High on Rhetoric, but Complete Betrayal of Farming Community. Government Lies on Achieving 50% Higher MSP than the Cost for Rabi Crops.
Key Demands of Agriculture Community Ignored; Push for Corporate and Commodity Farming and Trading
Significant Announcement on Health Coverage Scheme Welcome, But the Primary Health Care Remains in Shamble
New Delhi / Mumbai, February 1, 2018 : The Budget speech of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley kept harping on the fact that, the key focus of the government was farmers, rural poor, marginal communities and SC/ST, however, the overall announcements and allocations completely fell short of the intentions. The announcement of the celebration of 150 years of Gandhi is welcome but the fulcrum of the Gandhian economics, a self-sufficient village economy is ignored and so is the idea of localisation and the swadeshi. Budget completely fails to address the job creation in rural areas as is visible in no mention of NREGA or even 50% cut handloom sector allocation but the focus remains on big business and entry of private corporations to the villages at the cost of the human labour. In spite of the rapid urbanisation, villages and agriculture remain the soul of India where more than 50% of the population lives and is still employed. They will not survive the #digital economy or the focus on the digital governance, the poor of this country need more tangible things not the virtual and artificial intelligence.
The celebration of disinvestment targets by the government itself shows that they are happy to sell all the profitable public sector enterprises to the private corporations for a pittance and that is completely contrary to the Gandhian and Nehruvian idea of socialist economy.
Minister Lies on Crop Prices and Fails to Address Agrarian Crisis
There has been a ‘Cry Halt’ to the betrayl of Modi Government promise of Appropriate price for agri-produce which was to be based on cost-price ratio of 1:1.5. The same to be achived, today’s budget was expected to provide some concrete measures such as increase in the Price Stablisation Fund for 2018-19, much beyond 2017-18. There is no mention of suicides, the rate as well as causation behind these unfortunate incidences imposed upon our food guarantees, expressing insensitivity. Much more betrayal is through the sheer promise that the cost-price ratio will be as promised in the previous manifesto and that the mechanism to criteria will be worked out with NITI Ayog that too by 2020. The latter, it’s proved by now is a pro-corporate body and cannot change the distressed situation of today. What happens to Bhavantar Yojana or Telangana’s per acre grant scheme is not even referred to, obviously because all contradictions, non-compliance as well as wrong criteria in working out MSP have been avoided reference to!
The biggest lie which Minister said on the floor of the parliament was the fact that the government has achieved the target of MSP which is 50% more than the input cost for the Rabi crops and will now be expanded to the Kharif as well in this season. The reality is that the net income of farmers has remained either critically low or negative with MSPs being kept substantially low to an extent that in many cases, they deliver negative returns. In fact, in its first year of being in power, the central government even prohibited the state governments from declaring additional bonus in MSP for their own farmers. The average returns of the past four years are negative in case of 7 kharif crops and for rabi crops, except for wheat which saw some better pricing but no where near 50%.
There is no relief or the Freedom from Debt which is a major demand from all farmers’ organization across the country. A serious falsehood is evidenced in the budget presented today. First and the foremost, Mr. Jaitley has falsely claimed India to be the fastest growing economy and secondly, he has claimed it to be an Operation Green Mission, only to have a flashy exhibition of being pro-farmers.
It is a budget that is making tangential mention of organic farming and growth in the agricultural production while infact this Union government and all 19 states governments have been for GM foods when Anil Kumar Dave the exception to their family is no more! The increase in production is not the achievement of the FM or PM and the question that goes unanswered is why are the suicides continuing in spite of the production being increased to 1.5 times, over a few years. In short, the Loot of farmers continue and there is no ‘penalty clause’ in the FM’s statement indicating the cheating of farmers on declared MSP (at least 2 lakh crores while on one hand, there is a promise of betterment in the warehouses, the focus is on import-export orientation and promotion which has never benefitted common Indian farmers, especially the small and marginal who cannot face the international markets with fluctuating prices.
On the other hands, there seems to be a clear focus on changing Rural Haats to large Markets, with e-based solutions that is invariably to facilitate the entry of the Big Players, the corporate, who may be worse than the ‘Adatye’ in the present Mandis.
Irrigation in 96 districts is declared to have funds but with nothing mentioned about the option from amongst the varied technologies, large dams to watershed development with intra rivers basin approach. The Union may then be free to divert the funds to be a part of the interlinking of Rivers as well as Dam projects as a part of ILR, promoted by Fans of the Corporates such as Jaggi Vasudev, the Sadguru.
