Random Reflections

The Interim Budget 2024 created a lot of expectations as it was presented in the election year. In 2019, PM Kisan Scheme was announced providing Rs 6000 per year to farmers owning less than 2 hectares of land. PM Shram Yogi Mandhan insurance scheme was also announced in the interim budget. Hence expectations were natural this time. There were expectations of a course correction in the economy, and an increase in allocation for education, health and social security schemes. Women and MSMEs expected a reduction in interest rates for their loans since Tatas could get loans at 4.5% for buying Air India and large corporates are getting loans at concessional rates.

The President was given a report card of 10 years to read out claiming that her Govt has achieved so much. 38 points were listed. She came to the new Parliament for the first time; she was not invited to Ram Mandir and she was not allowed to the inner circle of the Puri temple. No other president has been insulted so much but she had to say that Naari Shakti is one of the biggest achievements of her Govt. Hope that this has not annoyed the PM because he alone has the right to claim every achievement though many are not real achievements as we will discuss further.

The Chief Economic Advisor made the same claim a few days before but failed to bring out an economic survey.

The Finance Minister claimed the same achievements though some figures differ. Maybe different speech writers were used. For example President said the target for Lakhpati Didi is 2 crore whereas FM said it is 3 crore. President said VIKSIT Bharat whereas the FM pronounced it as VIKASIT Bharat. In English speeches how can we have so many Hindi and Sanskrit words that people in the south, east and northeast cannot understand?

As a 10-year report card has been presented as the interim budget it is necessary to recall the promises made in the BJP manifestos.

Promises:

2014 Manifesto promised the following. (Not all promises are listed)

  • Price rise will be brought down and a food inflation report by a Committee chaired by Shri. Modi will be acted upon
  • Special Court to stop hoarding and black marketing
  • Price stabilisation fund
  • Abolition of Black Money
  • Elimination of Corruption
  • Improve Centre-State Relationship- National Development driven by states
  • Empower Gram Sabhas and Panchayat Raj
  • Eliminate criminals from Politics
  • Bridge Gap in Inequality
  • Provide equal opportunity for minorities
  • Support for SC, ST, OBC
  • Beti Bachao- Beti Padhao
  • National Youth Advisory Council
  • 6% of GDP to education
  • The welfare of senior citizens- financial support, tax benefits and higher interest rates
  • The labour force as a pillar
  • Agri Rail Network
  • MSP will be 50% profit above the cost of production, cheaper inputs and interest
  • Welfare measures for farmers above 60 years
  • GM foods will not be allowed without scientific evaluation
  • Set up a MSME Bank
  • Pucca House to all by 2022

Election promises of 2019:

  • Farmers’ incomes will be doubled by 2022
  • 25 lakh crore investment in Agri-rural sector
  • Piped water in all houses by 2024
  • High-speed optical fibre network for net connectivity to all Gram Panchayats by 2022
  • 100 lakh crore for infrastructure by 2024
  • Ensure MSP
  • Pension Scheme for small and marginal farmers
  • Complete irrigation throughout the country
  • Short-term loan of Rs.1 lakh to Agriculturists at 0% interest
  • 1 lakh crore for Higher Education
  • Atal Tinkering Lab for every block
  • All Rail routes to be Broad Gauge by 2022
  • Electrification of all tracks by 2022
  • All Railway Stations will have Wi-Fi
  • Dedicated freight corridor by 2022
  • 5 lakh health and wellness centres
  • 75 medical colleges
  • Doctors to patient ratio- 1:1400
  • Double export
  • National Traders Welfare Fund
  • Clean Ganga by 2022

There is no special court; no price stabilisation fund; black money has not been abolished; and corruption continues. Suvendhu Adhikari, West Bengal, Himanta Biswa Sarma, CM Assam, Mukul Roy, West Bengal, Narayan Nare, Maharastra, Pema Khandu, Arunachal, Ajit Pawar Dy CM, Maharastra, Praful Patel, Maharastra, Chhagal Bhujbal, Maharastra are only a few who had serious corruption charges which were dropped on joining BJP. The finance to states have decreased and opposition-ruled states are forced to agitate at Delhi; Grams sabhas do not have funds, power and their resolutions are sent to dustbin. Panchayat Raj is trampled by the Union; Brij Bhushan Singh and others with serious criminal charges continue to be MPs in BJP; Criminals who join BJP become ministers and cases disappear. India has become the biggest country on inequality and the bottom 50%  pay 6 times more GST than the top 10% whose income has increased many times. The richest one percent own 40% of the wealth and the bottom 50% own only 3%. In 10 years inequality has increased manifold. Minorities are not only treated but also targeted with multiple attacks. Support to SC, ST and Adivasis is the worst as per the report of the Citizen’s Vigilance Commission. Beti bachao Beti Padao has become a joke on the wrestler’s issue, in the case of Manipur while the money is spent on advertisements. National Youth Council is not functioning, allocation to education has not increased, senior citizens are fighting in courts and sitting in streets as what is due to them is not paid even for defence, Govt and public sector employees while the unorganised sector is the worst off! The labour force is affected by the Labour laws and forced to work as contract workers without any security. Agri Rail Network is forgotten but the Adani Rail network may come soon. MSP on the C2+50 formula has not been implemented; farmers above 60 only depend on insurance and the premium is also taxed by GST. GM foods are already here, there is no sign of an MSME Bank and the Housing target keeps extending not to mention the quality of houses. This is the situation after 10 years and FM is jubilant.

