March 08, 2015

BJP led Govt’s Budget Serves the Corporates, Burdens the Common People

The following are the statements issued by various mass organisations on the annual budget 2015-16: Deception & Loot on Common People, says CITU THE annual budget presented by the Modi government is an articulation of anti-people and pro-corporate bias camouflaged by so-called pro-people rhetoric. The blatant deception behind the high decibel sound-bite of “Daridranarayana” by the finance minister stands exposed by the fact that the government sacrificed Rs 8,325 crore on direct tax account by abolishing wealth tax and reducing the corporate tax for their big-business/corporate bosses while imposing a burden of almost three times on the common people by hiking indirect tax to gain Rs 23,383 crore. Added to this is the huge concessions given to the big business lobby including the foreign speculators by absolving them from minimum alternative tax. In fact the total tax concessions given to the rich and big-business (around Rs 5 lakh crore plus), if were not given, could have fully wiped out the fiscal deficit of the government. Moreover, the first full-fledged budget of the Modi government presented an exercise reflecting a visible contraction in expenditure almost on all fronts leading to a decline of Rs 17,145 crore compared to 2014-15. And such decline is reflected in either drastic fall or stagnation in expenditure/allocation of central plan outlay in the sectors like agriculture, rural development, social services, health & family welfare, women & child development, education, minority affairs etc. And a notable feature is that, compared to last full-fledged UPA-II budget in 2013-14 (2014-15 budget was a product of both UPA and NDA) decline in budgetary allocation in all fronts, particularly involving welfare of common people is so drastic that the size of the entire budget gets pruned by around Rs 3 lakh crore. Can such contractionary budget create any momentum for growth? The allocations for various central government schemes like the ICDS, Mid-day-meal, ASHA etc have been either reduced or kept at the same level. The allocation of only Rs 607 crores for the National Social Security Fund for the 90 crore unorganised sector workers is nothing but a mockery. On the other hand, the launching of the so-called Atal Pension Yojana is nothing but a deceptive repackaging of the Swavalamban scheme already launched during the UPA regime. Simultaneously, fast-track reforms for the big corporates are being pushed at the cost of common people. In the name of targeting the needy and avoiding leakages, subsidies on food, fertilizers, fuel and social sector are being drastically cut, putting people in more distress. The budget speech was eloquent on pushing disinvestment of shares of public sector and this time the finance minister also mentioned about “strategic disinvestment” meaning total sell-out. As such, the target for disinvestment is kept at Rs 69,500 crores. The minister also announced the decision to corporatise major ports with the ulterior motive to put them on the track of disinvestment and privatisation. The minister also spoke about setting up an autonomous bureau to find professional heads for the public sector banks and also for raising funds through differentiated strategies – a clear blue-print for decontrol and privatisation. The finance minister, going beyond his brief has proposed to divert Rs 6000 crore from EPF fund for the so-called senior citizens’ welfare fund. EPF corpus including the unclaimed amount belongs to subscriber-workers and the Central Board of Trustees of EPF is the custodian of that fund which cannot be appropriated by the government for whatever purpose it may be. Similarly, the propositions to make the EPF contribution optional and aligning the ESI with IRDA schemes are totally retrograde, much to the detriment of the interests of the working people and must be opposed and resisted by the working class movement. A primary glance of the voluminous budget papers clearly reveals the total deception being engineered on the people by the Modi government, which actually initiated an exercise of transferring bonanzas to big-business corporate lobby, and squeezing the common people and the working people in particular. This can no way bring either equitable growth in the economy nor even any relief, not to speak of benefit to the people who actually create growth and generate flows to national exchequer. Such anti-people and deceptive exercise must be exposed before the common people and fought back resolutely by the united trade union movement. Pro-Rich Budget, says AIAWU THE All India Agricultural Workers Union is not surprised that a government committed to reducing corporate tax, abolishing wealth tax, increasing the indirect taxes which will burden the people and giving more sops to the corporate rich to the tune of nearly Rs 6 lakh crores, should leave the MGNREGA without funds at Rs 34,699 crores, barely a fifth of what is required. Rural development which serves more than half of the population of the country is pegged at Rs 44,827 crores, which is less than half of what is the bare minimum that is required. While 41 per cent of our population is below the age of 18 it merits only 4 per cent of the funds. The health sector is given Rs 33,152 crores, which is a reduction in real terms if inflation is taken into account and works out to 1 per cent. Education including mid day meals is allocated only 3 per cent while anganwadi and mid day meal workers are still not getting minimum wages even. The allocations to SC and ST schemes too are far from adequate. Instead of better days, rural India is faced with the threat of declining funds, declining output and even the threat of losing their farms to corporates and land sharks who will be allowed to take over their land with no need to develop it and contributing only to the migration of the dispossessed to the cities. Nor is there much hope for the implementation of the Food Security Act. The total allocations under food subsidy and by way of additional provision for food security have only been increased by Rs 1269 crores over the last year’s revised budget. It