The observation of Amitabh Kant, chief executive officer, Niti Aayog, that all Indians should sacrifice to see the rapid growth of their country ~ referring to the $5 trillion economy target ~ is perfectly valid, provided, of course, the government creates the structural framework to achieve that goal and it encompasses every Indian.
Regrettably, post budget, not even the otherwise included Indian is happy about the economy, especially since, by July 10, some $ 30 billion had been wiped off Indian stocks. It is no one’s case that the relationship between the bourses and the economy is anything but tenuous. However, the country could have done without the bloodbath at this critical juncture.
The real concern is not around higher tax for the rich and the super rich though. It is about Budget 2019 doing little to address the critical areas of the structural weakness that are bound to restrain the country from growth rates that could pull its people out of the abyss. The total spend on education, for instance, without which there will be no real improvement, is 3.4 per cent of total spending, dropping from the already sorry 4.3 per cent of the spend, when Mr. Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister in 2014.
The health spend is even more pathetic; the combined central and state spending amounting to under one per cent of the GDP though the incessant chatter is about sabka saath, sabka vikas, with sabka viswas added for ample measure. Has the government done any better for the farm sector, gasping for breath in its struggle against shortages of water, infrastructure, credit and inputs with the crisis further aggravated by terms of trade turning adverse since the liberalization of the country and compounded by forces of climate change?
All that is on offer is zero-based farming; read dependence on natural inputs, owned seeds and natural fertilizers and shun chemical fertilizers. Yet promotion of natural and organic farming, the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, got Rs 325 crore while the subsidies on chemical fertilizers increased by Rs 9,900 crore. The advantages of zero-based farming may best come in the long run, if at all the concept is managed professionally across India’s agro-climatic zones and different economic strata of farmers.
Till such time, the farmer must make do with the Rs 6,000 that only 12 crore farmers will receive in three monthly instalments of Rs 2,000! Matters look macabre when one finds cuts even in the government’s favourite Swachh Bharat Mission scheme, slashed by Rs 106 crore within four months of the makeshift finance minister Piyush Goyal’s budget, as have funds for jobs and skill development, while the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade allocation is whittled down to Rs 5,674.51 crore (revised 2018-19 estimate Rs 6,140.23 crore).
The cruelest cut, however, is for propagating the Right to Information Act from Rs 9 crore to Rs 5.5 crore. Clearly the message is: ask no questions and you will be told no lies.