February 05, 2023

Amrit Kaal Budget Turns Venomous for People: CITU

THE union budget presented by the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman is nothing but a political jumla. It does not utter a word on the grim economic situation facing the country, though the Economic Survey sought to camouflage it by presenting a rosy picture.

The Economic Survey itself predicted a decline in GDP to 6.5 per cent in 2022-23. Such downward spiral in growth for four consecutive years is unprecedented in the history of independent India. There is de-growth in the manufacturing sector, which came down to 1.6 per cent against 9.9 per cent last fiscal. The budget is totally oblivious to the loss of jobs, worsening working and living conditions of the workers and common people, alarming unemployment and inflation that have resulted in immense suffering of the workers and the people in general. It fails to address even the risks mentioned in the Economic Survey like plateauing of export growth due to global recession, widening current account deficit, the continuing depreciation of the rupee, the high debt GDP ratio etc. 

The drastic cut in the subsidy for petroleum, by 75 per cent from the revised estimates of the last year, will adversely affect all sectors of the economy and result in the rise in prices grievously.

While the recently released Oxfam report points out that the bottom half of Indian people pay six times more on indirect taxes compared to the top 10 per cent, the budget has further lowered the tax rate on the super rich. On the other hand, it has cruelly cut the food subsidy by 29 per cent, the subsidy for decentralised procurement under the NFSA by 17 per cent, the allocation for midday meal by 9.4 per cent and nutrient based subsidy by 38 per cent, compared to the revised estimates of FY 2022. The gross subsidy on food has been slashed by 31 per cent; this, when India is home to the largest number of hungry and malnourished in the world.

The budget clearly shows that the Modi led BJP government has not learnt any lessons from the health disaster during the Covid pandemic which exposed the pathetic conditions of public health infrastructure in our country. Instead of enhancing budgetary allocations, the budget reduced the allocations for Ayushman Bharat by a sharp 34 per cent; the allocations for the NHM have been cut down by 1 per cent from the last year’s estimates.

In the midst of the surge in massive school dropouts and the digital divide in education, allocation for education empowerment scheme has been cut down by 33 per cent from the last year’s estimates. The funds for National Education Mission have been reduced by 2 per cent.

The tens of lakhs of anganwadi workers and helpers, ASHAs, midday meal workers etc working to provide health, education, nutrition and child care services to the country’s poor, particularly women and children, have been totally neglected without any improvement in their remuneration and benefits.

Allocations for MGNREGA, which has been providing some succour to the rural job seekers, have been cut by a whopping 33 per cent from the last year’s revised estimates. The budget has also reduced the allocations for National Livelihood Mission. Allocations for the highly advertised Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana have been reduced by 65 per cent. The most atrocious attack was on labour. While the actual expenditure on labour related central sector schemes/ projects in FY 21 was Rs 23,165 crore, this budget has slashed it by around half, to just Rs 12,435 crore. The fund for pension has been cut down by 4.2 per cent.

Despite all the high sounding talk about doubling the income of farmers and helping agriculture, the finance minister did not spare even agricultural expenditure. PM Kisan allocations have been cut down by 11.76 per cent; that for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana by 31 per cent, for Krishi Sinchai Yojana by 17 per cent and for Krishi Unnati Yojana by 2 per cent from the last years’ budget estimates. Fertiliser subsidies have been cut down by 22 per cent from the last year’s revised estimates; allocations for crop insurance scheme by 12 per cent over the last year’s estimates. 

The deceptive manoeuvres, which are its wont, are clearly visible in this budget too. The allocations for housing were drastically cut by Rs 90,020 crore; this budget even does not restore the allocations to earlier level; it has only increased it by a mere Rs 79,590 crore.

The anti-minority, anti0women, anti-dalit and tribal attitude of the Modi government finds clear expression in the budget. The umbrella programme for development of minorities has been cut by 66 per cent; the allocation for maternity benefit scheme – Matru Vandana Yojana has been cut down by Rs 40.15 crore. Gender budget is only 9 per cent of the total expenditure; for SCs a mere 3.5 per cent and for STs, a meagre 2.7 per cent has been allocated.

The much trumpeted capex spending is in fact funded by the upfront money collected by gifting out highly revenue generating public assets through the National Monetisation Pipeline which envisages collecting Rs 9 lakh crore. This is nothing but throwing away of the revenue collecting capacity of the government for the next 30-35 years, in favour of the private companies, mostly its cronies. The budget has reduced the investment in PSUs by 11 per cent.

The budget has also nothing for employment generation, support for the MSMEs. It does not provide any relief in GST to the common people.

The first budget in the so called Amrit Kaal has turned out to be venomous for the people despite expectations in some quarters that being the last budget before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the government may provide some relief to people. Probably the BJP-RSS wants to rely more on their communal divisive agenda. The working class and the people have to be vigilant.

CITU calls upon all its committees, affiliates and the working class and toiling people in general across the country to strongly oppose this budget and hold protests at the workplaces and residential areas.