Budget 2019-20–Election Gimmick

Ashish Mital

The Union Government has announced income support of Rs 6000 per family to small and marginal farmers owning up to 5 acres of land which is much, much below the benefit of Rs 10 and 8 thousand per acre announced by Odisha government and Telangana government. For an owner of 2-hectare land, this is Rs 1200 per acre per year, l/8th to l/6th of the state schemes. Of this Rs 2000 will flow to beneficiaries as an election bribe with no guarantee of future payments.

For one thing 55% of all peasants are landless and work as sharecroppers or on a lease. This section has been left out in this so-called interim budget which is not really interim.

Peasant distress has resulted from a very steep rise in the cost of production, particularly diesel, fertilisers, insecticides and seeds, poor maintenance of irrigation, meagre rise in MSP and no assurance of government procurement, resulting in distress sales, increasing debts and continuing suicides. On these, the budget falsely claims that it has announced MSP for 22 crops at 1.5 times the cost of production. It has announced no steps for debt relief, procurement of crops and reduction of input costs.

On irrigation, it has simply pushed again the extremely costly and cumbersome drip irrigation scheme beneficial to corporate houses.

Welfare measures, including for health, MNREGA, PDS, pensions, etc. have been continued as cash transfer schemes even as corrupt officials repeatedly delete names of beneficiaries, extract their pound of flesh and then restart it. Social welfare cutbacks go right up to the top and provide welfare to the corrupt. Yet the government has failed to provide for good quality and affordable education, health care, transport, employment avenues and proper food security. Its food subsidy bill was Rs 1,69,000 crore in 2018 and has been raised to Rs 1,70,000 crore this year, the FM making a comparison with the 2014 food subsidy and claiming he has doubled it.

Vision 2030 has nothing for the poor and hardworking peasants and workers and is meant to decorate the country for the MNCs, corporates, the rich and powerful big landlords, mafia, etc.

The pension scheme for 42 crore workers of the unorganised sector has no budgetary meaning as it is a participatory scheme.

It highlights that almost one-third of India's population today is without any stable means of employment, income and security. Data quoted from the EPFO to claim improvement in employment is completely bogus as this data is never updated properly.

The measure of income-tax relief to the lower income group, is but a very small and long overdue measure, as is apparent from the meagre reduction of Rs 18,500 crore it imposes on the national income, i.e. only about 0.67% of the budget expenditure.

Reliefs announced on taxes from the sale of properties also reflect the deep crisis in the housing industry where sales are falling behind constructions.

The budget betrays a stamp of a crisis-ridden economy and the government displayed no vision to revive it. It has simply disowned the agrarian crisis and reduction of jobs under its 4.5-year rule, claiming to be on course to 'doubling farmers' income by 2022'.

It also ignores its own report on rising unemployment (National Statistical Commission) and takes refuge under a lofty Vision for 2030.

Convention called for only a statement of account, but it has declared prospects for 2030, which is its sinister design to postpone matters of concern to a distant future, to avoid accountability.

Peasants and youth must realise that the government works only to profit corporates and landlords. It cannot and will not improve the income and living of pedants and they must rise in the struggle for meaningful relief for agriculture and employment.

In short the Modi government has failed to provide for good quality and affordable education, health care, transport, employment avenues and proper food security for people.

[Asish Mital is General Secretary of All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha]

Vol. 51, No.33, Feb 17 - 23, 2019