not only fails to provide funds for giving 35 Kg of foodgrains per family and the reduction of the buffer stock subsidy points to the dismantling of the PDS and its being taken over by market forces. Clearly we are to be faced with not only rising prices for food items but also a reduction in the food intake of the majority of Indian people. The budget allocations for drinking water and sanitation are drastically reduced by more than 50 per cent, to a mere Rs 6236 crores from Rs 12100 crores, despite the announcement that each house will be provided with safe piped water. Though the finance minister announced that they are going to construct 6 crore toilets by the end of their tenure, which means 1.20 crore toilets per year, the required budgetary allocations were not earmarked for these. Many claims have been made of targets to be achieved by 2020 but the tenure of this government is likely to end by 2019. So, such claims are irrelevant. Moreover the finance minister claims that as the central government, following by the 14th Finance Commission recommendations, devolved more money to the states; it is the duty of state governments to fund these schemes which will increase the burden on them to implement even schemes financed by the centre before. Instead of earmarking funds for empowering the poor economically, the direction of the budget is to empower the rich. The AIAWU calls on its units to fight for the implementation of MGNREGA fully, ensure the proper functioning of the Food Security Act and of schemes for education, health and SC and ST development. It is evident that nothing will be got without determined struggle. This budget should awaken us to that necessity. Budget Adds to the Agonies Of Peasantry, says AIKS THE union budget has proved a damp squib in the wake of the growing inequality and pauperisation of the peasantry and the working people under neo-liberal reforms. The budget proposals do not address the distress that has gripped the peasantry all over the country. It only heightens the agrarian crisis in the long run and jeopardises the economic development. The government has taken no step to prevent the rampant farmers’ suicides in different parts of the country. The much awaited proposals on the promises in the election manifesto of the BJP have received a snuff in the first full year budget of the Narendra Modi government. The promises like 50 per cent profit over the cost of production, cheaper agriculture inputs and credit, introducing latest technology for farming and high yielding seeds etc have not been fulfilled. The budget has no proposal of linking MGNREGA with agriculture as has been claimed by the BJP manifesto. The WTO related reforms and trade liberalisation and consequential imports have created a hostile market environment for the farmers and many crops including rubber, tea, sugar cane etc face severe price crash. But the budget has no proposals to address the helplessness of the farmers. One of the major proposals in the budget is to create a national agriculture market, but there is no public investment allotted for the same, indicating that the market will be dominated by the corporate investors both domestic and foreign. Thus it will further tighten the grip of neo-liberal forces over the peasantry. The budget has no vision to extend public investment to implement and incentivise the setting up of the food processing industry. On the other hand, the economic survey envisages handing over this sector to corporate investors. The Rs 5300 crore allotted for irrigation projects is meagre considering the already stalled projects in this sector all over the country. The allocation for MGNREGA, Rs 34,699 crore is far less than what is required. For example, the union government and state governments jointly had estimated that 227 crore workdays and Rs 61000 crore budget allocation are required for the year 2014-15. But finance minister Arun Jaitly had allotted Rs 34000 crore only in the union budget last year, and thus denied 45 per cent of the estimated amount. The All India Kisan Sabha and all other progressive peasant organisations are consistently demanding the union government to provide interest free crop loans to poor and marginal peasantry and minimise the general interest of crop loan to 4 per cent as recommended by the M S Swaminathan Commission. But the budget has refuted this genuine demand of the peasantry who are mired in indebtedness and suicides. The budget has announced 5 per cent curtailment on the corporate tax, redicing it from 30 per cent to 25 per cent. Wealth tax has been abolished. The incentive thus given to corporate forces amounts to nearly Rs 6 lakh crores. On the other hand, the service tax has been hiked to 14 per cent. This will adversely affect the middle class and the working class masses by increasing the cost of every consumer item. The rail budget also has increased the freight charges thus making the fertilisers and other inputs costly for farmers and adding burden to the people by increasing the price rise of essential items. The general thrust of the budget is to strengthen the corporate forces and intensify the exploitation of the peasantry and the working people. The BJP led government through its first full year budget has disillusioned the people of India. It is clear again that this government will only support the anti-people neo-liberal policies and facilitate the corporate loot of the people and the resources of the country. Hence, the AIKS calls upon the peasantry and the working people to undertake widespread campaigns and agitations against the anti-peasant budget proposals of the BJP led NDA government. ICDS Allocations Cut by Half; Against Welfare Of Women & Children, says AIFAWH THE union budget of the BJP led government displays a total lack of concern towards the well being of the women and children of the country. To the utter dismay of around 10 crore women and children, the beneficiaries of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the allocation for this flagship programme of the government of India has been drastically cut by more than half, from Rs 18,108 crore in 2014-15 to a paltry Rs 8,245.77 crores. This is nothing but