Much Ado About Nothing

The interim budget placed before the Parliament on 17th February 2014 by the Finance Minister P Chidambaram amidst the din and bustle in the well of the House by MPs from Seemandhra protesting against, the bifurcation of the state of Andhra Pradesh as well as those from West Bengal belonging to Trinamul Congress that holds political power in the State protesting against denial of sops that they have been demanding to tide over the public finance burden left over by the previous government and further aggravated by the present government through various populist measures with financial strings attached, is hollow and nothing but mere formality. The budget speech, transmitted live throughout the country at immense cost to the nation, remained inaudible and none of the MPs were found on TV screen carefully listening to the speech and taking notes while truck loads of budget papers meant for perusal of MPs while listening attentively were seen being guarded by security personnel outside the Parliament building. Such is the prodigality of the ruling class at public expense to show off 'transparency' to foreign suppliers of investment and other funds who fill the foreign exchange reserve and determine the direction and shape the Indian economy will take. This in the first place shows also the complete absence of an iota of merit in the present parliamentary form of governance at least in the Indian context. The basic masses of people in India have been thrown from time immemorial into abject poverty and therefore are suffering. Land and all primary resources belong to them; they live in the midst of nature in forests, riverside, hills, sea sides etc. eking out livelihood from the environment without disturbing nature and following a pattern of living in communities based on common ownership of the primary resources. Whenever civilisation tried to encroach and endanger their environment they resisted and fought with conventional weapons at their disposal which were inadequate in the face of weapons of civilisation. In these incessant wars the original inhabitants of the land retreated to more and more dense and inaccessible areas.

Now civilisation wants these archipelagos occupied by the original peoples because modern research in science and technology has discovered mineral and other sources of wealth creation in these virgin areas. The government, Central and state, is the facilitator of this huge enterprise of ousting the original people from these lands, forests, hills, riverine basins etc. in the name of development and employment generation for civilised youth no matter what happens to the ousted peoples who are forced to flee the areas earmarked for this kind of development and thereby condemned to live in footpaths in towns and cities defying rain and storm to be thrashed to death by 'stoneman' roaming in stealth at night. Those who are resisting are branded as extremists in various names and put to death in so called 'encounters'. Those who are sympathetic to this protracted war of resistance are harassed and imprisoned under false cases. Yet this war goes on.

In the perspective mentioned above the government finance need be looked at. The government machinery must be kept well oiled in the first place. All expenditures under the tag, 'Non Plan Expenditure' are primarily meant for consolidating not only the material side of the government machinery but also for the benefit of the human resource aspect of the said machinery. This is a uni-polar world. Risks of war between adjoining states are minimum because the issues are resolved at the international level at the behest of the masters, the International Finance Capital, of the uni-polar world at the same time the issues that can snowball into war must be kept alive for the purpose of keeping one set of people antagonised against the other as well as for keeping the international military hardware and software industry in good humour. Therefore a major share of the enhanced non-plan expenditure has to be allocated for the military expenses. A 10% increase over the expenditure incurred in the current fiscal has been allotted for 'defence' purposes. A kind of 'virtual' war entailing night vision camera, unmanned aircraft such as drone, scanning of the surface of land and seas through satellite camera, monitoring centrally and passing on information instantly to allies and collaborators in the affected areas, all these involving high cost, is being waged all over the world and as a part of this exercise the more is allocated to defence the more will the ruling class feel secure and happy. About 'Plan Expenditure' which is less than half of the 'non plan' one, and whose share as per cent of the total public expenditure has been gradually diminishing in the last 23 years of liberalised Indian economy, a small part is allocated for maintenance of old structures, another for new constructions and expansions of highways and still another part has been allocated for public-private participation (PPP) in building infrastructure; which is an euphemism for gifting public properties and wealth to private enterprises.

The model of development envisaged in the liberalised Indian economy hinges on the development of the auto-mobile industry. For this purpose are geared up all the inputs available in the banking and finance and infrastructure sectors. As in previous budgets this interim budget also reflects this bias in favour of a particular industry. The development expenditure in the 'Railways' and 'Post & Telegraph' utilities owned and managed by the Centre have huge potentialities, yet these two departments receive scant weightage in the budgetary allocation over the years. However the automobile industry induced development model is the root of import of oil leading to accumulated and current account deficit in India's balance of payments leading to cascading effects in fiscal and monetary mismanagement over the years thereby throwing the basic masses of people into yawning inflation in grinding poverty in the midst of competitive wastes. To show that all is well in the economic front poverty is being indexed and the indices are so manufactured craftily (such as poverty line) that on the basis of comparative estimates of the these artificial indices over the years the rulers can show that under their rule poverty is gradually being wiped off. The economists and parliamentary politicians together conjure how to beguile the common people into believing that the mirage as truth. Yet the democratic facade requires soliciting votes and for that purpose 'food security bill', 'subsidy on food', 'agriculture credit' etc. rituals are often, especially in election times, required and this interim budget, with an eye to the impending Lok Sabha election, is no exception. There is no scope of bringing any new proposal and as such this is just a routine budget.

Vol. 46, No. 34, Mar 2 - 8, 2014