As the Budget session of the Parliament draws nearer, there are few expectations this time around for the people from the NDA government, of any relief to any sector. The dissipated interest has its reasons behind it and people cannot be blamed.
The foremost question in the minds of the voters is whether the Government has walked the talk at all in the nearly five years of being in power. Whether the 'Achche Din" are still round the corner, a corner that does not seem to be within the reach of anyone, is not known now. Too many things jolted the people in the last four years.
The reason for the non-interest of people in the ensuing Budget is because of their frustration over the failure of the Government in addressing their concerns. What improvement this Budget would make to the lives of people even if it were to be the best of all Budgets coming as it does so late in this term of the NDA?
The most major debate of the middle class is more or less centred around the personal tax proposals. Speculation of major relief in this sector is on since long but year after year, the Governments only failed the tax-paying middle class on a regular basis.
Their hope that the tax exemption would be raised to Rs five lakh at least remains a pipe dream. In the name of tightening the strings of economy and for a long-term gain, the tax payer is facing the short-term pain year after year. Will there be respite now, at least in the election year? This may not happen, experts caution.
Of course, there is no indication whatsoever of the shape of the Budget to come so far. There is also no pointer to any relief to the agrarian sector reeling under a severe crisis. It is shameful that the nation neglects its food provider to this extent that the only hope for him ebbs from the bottom of a pesticide bottle and relief meets him in the from death.
This government has remained silent on the agrarian crisis in the last four years just as the previous UPA governments did. Announcing sops like loan waivers is ridiculous as it does not really come as a relief to the small and medium farmer. A farmer in this country, traditionally, has relied upon the money-lender and not on the modern banking system and hence, what little relief is expected to reach him does not always reach the majority of the farmers.
A fair price for his produce eludes him for various reasons. The Government mechanism fails always fails him as the procurement is at the mercy of dalals. The tempestuous utterances of the Centre and its Finance Minister apart and the declaration of their commitment to the common good of all, the harassment of the common man continues unending.
Last year, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced big spending for rural areas and projected economic growth above 8 per cent in the Union Budget that won broad approval from economists. Whatever might have been the growth of the economy, rural areas did not benefit much and the result was evident in the recent Assembly elections in which the BJP was trounced by the rural folk.
Jaitley also announced plans to introduce “the world’s largest government funded health care programme”, saying it would cover some 500 million of the country’s poorest people. He went on to lay out plans to merge three public sector insurance companies and list the new entity. However, the animosity between the Centre and the States and also because of the better plans in place in States, this programme does not seem to have impacted people's lives much.
“This budget is farmer friendly, common citizen friendly, business environment friendly and development friendly. It will add to ease of living,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after the Budget speech in 2018, but the spending in rural areas aimed at creating jobs and entrepreneurs did not add to the number of jobs.
This is because of the agrarian crisis that resulted in huge job losses throughout the country. In addition, the government's next Budget should focus on building resilient infrastructure which is vital for economic growth and development. An area that does not get much attention in the Budget has always been the logistics sector which includes transportation, inventory management, warehousing, materials handling and packaging and integration of information.
India should turn to climate-smart agriculture which is never thought of in the Budget. This necessitates the need to address adaptation and rural development in an integrated manner, so as to achieve climate resilient development. It is in this context that there is emergence of the concept and significance of climate-smart agriculture.
Trading community, on the other hand, is still waiting for corrections to the GST regime. Well, it is a long story of failures which a single Budget cannot set right. But, a beginning can be made if the Government sets aside its political priorities. Will he do so now?