an open attack on the poor in the country which is home to more than half of the malnourished in the world. The BJP, which promised ‘reviewing the working conditions and enhancing the remuneration of anganwadi workers’ before the elections, has completely ignored the more than 27 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers who have been working for a pittance since the last more than 30-35 years in the ICDS. The recommendation of the 45th Session of the Indian Labour Conference has been put in the dustbin, despite the unanimous demands of all the federations of anganwadi employees and the central trade unions for its implementation. The callous attitude of the BJP government was evident when the prime minister and his government bent over backwards to satisfy the demands of the corporates, both national and multinational, and was not even ready to hear the representatives of the anganwadi employees despite repeated requests. This budget has once again exposed the fact that ‘ache din’ under the BJP rule, are for the corporates, not for the common people, women and children. While the prices of all the essential commodities have been continuously increasing there has been no increase in the remuneration of the anganwadi workers and helpers since 2011. The government of India pays only Rs 3000 to the anganwadi workers and Rs 1500 to the helpers per month, despite increasing the working hours. They are denied minimum social security benefits including pension, gratuity etc. The All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers strongly condemns this anti-women, anti-children and anti-anganwadi employee budget and calls upon all the anganwadi employees in the country to unitedly oppose this irrespective of their affiliations. It calls upon all its state committees to organise protest demonstrations and burn effigies at the project/district level all over the country on March 3, 2015. It calls upon the anganwadi employees as well as all other sections of working people to intensify the struggle to ‘Save ICDS’ and for better working conditions. Anti-Women & Pro-Corporate Budget, says AIDWA THE All India Democratic Women’s Association expresses its concern on the anti-people and anti-women character of the budget of 2015-16. It notes with concern that the NDA government has provided sops and tax reductions to the corporate sector without addressing the problems of the mass of the labouring people in general and the women in particular. In the Economic Survey, 2014-15 the government states that it aims at ‘Wiping every tear from every eye’, but in reality it increases the burden on the people by increasing the burden of indirect taxes. This increase is in sharp contrast to the abolition of the wealth tax (replaced by a 2 per surcharge) and the phased reduction of corporate tax. Therefore despite all its populist pronouncements, the budget is pro-rich and pro-corporate in its orientation. The anti-people and anti-woman character of the budget is evident in the long term direction for the withdrawal of the state from the social sector. The total social sector allocation in the budget has come down from 16.3 per cent in 2014-15 (budget estimates) and 15.06 per cent in revised estimates, 2014-15 to 13.7 per cent of the central budget outlay in 2015-16. Within this overall decrease the percentage of allocation for women and child development remains stagnant at 0.01 per cent of the total budget. As far as gender budget is concerned, the budgetary allocations have decreased from 4.19 per cent of the estimated total budgetary expenditure in 2014-15 to 3.71 per cent of the total expenditure in the current budget. In absolute terms this constitutes a decrease in 12.2 per cent in the gender budget and almost a 49.3 per cent decrease in the allocation of the ministry of women and child development over the revised budget of 2014-15. Even if we add the Rs 1000 crore for the Nirbhaya fund and Rs 100 crore for the Beti Bachao Andolan to the ministry’s allocation there is still a decrease of approximately 38 per cent in the total amount allocated for women and child development. One of the big casualties of this budget has been the MGNREGS which has provided some employment to working class women. In his intervention in parliament, Prime Minister Modi stated that MGNREGS symbolised the monumental failure of Congress led governments. This is an insult to the struggles of labouring women whose survival depends on this scheme. This is also reflected in the budgetary allocations. There is a nominal increase in the total budgetary allocations for MGNREGS which will not even take care of the rising implementation costs. And adding insult to injury, the finance minister also states that he will only allocate an additional Rs 5000 crores to the scheme if there is an increase in the revenue receipts of the government. This shows the government’s lack of commitment to protecting employment of working class women. Another main highlight of the budget is its apparent emphasis on social security schemes. The women’s organisations have been demanding universal social security coverage for all women workers. But there is no special focus on the needs of working women, especially in the unorganised sector, in this budget. While the budget creates a pension, old age pension and social safety net fund, it makes little financial commitment to these schemes. There is a virtual phasing out of schemes like shelter homes for single women, one stop crisis centres and there is only a meagre allocation of Rs 30 crores for hostels for working women. The scheme for improving the working condition women and child labour has also got a meagre increase. As far as the allocations for women safety are concerned, the budget increases the Nirbhaya Fund by Rs 1000 crore. Though on the face of it this may be a welcome step, it needs to be noted that the previous allocations under Nirbhaya fund also went unspent as the government has no concrete plan to implement this fund. The lack of concern of the Modi government with respect to health and well being especially for the nutrition of women is particularly evident in the budget. In its economic survey the budget