Union Budget 2016 – 17 presented by the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is nothing but a grand exercise in rhetoric totally devoid of anything substantial that provides relief to the common people and workers. The Finance Minister sought to camouflage his government’s drive to provide further benefits to the corporate sector by resorting to high sounding words. Given the continuing global economic volatility and vulnerability in the capitalist system, the figures of GDP, Current Account Deficit and fiscal deficit are subject to many internal and external factors and have to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Instead of proposing effective measures to address the burning issue of price rise, the Finance Minister pats himself on the back claiming that inflation has come down even when the daily experience of the people is otherwise. Attempts to address unemployment by opening of skill development centres, when hundreds of thousands of our educated and skilled youth do not find suitable and decent jobs do not make any sense. While the ban on recruitment in government continues and thousands of jobs are being lost across many industries, in the Finance Minster ridiculously hopes of generating employment by paying the employers’ share of provident fund for three years.
The Union Budget sounds the death knell for the public sector, proposing disposal of assets of public sector undertakings including land, in addition to disinvestment of shares. The name of the Department of Disinvestment is being deceptively changed to Department of Investment and Public Asset Management. The upstream oil sector has been further widened for private sector, both domestic and foreign. Huge concessions have been made to prospective private oil corporates. Public sector general insurance will be disinvested. 100% FDI is proposed in marketing food products produced in India.
The Motor Vehicle Act is going to be amended opening up passenger transport to private parties resulting in the death of the state public road transport corporations. The Health Protection scheme announced in the Budget only indicates that the government is withdrawing itself from its responsibility of providing universal health coverage and moving towards health insurance that would mainly benefit the insurance companies.
While the announcement to speed up rural electrification is laudable, the fact is that today around 1 lakh mega watt power generation capacity is lying idle due to the high cost of electricity. Merely providing electric connections is not going to help unless electricity tariffs are brought down and the purchasing capacity of people is increased.
Rather than taking strong action to recover the alarming amounts of defaults by big corporate houses to public sector banks, the government has provided for recapitalisation of public sector banks to brush up their balance sheets, thus setting the defaulters go scot - free.
While the Finance Minister talked of reduction in corporate taxes there is no enhancement of income tax slabs adversely affecting the lakhs of central and state government and public sector employees. On the other hand, workers’ life long savings in Provident Fund are being taxed.
The revenue loss due to reduction in direct taxes is to the tune of Rs 1060 crores while an additional burden of Rs 20670 crores has been imposed on common people through indirect taxes.
The allocation to agriculture and farmer welfare is too meagre to address the serious agrarian crisis that has seen an increase in farmer suicides. It amounts to just eye wash.
The government has again neglected the unorganised workers and the scheme workers in this Budget. Despite the consistent demand of the united trade union movement to constitute national fund for providing social security benefits for the unorganised workers and to recognise the lakhs of anganwadi employees, ASHAs, midday meal workers, NCLP staff and other sections of scheme workers as workers and provide them minimum wages and social security benefits, this Budget totally ignores these demands. While none of the points raised by the central trade unions in the pre budget meeting have been addressed, the government generously accepted the demands of the employers. The Budget does away with the mandatory weekly holidays in shops and other commercial establishments thus denying the tens of lakhs of shop employees of their holidays and increasing their working hours.
On the whole this Union Budget once again proves the commitment of this BJP led government to the neoliberal agenda and its eagerness to satisfy its corporate and big business bosses at the cost of the workers and common people.
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Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) demands the immediate release of the JNU Student’s Union President Kanhaiya Kumar who was arrested under the charge of sedition without any evidence. It demands that this baseless charge against him and other students be withdrawn at once.
CITU strongly condemns the attacks on him by the RSS/ BJP goons at the Patiala House courts. Several other students, faculty members, journalists and advocates were also injured in the assault repeated for the second time within the court premises.
CITU deplores Delhi Police for its absolute negligence in effectively carrying out the Supreme Court direction to provide adequate security to Kanhaiya Kumar. The same incident of attack by some lawyers along with hooligans was again repeated on the second day when Kanahaya Kumar was brought to the Court premise. The Delhi Police, which functions directly under the Union Home Ministry, has not taken any action against the BJP MLA who has been caught on camera leading the physical attack on the students and media persons within the Patiala Court premise. These hooligans also tried to manhandle the team of senior lawyers sent by the Supreme Court to investigate the matter. This is in total contrast to the attempts to clamp down on the progressive and democratic student movement and malign a nationally and internationally renowned institution like the JNU, based on an isolated incident, which does not reflect the opinion of the vast majority of the students or the faculty. This clearly proves the premeditated move by RSS outfits in that game plan to attack progressive and democratic movement with the active support of the administration under BJP regime.
These are nothing but part of the nefarious design of the RSS to suppress progressive and rationalist thinking and forcibly impose its regressive ideology. These attacks are meant to silence dissent or any views opposed to its own in premier educational institutions, by the Modi led BJP government. Attack by various RSS outfits on the offices of Left parties and student organisations at different parts of the country during the span of last few days also expose their nefarious design.
This attitude to suppress opposition and attack those who hold different views has serious implications for the democratic and working class movements. In fact the entire game plan is to divert the attention of the people from the all round failure of the anti-people NDA regime having disastrous impact on the lives and livelihood the common people at large.
CITU warns these retrograde and reactionary forces that people’s voices cannot be silenced through such heinous attacks. It calls upon the working class and the trade union movement to unitedly thwart the attacks of the Hinutva forces on the democratic rights of the people and join the struggle to protect the JNU from the onslaught of the Hindutva forces.
( TAPAN SEN )
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As per a report in one of the leading National English Dailies, ‘The Hindu’ dated 5th February 2016, the government of India is planning to go in for strategic sale of some of India's most efficient and highly profitable PSUs. It is also planning aggressive disinvestment of shares in other PSUs. This obviously is meant to hand over our country’s basic economic strength at cheap rates when the stock market is depressed thus benefiting the global players. Even if partially true, these measures will be disastrous for national interests and the interests of the people.
The globally competitive engineering giant BHEL, the profitable oil PSUs like ONGC, HPCL, BPCL, IOC, the Defence sector PSUs like BEML, HAL etc have been initially short listed for the strategic sale as per the report. This is tantamount to putting the country on sale, reflecting the desperate economic condition in the country, despite the high sounding claims of the government. The patriotic people of our country cannot tolerate this disastrous game of the BJP government at the centre.
CITU strongly condemns the very idea of such sale out of the country's blue chip PSUs contributing handsomely to national exchequer besides making capital investments in the national economy out of their own resources.
India cannot be allowed to put on sale. CITU urges upon the government to desist from such disastrous exercise. CITU calls upon the working people and the trade unions irrespective of affiliations to launch immediate protest against such move at each work place and also through sending fax/ emails to Union Finance Minister and the Prime Minister demanding ‘Stop disinvestment in PSUs; No to strategic sale’.