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Union Budget: Gross neglect for the poor - and Kerala

Right when Draupadi Murmu was nominated as the presidential candidate, the BJP had started its preparation ahead of the 2024 general elections. The second phase of the election campaign, which in effect started with the President's policy announcement speech, has now taken a step forward with the Union budget. The states where assembly elections are to be held before the general elections have also been amply taken care of. Altogether the 2023 budget can be summarised as follows: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has tried to make the last full budget announcements before the general elections, as proven by the declarations involving lakhs of crores. The minister also did not forget to enthuse their vote banks. Along with poll-bound Karnataka and Tripura, Gujarat also got consideration. A few examples of this are Rs 5,300 crores for relief to Karnataka, Rs15,000 crores for tribal development, grants and customs concessions for artificial diamond production and research. . Meanwhile, in the case of Kerala, it is totally disappointing.

Impressive-looking allocations have also been made such as: Rs 2.40 lakh crore for railways, 20 lakh crore for agriculture credit, 79,000 crore for housing, 10 lakh crore for infrastructure development, 35,000 crore for technological transformation in energy conservation, 19,700 crore for green hydrogen mission, 15,000 crore for tribals and 6,000 crore for fisheries. Given that similar announcements had beenmade in the previous budget too, there is no novelty or credibility In these. Announcements will continue as long as the public has no means to judge the effectiveness of the announcements. `The 'political potential' in the budget comes prominently in the form of income tax relief for the middle class. Notable among these, as against the cut-off of 2.5 lakhs. The tax exemption limit has been raised from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh. Meanwhile, the tax which was 10% up to 10 lakhs has been increased to 15% between 8 lakhs and 12 lakhs which is likely to yield more revenue to the government. The revised tax regime, which was announced earlier for those who opt out of concessions, was not widely accepted. The way to fill that gap is visible in this budget.

The finance minister has claimed that the thrust of the budget is to reduce inflation, improve cash position by slashing fiscal deficit, and invest more in all sectors. However, the budget has been grossly unfair to the poor in the country as shown in the drastic reduction of Rs 24,000 crore in employment guarantee allocation. There are no concrete proposals in the budget to solve unemployment either. Both of these will constitute a huge blow to the rural population who are suffering from unemployment and hunger due to the Covid crisis apart from their inherent poverty. This will lead the country, which is already sliding down in indexes like hunger, employment and economic inequality, to go further down. 10 lakh crores have been allocated for basic development and 79,000 crores for housing, but it remains to be seen how much these will benefit the rural population.

There is also a significant reduction in the allocation for minorities: Rs 3097.60 crores for the Ministry of Minorities which represents Rs 1922 crore less than last time. To be read with this is the fact that Rs 2407.84 crore had lapsed in the last sanctioned amount. Overall, in the last few years, the Centre has been cutting down on minority welfare schemes. For Kerala, the budget represents a zero. A budget so uncaring towards the state may be extremely rare. None of Kerala's demands has been accepted. AIIMS has been a standing demand for years for which a location was also identified in Kozhikode. At one point, it had almost reached the stage of being approved, but then that was not considered. Increase in share of GST, extension of GST compensation, Sabari rail line, package for expatriate Keralites and increase in working days in employment guarantee scheme, all demanded by the state, have not even figured in the budget. Despite the opposition of the people, the state government persistently sought permission for the Silver Line, but that too was not accepted. There is no Kerala in the new Vande Bharat train either. It may suit a political party to ignore states that don't accommodate it. But it does not fit in with the federal system in a democratic country.

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TAGS:Union Budget 2023 Nirmala Sitharaman Deficit reduction inflation control poor gets no consideration 
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