Last 4 years

The farmers’ income has decreased on real terms; the investment of Rs 25 crore is nowhere near. Piped water for all houses remains a dream. High-speed optical fibre network for net connectivity to all Gram Panchayats is still not working. Investment in infrastructure is nowhere near 100 crores. MSP is still too low and does not cover many crops. The pension scheme for small and marginal farmers is benefitting private insurers and not the farmers. Not even 50% of the land is irrigated so far. There is no interest-free loan for farmers. Higher education is dependent on the private sector and the allocation has not increased adequately. Broad Gauge lines and electrification of tracks still remain a dream. WIFI does not work at most of the railway stations, while a dedicated freight corridor is announced now. Health and wellness centres are forgotten and the FM claims there are 22 medical colleges but Madurai and Darbanga exist only on paper.

Claims and Reality

The biggest claims were classified under four titles. Let’s see the reality.

Removal of Poverty:

The Finance Minister made the same claims as Niti Ayog which have been already debunked by Economics with statistics.

After 2012 no statistics were published on the Consumption survey which gives a real picture of poverty. If poverty is removed among 25 crore people why the Govt is providing 5 kg free rice/wheat for 80 crore people? 90% of those who have enrolled in the E-Shram portal have stated that their monthly income is less than Rs 10000 per month whereas the living wage arrived at by the seventh Pay Commission is Rs 18000 per month. As per NSS data, the income increase in 10 years is only 35% whereas the FM claims that it has increased by 150%!

Youth:

We have the highest unemployment in 45 years and 2 Crore Jobs per year is now forgotten. Agniveers are likely to join as private security guards after 5 years. Education has become so costly and youth from UP are recruited as labourers for war hit Israel where their life will be at risk.

Women:

The Bilkis Banu case, the rape and murder of Aasifa at a temple in Jammu, the killing of girls and parents for filing complaints for rape, the wrestlers issue, parading women naked in Manipur and raping in public are few examples of the status of women under this party’s rule. The three crore lakhpati didis target is the biggest joke. One lady street vendor asked me, ‘Does this woman have any sense? By taking a one lakh loan how can I become a lakhpati?’’ Whom are you cheating?

Farmers:

More than a year of agitation and the death of more than 700 farmers forced the govt to withdraw the farm laws but their demands were not met. A minister’s son in UP killed an agitating farmer’s son using a tractor but no action has been taken. Corporate loans are written off but not those of the farmers.

Banks are going to suffer

The target for SHG loans, Mudra Loans, PM Svanidhi and KCC will apply huge pressure on the banks. FM will call bank chiefs to give targets and say we don’t do phone banking. Where are the 43 crore Mudra loan borrowers? If 30 crore women had received loans every household should have a woman enterprise.

How much is the NPA?

The claim of reducing NPA to 4% is another dubious claim. Banks have written off Rs.14.5 lakh crores to reduce NPAs. 80% of it is Corporate NPAs. Mukesh Ambani bought Anil Ambani’s company paying just 1% of the loan.

For 10 years the bankers have been waiting for a 5-day week. That has not been announced but targets announced, while the staff strength is not increased, the pensions or salaries are not increased.

Salutes to Adani

Hindenberg, Deloitte, respected newspapers abroad and the court cases cannot shake him. Now a fancy Rs 11 11 111 lakh crore has been promised for infrastructure. The Viability Gap Fund, deep sea exploration, Energy Corridor, Minerals Corridor, Cement Corridor, Port Connectivity Corridor and high traffic density corridor will benefit him. Solar Power for households also might land on his lap. The shares of his companies shot up after the budget. Share market players understand the budget better.

The claim of becoming the third-largest economy

By our mere size and population, we will become a large economy. Will that bring down inequality? Or increase the living standards of the ordinary Indians? See Chart below:

Will reaching the level of the third largest economy in the world improve the living conditions of an ordinary Indian better than China, the UK, Germany and Japan? Will it remove inequality? Will it provide free and compulsory education to Indians? Will it provide free health care to all Indians? No.

Where are we?

In various global indexes, our position has deteriorated in the last 9 years. See Chart.

Global Peace Index –126

Democracy Index–46

Talent Competitiveness –103

Human Development Index –132

World Hunger Index –111

Food Security Index –71

Happiness Index –126

Human Freedom Index –119

Kids Rights Index–113

Corruption Index – 85

Press Freedom Index –161

What is the Finance Minister boasting off? Are these the achievements of the Government which are going to get votes?

From where does this over-confidence come?

The Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the Chief Economic Advisor are saying that they will present the full budget after the elections. How? With these unfilled promises called guarantees of Modi? It can be possible only through the way the mayor election was conducted in Chandigarh or by manipulating the EVMs. Otherwise how you could be so sure?

In 1977 Mrs Indira Gandhi had the same confidence. What was the result? 154 seats!

Thomas Franco is the former General Secretary of All India Bank Officers’ Confederation and a Steering Committee Member at the Global Labour University.

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