1st February 2017
The Union Budget 2017-18 presented by the Union Finance Minister today in Parliament is totally disappointing and deceptive too in many respects.
The finance minister, in his budget speech, boastfully mentioned about doing away with the classification of plan and non-plan expenditure, putting entire expenditure in the same basket. Plan expenditure is meant for capital investment or expenditure for value addition either in the services or the programmes by the concerned sector/ministry, while non-plan pertains to administrative expenses. Doing away with such classification and putting the entire expenditure in the one basket is meant for confusing the people about the real extent of growth orientation.
In the background of severe economic crisis featured by massive sickness and closure of industries, resulting huge joblosses, no concrete measures are seen in the budget proposals for boosting quality employment across the sectors. Finance Minister had to admit about the gloomy situation in private investment in the domestic economy, but did not bother to take concrete measures to remove such gloom by way of increasing public investment and directly intervening to improve purchasing power of the mass of the people and, inter alia, by announcing increase in minimum wage level to at least Rs 18000/- as accepted by the central govt in the 7th Central Pay Commission recommendation. Rather the Govt did the opposite. It reiterated its ongoing exercise for privatization/disinvestment of the public sector units, who are actually keeping the economy afloat through capital investment, and also in public utility services, which would further aggravate the already prevailing income-inequality and also create more gloom in the investment scenario.
Present budget dealt on railways too, which was so long dealt by a separate budget. The Budget spoke volume on importance of Railway in the economy but did little to expand the railway network and to address safety issues in the background of alarming increase in the frequency of railway accidents. Total allocation has been increased by only Rs 10000 crore, both plan and non-plant together, making uncertain the completion of the ongoing railway projects, not to speak of new expansion initiative. On the other hand in the name of making Railway competitive, there is every possibility of further increase the burden on the people for availing railway services on the one hand and increasing privatization of railway services segment by segment.
The Budget also reiterated the continuity of its policy of disinvestment and privatization of public sector units through various route including through Exchange Trading Fund, on the one hand and closure of the sick and loss-making PSUs, even those potentially viable, on the other. This is utterly condemnable.
Although some marginal increases are made in the allocations of various central schemes like ICDS, Mid-day-meal, ASHA etc, the long pending issue of increasing the wages of scheme workers has been kept totally ignored by the Govt totally ignoring the unanimous recommendation of Indian Labour Conference. CITU denounces such arrogance.
The Finance Minister had to admit in his budget speech the reality of tax-theft by corporate and business world. He stated that “we can conclude that we are largely a non-compliant society”. But did nothing to recover the huge accumulated direct tax dues to the tune of Rs 6.59 lakh crores as per the Receipt Budget (Annex-10) presented by him. The Minister admitted on record that out of this accumulated figure, for Rs 81406 crore dues there is no dispute pending. But even that amount has not been recovered. Therefore all tall talks of transparency and tax-compliance by the Minister is a deceptive ploy to confuse people and camouflage the tax-thieves-administration nexus.
The Finance Minister spoke a lot in giving relief to the NPA-striken banks in respect of their tax liability. But maintained stoic silence in recovering the NPAs from their most favoured corporate defaulters. But the Economic Survey has brought the cat out of the bag and did not mince words in prescribing “burden sharing and even forgiving some burden on the private sector” to be done by the banks and the Govt. In essence, the entire exercise is to defend the interests of only those pilfering the national exchequer through tax-default and the banking system through loan-default, in the private corporate community.
The Finance Minister boasted about demonetisation drive as an effective measure in “eliminating corruption, black money, counterfeit currency and terror funding”. The integrity and transparency demand that the Minister should have given an account of as to how much black money could be recovered since 8th November 2016, so also on the counterfeit currency and terror funding. But no such account has been given in the budget. Rather the fact that 98 per cent of the demonetized currency has already entered into the banking system by December end clearly exposes the reality that whatever black money was there has already been allowed to be made white and nobody knows whether and to what extent the counterfeit notes got legitimized. Only mass of the people, the farmers, workers, self-employeds and small traders are made to suffer through crop-loss, wage loss, job loss and loss of livelihood. And digitization agencies like Paytm. Jeo and many others are the gainers with captive lucrative business opportunities. Question arises, the Govt for whom ?
Similar deceptive posture by Minister in the budget speech is seen when he spoke about “protecting labour rights” and referred to at the same breath the very same retrograde proposals already made by the Govt for changes in all basic labour laws; said proposals on labour-law-reforms are designed to push away majority of labour force in the country out of the purview and protection of all labour laws and to impose conditions of slavery on them. If this is not deception, then what else ?
CITU denounces such deceptive approach of the Govt towards interest and rights of the workers as demonstrated through Union Budget 2017-18 and calls upon working people to oppose and protest countrywide.