NREGA budget for 2018-19 falls in real terms
The continued apathy of the NDA government towards NREGA was visible, by no mention of it in Budget speech. The Direct Benefit Transfer found mention in the speech of the Minister but the poor malnutrition and food security found no special mention, something which remains the biggest issue plaguing the country today. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) budget for 2018-19 is Rs 55,000 crores, the same as that of this year’s in money terms. (The initial budget of Rs 48,000 crores for 2017-18 was supplemented with Rs 7,000 crores in January 2018). Also, given the trend of rising pending liabilities at the end of every year, a sizable part of the 2018-19 budget will be utilized for clearing previous years’ payments. Even the 2017-18 budget was grossly inadequate to implement NREGA as per the provisions of the Act. The inadequate budget for NREGA, and also for other rural development programmes, undermines the employment guarantee act and the right of the poor to demand work from the government.
There has been so much of talk about Rozgar since pre-2014 general elections, in India. Growth in unemployment being exposed, the FM and PM were compelled to focus on MSME, forgetting the Ambanis-Adanis, Tatas-Birlas who are the real beneficiaries with concessions not only in custom duties and taxes but also in land allotment and other resources. Concealing sch facts, MSME, the small and medium enterprises are focused on but 3,794 crores. Grant with another 7,100 crores as Textile package all together seems to be a pittiance when compared with huge amounts reserved for infrastructures, bullet trains, Airports, Sagarmala, Bharatmala, Industrial Corridors all that PM in his post FM speech has noted with pride as the development indicators!! No concrete figure figures on unemployment to be generated is mentioned obviously because that of 2 crores quoted as target in the Manifesto – LS 2014 had proved to be fake. They both have totally forgotten MNRGA, the real gurantee for the rural poor giving a clear message too us, the struggles and rights-based organization Gramin udyog is also not a part of.
Demonetisation has severely affected handloom weavers, as handloom production is part of a huge informal economy. Cash crisis has hit them badly, and the tight norms of cash withdrawals has robbed them of any non-government, private money lender support as well. With losses and mounting debts, handloom weavers hoped that the government would announce relief and enable some direct cash transfers. However, for Handloom sector, a huge reduction from Rs.604 crores in 2017-18 to a mere Rs.386.09 crores in 2018-19, is a big blow. It is already reeling under the twin effects of demonetization and levy of GST. Never before, in the last 100 years, handloom sector has seen such a low.
Right from small cities to corridors, airports to ports, highways to bullet train which are encroaching upon the people’s land, rights and livelihoods are to be pushed, the budget indicates as if these are the priorities. There is no relief to the affected population or the land diversion but regional connectivity with a grand statement of 56 airports to provide opportunity to Hawai chappal walas is a mockery, nothing else.
Only announcements for housing are a target of constructing 51 lakh houses in rural areas and formation of National Housing Bank. There is no clarity about how the Government will be achieving this ambitious target of constructing 2 Cr. houses by the year 2022. As on 22 January 2018, total housing units constructed under PMAY since 2015 is only 3,19,397. If this slow rate continues, then the target of constructing 2 Cr. housing will be achieved only in 62 Years. And if the loopholes in the PMAY are not fixed, then the poor and vulnerable will not get housing under PMAY.
Clean Ganga Mission:
Budget made a special mention of the Clean Ganga Mission and list of projects allocated and completed under Namami Ganga Mission, but there is no allocation for other major rivers of India, which are equally polluted and are dying. There was also a mention of the development of the heritage mission but the massive focus on the budget in infrastructure development destroying and submerging the heritage finds no mention.
Process of Budget Making Itself is Flawed. Focus on Allocations Without Vision
The annual Union Budget has no more remained a final exercise of allocation of resources for various sectors and schemes, reflecting priorities of the debates that may occur at the Legislature or in the public. The party which has majority at the Parliamentary forum pushes its agenda when more than 125 Crores citizens remain on the periphery with neither any space nor a channel for participating in the Budget making process. The pre-Budget consultations that we have been part of organised by the Finance ministry during the UPA Government was more a dialogue in democratic decency but even that is lacking today with due primacy granted to the People’s organisations and non-electoral representatives and their views. The present Government is all out for impingement on the spaces of the Civil society and of the movements critical of its corporate policies. There has been no scope provided for the organisations of Farmers, Labourers, Dalits and Adivasis who could press for their demands at the right point of time and the result is visible that none of the demands raised by farmers or dalits or students have found reflections in the Budget.
We, the people’s movements have, therefore looked at todays’ budget from concern regarding tomorrow’s crises, in a multidisciplinary approach. The Constitutional values as well as rights and guiding, directive principles from the basic framework as is upheld by all the marginalized, farmers and dalits, and adivasis or all labourers and economically impoverished groups. Amidst growing unemployment, declining agricultural and industrial production, rising inflation, a sense of economic crisis with declining growth index increasing injustice with inequity, deprivation faced by a large population in agriculture, other economically and socially unprotected sectors, housing, education and health, todays budget as looked forward to with much expectations yet with much suspicion. The obsession with the economic growth has taken over every other social concern with atrocities, economic and social, faced by a majority and everything is mere show, lacking of the values. We want to celebrate Gandhi but no space in polity and public policy for the Gandhian values.