View: Directionless budget, nothing for salaried and middle class, just empty promises

View: Directionless budget, nothing for salaried and middle class, just empty promises
The BJP-led central government has once again trampled the hopes and aspirations of the common man. The Union Budget for 2022-23 is completely directionless, anti-poor and anti-farmer. It is just a white paper on the BJP government’s failure on the economic front.

The FM did not utter a word on how the income of farmers doubled in the last few years? What is the progress on the development of 100 smart cities?

It would not be wrong to say that this budget is “old wine in a new bottle”. It was expected that the government would provide direct financial support to MSMEs to cope with losses caused by the pandemic but instead, the finance minister announced the extension of the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) for small companies till March 2023. The government has failed to understand that small companies which are plagued with financial problems are not in a condition to take credit. What was actually required was small businesses to be promoted.

Agriculture contributes to 14-15% of the GDP and increasing the income of farmers would have acted as a “booster dose” for the Indian economy. Through a massive agricultural movement, the farmers have been demanding guaranteed income, but there was not a word in the budget on the government’s intention to legalise the Minimum Support Price. The central government has done grave injustice to rural India. The budget lacks vision for the sustainable welfare of farmers, and for making agriculture and economy robust and profitable.

The government has spoken about promoting chemical-free natural farming along the Ganga corridor. This move has already been taken up by some states, including Chhattisgarh. The government has now decided to transfer MSP to farmers’ accounts. The step is a mere emulation of the Chhattisgarh model. Chhattisgarh has been successfully implementing direct transfer of MSP since the last three years.

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Direct cash transfer is the best way to revive the economy and with its implementation, Chhattisgarh has managed to shield itself from the slowdown during the pandemic. It was expected that the Centre would increase the ‘Kisan Samman Nidhi’ but this also remained untouched.

The government is good at making empty promises. The finance minister spoke of seven engines: roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways and logistics infra which will pull forward the economy in unison but failed to back it with appropriate allocation and figures. If we look at the last few budgets, while there have been big announcements (Health Infrastructure Mission, National Digital Health Mission), the on-the-ground implementation has not been up to expectations. The value of the increase in infrastructure spending through the PM Gati Shakti Plan is unclear.

Unemployment and inflation are two problems that the country is facing. It was expected that the finance minister would give priority to generating employment and bring down the inflation graph. But the budget deceived the people of India, especially the poor, the working classes, the migrants, and the industrial units that had been closed down permanently. The allocation for MNREGA has not been increased and it is almost the same as last year. This is a deadly blow on the poor.

The FM claimed that the Production Linked Incentive Scheme for achieving Aatmanirbhar Bharat has the potential to create 60 lakh new jobs but no statistics or data about employment generated last year under the scheme was disclosed. It is a sheer disappointment for millions of youth who were protesting on the streets against unemployment as the government has not given any blueprint. The Centre should take lessons from Chhattisgarh on how to manage unemployment. The CMIE report clearly indicates that the unemployment rate of Chhattisgarh is far below the national average.

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The Centre needed to empower the consumer as the problem afflicting the economy right now is a fall in demand. Instead of promoting the interests of a handful of corporates, the central government should have focused on putting more cash in the pockets of the masses. The government has betrayed the people. The salaried and middle class has not been provided any relief in income tax slabs whereas the corporate tax was decreased from 18% to 15%.

(The author is Chief Minister, Chhattisgarh)

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