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What allocation for realism in the new budget?

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Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the annual budget in Parliament yesterday projecting it as a prelude to the the development document for the coming quarter century. However, it is clear from the various discussions that took place after the budget that no announcement was heard anywhere in Nirmala's one and a half hour long speech to come to such conclusions. The Opposition as a whole underlines this. The Modi government came to power with the promise of 'Ache Din', but the indication in the budget is that the country will have to wait at least another 25 years to achieve those dreams. It is safe to say that the budget for the new financial year was nothing more than a repeat of previous budgets. Ordinary people, farmers and youth are almost completely ignored. Agenda like the routine of selling off of the shares of the remaining public sector undertakings and imposing various financial burdens on the common man remain unchanged. On the other hand, the old wine of corporate appeasement has been liberally put in in a new bottle.. The decision to introduce a digital currency and the introduction of a special tax on digital assets are the features that can be said to be new in the budget.

The presentation of the new budget comes against the backdrop of an economic survey report that the country and the people are slowly recovering from the economic crisis created by the effects of the Covid pandemic. The report unequivocally states that the country has returned to the economic level it was before the pandemic. . The Survey details some of the other areas that are still in crisis, along with new figures showing that our economy is strong enough to meet the challenges of the new age. The main sectors craving for revival are employment, education, tourism and services. More than 60 % of the country's population find their livelihood in these sectors. In other words, while it is generally said that the economy has improved, the benefits of that growth are not yet available to the grassroots population. The budget has been presented without taking that reality at face value. The new budget is a repeat of last year's budget and the Covid stimulus package introduced earlier. The highlight of last year's budget was the unusually large allocation for infrastructure expansion, including the development of national highways, ports and railways. All these declarations have been repeated only in the name of the 'Prime Minister's Gati Shakti Mission'. Amidst these repetitions, the allocations in the previous budget have been diverted too. For example, last year, the allocation for the health sector was ₹64,000 crore and for Covid vaccination ₹35,000 crore, but this year the allocation has been drastically cut down: only Rs 5,000 crore has been earmarked for the vaccine!

The current financial crisis did not begin during the Covid period. Before that, our economy was in the abyss of a crisis. Any one would easily admit that the country has reached this stage with 'economic reform' programs such as demonetisation, which were specifically implemented by the Modi government, along with the recession that was experienced globally. The crisis hit the labor sector the hardest. The youth of this country are now facing the highest unemployment rate of the last four decades. New schemes had to be devised to provide employment to the people. This is also pointed out in the Economic Survey Report. But none of that finds a place in the budget. Not only that, this budget has even slashed the allocation for employment guarantee schemes which had alleviated some of the poverty of the people in the rural areas. Assistance to the agricultural sector also declined. In short, even the urgent needs of people whose backs were broken during the financial crisis were not considered. Instead, purely deceptive gimmick like introducing the illusory digital currency have been floated this time under the guise of 'Nirmala Magic'. Who does not know that digital currencies and 5G licences will not alleviate hunger in the country? It is not for nothing that the CPM general secretary asked who the budget was for. If this is the methodology of the Modi government's economic planning, the India a quarter of a century from now will not be in any comfortable position.

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TAGS:Union Budget 2022 Nirmala Sitharaman Economic Survey Report 2022 key sectors unemployment ignored Punjab 
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