Having skirted the question of performance of the Govt. in the just concluded parliamentary elections, Modi Govt.’s Finance Minister chose to sing praises of the performance of Modi led RSS-BJP Govt. in its first term. She dished out jumlas and avoided all specifics.
Despite all bravado, Union Budget displays deepening crisis in the Indian economy. Economic Survey presented a day earlier on July 4, surveyed less and surmised much. It had noted drop in tax collection, falling rate of savings and declining rate of agricultural wages. Though it had made robust claims of high growth, these figures have been questioned not only by several economists but also by earlier National Economic Advisor to the Govt. Economic Survey has made self-evident discovery that for growth investment has to grow. For this the Survey advocated sale of Public Sector Enterprises and further facilitating entry of foreign capital by labour law ‘reforms’. The corporate think tanks have also been advising the Govt. on same lines. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget has toed the very same line.
RSS-BJP Govt.’s budget does not address the key questions agitating the people. It does not even mention the peasant distress and unemployment crisis. Modi Govt. assumes that its re-election means people are having no problems. There is not even a mention of raising MSP and of problems in Govt. purchase of agricultural produce displaying utmost insensitivity to the concerns of the vast masses of peasantry of the country. Though the FM talked of “Gaon, Garib and Kisan” these sections were absent from her concerns. The talk of value addition in agricultural produce is meant for corporate and not for peasants. RSS-BJP Govt. has been advocating large scale entry of corporate in the agriculture. On the other hand there are increasing attacks on tribals’ lands and livelihood. Ms. Sitharaman’s announcement on documentation of the tribals’ origin is probably indicative of the Govt. thrust to forcibly displace them.
While the drought is affecting several parts of the country and is a big burden especially on the peasants but Finance Minister chose to ignore this serious problem particularly in relation to agriculture. Though she waxed eloquent on making water available and even promised to make piped water reach over every home in the current term of this Govt., her words were divorced from action and she proceeded to cut allocation to this Ministry by over 10 thousand crore rupees.
There are no measures for addressing the question of unemployment. Only tax benefits or interest subvention for Start-ups cannot resuscitate this initiative suffering from morbidity. Announcements by the Finance Minister will not have much impact on the job situation. What is needed is a boost to increase the demand which is possible only by increasing purchasing power of the people for which no measures have been announced. Rather she proceeded to announce waiver of the requirement of 30% procurement from local manufactures by the foreign single brand retailers which shows the true colour of the Make in India rhetoric of Modi Govt. and is declared objective of helping small and medium industries. No announcement was made even to fill up the vacancies in the Govt. jobs which according to Economic Survey amounted to more than 2.5 million. On the other hand there was not even ritual reference to MNREGS in her speech. But in her proposals there is cut in the allocation to this scheme.
Union Budget was on expected lines bereft any measure for the people. On the other hand, it further increased taxes on diesel and petrol by levying additional tax of Rs. 1 per litre and cess of Rs. 1 per litre thereby increasing the prices of petrol and diesel by Rs. 2 per litre. Though prices of crude in the international market are low, but the diesel and petrol prices are very high in India due to very heavy taxes levied by the Govt. This will further increase the burden on the people as increase in the prices of diesel and petrol has effect on all sectors. This will also further increase the cost of agricultural operations. 2% surcharge on transactions will hit the small and medium businesses.
The Union Budget has targeted on the sale and disinvestment in the PSUs. Central govt. has targeted to raise Rs. 1 lakh 5 thousand crores. Govt. has prepared a list of PSUs to be privatized or disinvested. The Budget speech laid emphasis on the large infrastructure development programme but has taken Public Private Partnership mode for that which effectively amounts to public losses and private profits. This was particularly mentioned with regard to railways where Govt. is planning large scale privatization. Finance Minister also announced utilization of the lands with PSUs and also military for “affordable housing” the sector in which several corporate have entered in a big way.
Union Minister announced Govt. resolve to change labour laws. The attack on labour laws and total liquidation of implementation machinery is sought to further lower the wages and benefits of workers to shore up the profits. These measures, in addition to cut in ESI contribution of owners already affected, are meant to facilitate increasing the profits especially of corporate and to attract the foreign capital. Besides changing labour laws Finance Minister also announced setting up labour law free the big manufacturing hubs which corporate media and Finance Minister are projecting as tools for promoting investment.
There were several measures to attract foreign capital. Besides waiving requirement of purchase from local producers for multi-brand retail, 100% FDI is to be permitted in several sectors. Govt. announced its intention to invite foreign capital especially in aviation, media and insurance and even permitted 100% FDI in insurance intermediaries besides several other sectors. Insurance has been a special target of foreign capital. Steps were also announced for permitting foreign entities to acquire properties of the sick Non-Banking Finance Companies. Finance Minister mentioned low foreign debt GDP ratio to justify her Govt.’s plans to attract foreign capital and thereby increase the burden of foreign debt.
Finance Minister admitted on ailing condition of banks and announced plans to merge Public Sector Banks (PSBs) into eight banks. These mergers are being undertaken to shift the burden of NPAs, in other words of the loot by corporate as most of the NPAs belong to them, to the healthy banks and thereby onto the shoulders of the people. Finance Minister also dealt at length with helping the NBFCs, which have been used by the corporate to utilize and siphon off people’s money which has been the main reason for their sickness.
There is not even mention of health services though hundreds of children have died in Bihar and thousands continue to die in several parts of the country in which near absence of health care services play an important role. Even in the allocations there is hardly any increase despite the severe crisis in the infrastructure of health services in the country. There is no emphasis on Education except to attract foreign students and branches of foreign universities. Finance Minister announced setting up of central research fund which is one of the proposals in the Draft New Education Policy. There is no announcement on increasing allocation for health services and education which is abysmally low in our country.
Finance Minister announced increase in SC and ST sub-plans. But it is well known that a large part of budget allocations remains unused and even what is used, major part of it goes in general expenditure. Only a small part is actually targeted expenditure. Hence such increase per se is meaningless unless concrete measures are announced which Finance Minister chose not to. Even on women’s issues she dealt cursorily despite her “Nari to Narayani” claim in view of falling employment of women in industries particularly in the organized sector.
Union Budget marks cynical disdain about the concerns of the people. With elections out of the way, the Govt. has announced serious attacks on workers and peasants, burdening the people and showing total disregard to their welfare.
CPI(ML)-New Democracy strongly condemns this anti-people budget in the interest of the corporate, especially foreign corporate. We appeal to the people to oppose this anti-worker, anti-peasant and anti-people Budget.
July 5, 2019