Cut in funds for welfare schemes; no steps for inflation or job creation: Shashi Tharoor on Budget

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Budget 2022

Attacking the Centre, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Monday said there were significant cuts in allocation of social welfare schemes in the Union Budget and there were no measures to address rising inflation or targeted efforts towards job creation.

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Initiating the discussion on the Budget in the Lok Sabha, he said COVID-19 pandemic placed the citizens in unimaginable distress and they suffered a lot of pain due to loss of lives between March and May last year.

In this context, he said, the presentation of a budget annually cannot merely be seen as purely routine economic exercise, rather it is an instrument through which the government of the day presents a political vision to manage the economy, heal the country and to set it on the path to recovery.

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There is a “significant slashing of the MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme, more tokenism in credit support for the MSME sector, no changes in the personal income tax regime and no relief in terms of addressing rising inflation, no targeted efforts for job creation”, he said.

The budget has proposed creation of “inadequate” 60 lakh jobs in five years which is “a far cry from the 2 crore jobs the government had promised in the equally illusory ‘acche din’  (good days)”, Tharoor said.

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He added that there are reductions in the budget for social welfare programmes, schemes for crop insurance, MSP (minimum support price) and fertlisers, which have leD many farmer groups to term this Budget a “revenge budget”.

The Congress leader also claimed a huge dip in the incomes of lakhs of people in the last five years.

While the wealth of thw richest 100 Indians soared by Rs 57 lakh crore, 4.7 crore Indians slipped into extreme poverty, he said, adding that the government has not recognised the problems which they have caused and the widespread anguish they have inflicted on the common people.

The Congress leader said that the budget has not meet the expectations of the middle class and the poor.

He said there were three broad expectations the nation had from the budget. The first one was that the government would acknowledge the problem the nation is facing, acknowledge that the country is facing unprecedented levels of unemployment which has left countless citizens, specially young and dynamic working age population, with little prospects for a brighter tomorrow, Tharoor said.

The government, he said, admitted that one-fifth of India’s population has plunged a staggering 53 per cent in the last five years in terms of their income.

The government should have also acknowledged that the Indian middle class has been left defenceless in the face of rising inflation, shrinking incomes and the consequent acceleration in household debt, besides recognising the widespread distress and anguish in the agrarian economy, he said.

On the contentious farm laws, he said the legislations drove hundreds of farmers to sit for protest in cold winters, harsh summer sun and in the soaking monsoon rain, in a cause for which over 670 of them gave their lives.

The former minister criticised the government for allegedly having scant regard for the fundamental conventions or institutions of the country that have traditionally guided India’s democracy.

Citing a couplet, he said, “We have been left bitterly disappointed by this government’s unwillingness to offer even a token recognition of the problems they have caused, of the widespread anguish they have inflicted upon the aam aadmi, the unemployed youth, our farmers who are still facing the existential crisis caused by this government.” This House, he said, has not forgotten the prime minister’s talk about zero budget natural farming, because his government “has left zero” in the budget for farmers.

Further, the Congress leader said the people were expecting the government to announce some concrete actions and corrective measures to address the “multi-pronged calamities” that it had caused them.

“… and an expectation to address the increasing unemployment crisis and declining labour force participation by developing targeted measures for job creation and strengthening existing job guarantee schemes like MNREGA,” he noted.

The people, the Congress leader said, were also expecting it to mitigate the impact of the pandemic induced crisis, reduction in income tax or at least raising the exemption slab to Rs 5 lakh.

On inflation, he said there is an unprecedented rise in the prices of basic commodities.

Tharoor said the government repeatedly increased excise duty on fuel and was not able to tackle the issue of increase in prices of basic commodities like LPG cylinders, pulses and edible oils.

LPG prices in Delhi gone up from Rs 502 to Rs 899, he said, adding “is that the ecosystem they would like to talk about?” “And where our farmers are concerned, (there was) an expectation to fix the cracks in our MSP and offer them support in terms of procurement of basic commodities like fertilisers at a time when the prices of raw materials are sky rocketing. Sadly, this government’s budget has given the nation exactly the opposite,” he said.

Tharoor also alleged that the government has failed to address the concerns of the common people.

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