People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIV

No. 14

April 04, 2010

J&K BUDGET

 

Mere Rhetoric Canít Ensure Development

 

PARTICIPATING in the discussion on the latest budget of Jammu & Kashmir on March 15, CPI(M) MLA Mohd Yousuf Tarigami said it seemed merely a routine budget and while the state finance ministerís speech was more or less a repetition of the governorís address. The document was more like a development review than a budget which is supposed to cover the aspects like sources of revenue and expenditure, major policies and main development interventions for strengthening the state economy.

The CPI(M) leader said the budget speech presented a gloomy picture of the stateís economy, which should be a concern of the whole legislature irrespective of political affiliations. Whatever the claims of various governments to date, the fact remains that our economic growth has either been static or is declining. Though the state has one per cent share of the countryís population, its share in the national income is only 0.7 per cent. The stateís income has been growing at a much lower rate than the national income. Per capita income has grown at 4.13 per cent only, which is below the desired goal. Due to slow growth, per capita income is far below the national average. In terms of the per capita income, Jammu & Kashmir ranks 22nd in the country, which is alarming. This deserves a detailed study and serious consideration. The unemployment rate at the national level is 3.09 per cent while it is 5.21 per cent in the state. This is quite disturbing and we have to arrest this trend, the CPI(M) leader said. Which direction has to be followed? This, Tarigami said, must be a priority concern to all of us. He queried how far the state governmentís employment policy, including the Sher-i-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Programme for Youth (SKEWPY), will serve this purpose. Whether banks will be sympathetic to provide loans to the unemployed youth smoothly, is a million dollar question. 

Tarigami said the budget speech has announced some token concessions to the farming community in terms of concessions on agricultural tools like tractors, threshers etc. But  can such small steps help the poor peasants? This is, again, a big question. The fact remains that the growth rate of agriculture is stagnant. Though 70 per cent of the state population and around 50 per cent of its total workforce depends on agriculture, the growth rate is only 1.79 per cent, which should be a cause of grave concern for all of us. Tarigami regretted that the people had expected announcements of some policy measures and specific intervention to promote agriculture production, but the same are missing. Subsidy on purchase of agricultural machinery and farm equipments will mostly benefit the suppliers and not the poor farmers. Subsidy should have been provided on fertilisers, and loans on cheaper interest rates should have been a priority step for this sector. There have been bombastic announcements regarding the issuance of Kisan Credit Cards for the last so many years, but nothing substantial has been done on the ground.  Irrigation, key to an increase in agricultural production, has been neglected in this document. 

The plan outlay for agriculture in 2010-11 has been only 4.22 per cent of the total plan outlay of Rs 6000 crore which is quite insufficient. Same is the plight of the horticulture sector. Tarigami asked what the contribution of two ambitious schemes, i.e. market intervention scheme and technology mission, has been. He demanded that the department must issue a white paper and provide details to the house in this regard. Horticulture produce has to enter the market to compete and for this, cold storage and other facilities have to be created on an urgent basis. Mere rhetoric will not serve the purpose; something concrete needs to be done. The dry fruits, an export item, have been adversely hit by global recession and no measures seem to have been taken to protect this industry.

Handcrafters are mostly export items but around three lakh people involved in it has been starving, mostly due to global recession. But the budget has made no purposeful mention of any scheme for protecting and reviving this traditional industry and thereby rehabilitating the thousands of families dependent on this sector.

The CPI(M) leader cautioned that we must not fall into the trap of neo-liberal economic policies, which have resulted in increased inflation, hike in the prices of essentials and curtailment of jobs. Disinvestment of the public sector undertakings must be avoided to protect the workers. In sum, what is required is a fundamental change in our approach to devise the means and evolve alternative policies so that significant initiatives are taken to promote our economy that is not in a good health. (INN)