UNION BUDGET 2021-22: DESTRUCTIVE AS WELL AS CRUELLY INSENSITIVE TO PEOPLES’ SUFFERINGS

The Union Budget 2021-22 demonstrated the continuity of same cruel indifference to the continuing distress and sufferings thrust upon the mass of the working people. Although the Finance Minister talked lavishly on the need to enhance expenditure substantially focused on augmentation of  consumption demand of the people  and enhance measures for their well-being, to combat the economic slowdown,  the total  proposed budgetary expenditure for 2021-22, remained almost at the same level as that in 2020-21(revised estimate ) meaning thereby a fall in real terms.

The lavish statement of the Minister on her Govt’s commitment to peoples’ well being and livelihood does not, as usual, match with the actual allocations particularly in the social sector and welfare related expenditures like MNREGA, ICDS, Mid day meal, jobs & skill development etc. In MNREGA, Budget drastically cut down allocation by 41% of what the Govt actually spent last year in 2020-21 although the rural unemployment and joblessness have increased phenomenally.   In Mid-day meal, allocation has been cut down by Rs 1400 crore from what has been spent actually last year. In ICDS, the allocation has been reduced by 30% compared to allocation in last year’s budget. In jobs& skill development, allocation has been cut down by 35% compared to allocation in the last budge mocking at tall talks by the Minister on improving employment generation and employability. There are many other examples. The Finance Minister also indicated the Govt move to “bring down the number of Centrally Sponsored Schemes” in line with the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission.

Entire emphasis of the Budgetary exercise remained on promoting “ease of doing business” for the corporates and big business, both foreign and domestic, by way of easing the burden of compliance of their statutory obligations under Companies Act, and also in the matter of direct tax assessment and recovery of unpaid taxes, besides numerous exemptions on various heads.

While lamenting on financial crunch and low revenue generation during the pandemic period, Finance Minister did not utter a single word about the need to recover huge accumulation of unpaid direct taxes (Corporate and Income Tax)  of Rs 10,57 lakh crore in the process of their last five year rule; of this Rs 2.29 lakh crore tax dues are under any dispute and yet remained unrecovered. During same five year period the corporate tax rate have been drastically slashed down statedly for promoting  better compliance. Promoting tax evasion by corporates with impunity has become the hallmark of the “ease of doing business policy” of the Modi Govt, which tantamount to sponsored loot of national exchequer.

In essence entire budgetary exercise and the reforms of tax administration and governance described therein is a  commentary of measures promoting noncompliance of statutory obligations under Companies Act, Labour Laws etc by the corporate/big-business—all in the name of “ease of doing Business”. Concessions announced for MSMEs are just non-consequential.

Budget has arrogantly reiterated its programme of wholesale privatization programme of mostly profit making PSUs, while declaring closure of all loss making PSUs, even those in core and strategic sector like pharmaceuticals, heavy manufacturing etc. The entire focus is on selling the assets including land at the disposal of these PSUs, Railways, Ports etc under their programme of monetization combined with privatisation. The Govt appears to be in a haste in its selling spree of national assets. Rs 1.75 lakh crore is targeted to be garnered through privatization in the current fiscal. 

Even in Railways, Urban Transport, gas-pipe lines and also electricity discom  sector, reforms proposed by the Govt are virtually privatization through PPP route.  Increasing FDI to 74% in Insurance Sector along with pushing through IPO in LIC  and privatization of public sector banks after recapitalization from national exchequer are disastrous as well as destructive proposition aimed at handing over the control of financial sector to private hands under their touted programme of “Minimum Government”. Even after the grim experience of the pandemic period, public health infrastructure has not been spared. Budget talked lavishly about expanding the public health infrastructure up to block level but its execution is slated to be in PPP route through private health business operators.

Reduction in customs duty on steel semis and scrap is going to affect severely the domestic steel industry, particularly the integrated steel plants, both in public and private sector. All talks of promoting manufacturing sector as per their so called Atmanirbhar project are nothing but hollow announcement and basically aimed at incentivizing the corporate class, both foreign and domestic, out of national exchequer without any performance accountability. Huge concessions have already flown to these corporate since last six years under the same government, but nothing has been delivered by them either in terms of productive investment or employment generation. Same deceptive game has also been played by this Budget as well. In totality, the policy of the Govt continues to be destructive for the national economy as a whole. In this background the projection of 11% growth in 2021-22 appears to be kind of sound bites without much substance. 

The statement of the finance minister citing Labour Codes that they will ensure universal social security and statutory minimum wage for all is totally devoid of truth. These Labour Codes are going to abolish all labour rights including that to even ask for social security and minimum wage and that is why the entire trade union movement has rejected forthright these Labour Codes and demanded their scrapping.

On Agriculture, despite all tall claims by Finance Minister on MSP, fact remains that MSP regime covers only 6% of the crop and MSP being paid does not cover mostly even the production cost, it being far below the formula of C2+50% rate recommended by Swaminathan Commission. And after execution of the draconian Farm Laws, which are at present put on hold because of farmers’ ongoing struggle, even MSP system will no more exist as a right of our farmers. That is why farmers are on united struggle demanding repeal of Farm Laws and statutory provision of MSP and procurement covering all crops and based on C2+50% formula. The Budget remained non-responsive on this vital aspect.

On the whole Budget does not provide anything for the people, did nothing for addressing the severe unemployment situation, no direct relief to people under severe distress through income and food support.  It carries forward the  same anti-people  destructive policies through this Budget as well which deserves outright condemnation by the working people. 

Issued by
( Tapan Sen )
General Secretary

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