Centre's package leaves fourth pillar to fall
The Rs 20 lakh crore economic package dubbed as Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan by the Prime Minister, and ‘mother-of-all-incentives’ was aimed to provide bold reforms so that India can be self-reliant and prepare the country for any other crisis that may emerge in future
The Rs 20 lakh crore economic package dubbed as Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan by the Prime Minister, and 'mother-of-all-incentives' was aimed to provide bold reforms so that India can be self-reliant and prepare the country for any other crisis that may emerge in future.
But it appears that the message it has sent is that be self-reliant to face future crisis and do not look towards the government. The much-hyped package announced in five instalments proved to be a good opportunity to hit the headlines every day.
But in real terms, according to experts, it is not worth more than Rs 3 lakh crore and some of the spending will depend upon the Centre's implementation and others on how many takers there are for certain programmes.
Though the Union Finance Minister claimed that the package provides stimulus to all sectors, it is unfortunate that it has totally turned a blind eye towards the media.
Those in power - whether it is at the Centre or in States - only extend lip service saying that media is the watchdog of the society, it is the fourth estate etc.
After outbreak of Covid-19, all including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke very high about the role of media and how the frontline warriors have been relentlessly working to fight coronavirus risking their lives and the lives of their families. But what did the front-line warriors get?
Ringing of bells, banging of thalis and lighting of lamps and candles. The Centre announced insurance scheme for doctors and other frontline warriors like police and sanitary employees got incentives from State governments.
But in case of media, the Centre failed to recognise the services of this section of warriors. Media as an industry be it be print or electronic has suffered a major blow. The long lockdown which is getting extended every 15 days has virtually crippled the industry.
Many have lost their jobs. But the Centre is silent. There is no way it can become self-reliant to face future crisis. The Centre has once again proved that like most of the States, it is also not media-friendly.
The governments - both the Centre and the States - have been trying to control the media and suffocate them if they don't fall in line.
May be this is yet another attempt to try and make them come down on their knees. Coming back to the package, the State governments too are disappointed because it proved to be more of a glib talk and finally what they got was nothing much.
Even the increase of FRBM limit is with pre-conditions. In the final tranche, the Finance Minister announced support measures for States allowing them to raise their borrowing limit to 5 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) from 3 per cent at present, translating into additional borrowing space of Rs 4.28 lakh crore.
But while doing so, it has attached conditions for the increased borrowing space, permitting only 0.5 per cent of GSDP as an unconditional increase.
Rest, one per cent will be in four tranches of 0.25 per cent, with each tranche linked to expenditure on 'One Nation, One Ration', urban local body revenues, power distribution, ease of doing business reforms etc.
The last 0.5 per cent to be permitted if at least three of four milestones are reached. The States have been asking for greater fiscal headroom to overcome the crisis triggered by pandemic but the Centre, as the Congress party has put it, behaved more like a 'Sahukar.'
Once Modi in one of his public meetings said, "I am a typical Ahmedavadi," indicating that he is tight-fisted and would want people to earn rather than depend on the government. This package also appears to have been worked out based on the same philosophy.
It gives a larger than life projection but in real terms money would only trickle down and that too with lot of pre-conditions. It is just like banks sending notifications to its customers that they have pre-approved loans but when processing is subjected to several conditions.
This results only in small percentage of people becoming eligible for obtaining the loans. May be the Congress is right when it said that the government is behaving more like a 'Sahukar.'