criticises the PDS systems and argues for the uniform application of the cash transfer scheme through JAM (Jan Dhan- Aadhar and Mobile network) as a means of implementing food subsidy. Experience shows that this policy measure has failed to ensure proper nutrition for women as it cannot ensure adequate food for them. Further the allocations under the ICDS and Mid-day meal schemes have come down in the gender budget. Once again the government makes vague promises of increasing the allocations for ICDS by Rs 1500 Cr on the condition that its revenue receipts increase. The gender budget in the health sector has been reduced by 17.9 per cent over last year’s revised estimate. Finally, the disregard for girls education is also evident in this budget. The overall gender budget for school education has come down by 8.3 per cent over last year’s revised estimate. The budget for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has reduced by 9.5 per cent. The much touted Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan gets only Rs. 100 crore which is a mockery of this important slogan. The medium and long term measures proposed by this budget will bring about structural changes that will place greater burden on all women, especially from the rural and urban poor sections. Thus, the AIDWA calls up on all its organisations and the women of the country to oppose this anti-people and anti-women budget. Anti-Dalit Budget, says DSMM The Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch expresses its concern at the anti-dalit nature of the BJP government’s budget for the year 2015-16. The union budget 2015-16 has denied the dalits their due share in the fund allocations. The Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan has been allocated Rs 30,852 crores and the Tribal Sub-Plan Rs 19,980 crores. It is much less than what was allocated last year. The objective underlying the SCSP and TSP was to channelise plan funds for the development of SCs/STs, in proportion to their shares in total population, which is 16.6 per cent for SCs and 8.5 per cent for STs. The budget 2015-16 only provided a meagre 6.63 per cent for the SCSP. The government’s statement that it aims at ‘Wiping every tear from every eye’ is a lie. In fact the reduction of allocations meant for the most marginalised sections of our country – dalits and tribals, only leads to adding more tears to every eye belonging to these sections. The government continues to give a cold shoulder to the MGNREGA which is an employment scheme that has benefitted to an extent the dalits. In contrast, it has only served the interests of the wealthy and the corporate, by abolishing the wealth tax and by reducing the corporate tax. The Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch calls upon all the forces who work for social justice to oppose this budget which is anti-poor, anti-dalit and pro-rich and pro-corporate. Massive Fund Cuts in Education, says SFI THE union budget 2015-16 has turned out to be a complete failure in addressing the core issues and problems of the common masses of India. The students of the country will be particularly hit hard by the destructive path that the BJP government has chosen to follow. At a time when the vast majority of people of the country are faced with falling living standards and rising unemployment, the government should have made major increases in the expenditure on education. But instead it has chosen to resort to massive fund cuts. The budgeted expenditure by the central government on education has seen a colossal decline this year. The plan outlay for the department of school education & literacy has been reduced from Rs 51,828 crores in last year’s budget to Rs 39,038.50 crores. The department of higher education has seen its allocation cut from Rs 16,900 crores to Rs 15,855.26 crores. Plan outlay for the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan has declined from Rs 28,258 crores to Rs 22,000 crores. Plan funds for the all-important Mid-Day Meal Scheme have been reduced from Rs 13,215 crores to Rs 9236.40 crores. Needless to add, the fund cuts in real terms (after taking into account inflation) are much larger. Plan outlay for secondary education has declined from Rs 8,579 crores to Rs 6,022 crores. The funds allocated to the UGC have stagnated at last year’s levels, which amounts to a cut in real terms. Technical education has witnessed fund cuts to the tune of Rs 434 crores. Science education and research would suffer as the allocation for the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research has been cut by 25 per cent. The total expenditure on education – Rs 68,968 crores - is a paltry 3.88 per cent of the central budget, a far cry from the longstanding demand of the student community that 10 per cent of the budget be spent on education. The tall claims made by the finance minister in the budget speech regarding the government’s “commitment to the welfare of the poor and the middle class” have fallen flat. The finance minister has given the excuse of higher devolution of funds to the states for inadequate fund allocation to crucial sectors. But the hollowness of such justifications can be seen from the fact that the plan allocation for every major head under education has declined even as a percentage of total central plan expenditure. This shows the skewed priorities and the total neglect of education by the Modi-led BJP government. The result of such fund cuts will be a worsening of the quality of public education in India, which would then be used as an excuse for further commercialisation and privatisation of education, thus rendering education inaccessible to the vast majority of students in the country. The fund cuts in education have come even as the tax concessions doled out by the government to the rich increased from Rs 5,49,984 crores in 2013-14 to Rs 5,89,285 crores in 2014-15. Corporate tax rates have been reduced and wealth tax has been abolished. In short, the budget proposals will only serve to heap misery on the common people while benefiting the rich. The SFI calls upon the student community to protest the anti-student, anti-people union budget presented by the BJP government.