower the prices of inputs and no announcement on the remunerative prices of the produce. This increased flow of rural credit will only help the landlords and other rural rich who corner these loans and further give them to small peasants on exorbitant rates.
On the other hand, Mr. Jaitley has announced the Govt. intention of promoting contract farming which is another name for bringing in corporate agriculture and deprive the peasants of their land and agriculture and make them labourers on their own land.
Mr. Jaitley has made much of his ‘increased allocation’ for MGNERGS but this again is misleading. He has allocated Rs. 48000 crores in this Budget while Revised Estimates for the last year have put the expenditure under this head at Rs. 47000 crores.
The increased expenditure on SCs and STs is similarly misleading as these expenditures are made without any result to improving the lot of these sections.
In his Budget Speech, Finance Minister has declared the Govt. intention to carry through anti-worker changes in labour laws doing away with the rights of workers. Modi Govt. has already announced its proposal to replace all existing labour laws with four codes. This is yet another effort to bring in FDI to exploit the lower wages to labour in the country. On the other hand there are no measures to address the crisis faced by the textile industry which is one of the biggest employer in the country. There are no measures for the workers employed in construction industry and other sectors of economy which are facing stagnation or where growth rate has slowed down.
Even the so-called emphasis on infrastructure is mainly to rope in private investment through PPP. The Budget Speech mentioned utilization of land assets by the infrastructure sectors like railways, airports and ports which is in fact abdication of the responsibility of the Govt. in favour of the private players in these fields.
Finance Minister has claimed an increase in FDI inflows. The whole strategy of the Govt. is to depend on FDI particularly in face of declining private investment in the country. There are a number of concessions announced for the FDI and select corporate.
Abolition of separate budget for the railways has coincided with abdication of responsibility towards this public carrier. Budget banks on privatization for providing the funds for investment. In the recent years there has been gross neglect of the maintenance including on tracks resulting in increasing accidents and declining quality of service. The Union Govt. has adopted totally callous approach towards these problems.
Union Budget also neglects the growing crisis of health care delivery system in the country and health services going out of the reach of the overwhelming majority of the people. There is no emphasis on improving the peripheral health care centres which are crucial to affecting any improvement. There has been announcement of increase in PG seats, the same are in private institutions with their quality already doubtful. Similarly, education too has been neglected. Mr. Jaitley has talked of increasing autonomy of the educational institutions while every day the Govt. interference in their affairs is increasing. Scientific research has also been neglected. Modi Govt. has cut down funding for the scientific research as it depends more and more on foreign sources for bringing in new technology and improvements.
Jaitley has made a mockery of addressing the question of funding of the political parties. Reduction of the permissible limit to Rs. 2000 will be as meaningless as the earlier one. Nexus between corporate and ruling parties is at the root of political corruption which has not been addressed in the present Budget. The whole effort of Modi Govt. is to divert the attention of the people from the real causes and to hide the role of big sharks.
The whole Budget exercise has been robbed of its credibility with its larger outlays but less spending on social sectors, with jugglery of figures, increasing of burdens on the people round the year and with announcement of the schemes year after year with virtually no implementation.
Union Budget 2017-18 once again shows the priorities of the Modi Govt. and how little it cares for the people.
February 1, 2017