(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 10, 2013
Budget 2013-14 Evokes Sharp Reactions
VARIOUS mass organisations have criticised the union budget 2013-14, presented in Lok Sabha on February 28, for the regressive aspects it has. Through a statement issued on March 1, the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) warned the people of India that, once more, the “mool mantra” of the union budget was a stress on GDP growth, with no concern for its effect on the life and livelihood of the majority of the people who live by toiling on small holdings and assets or selling their labour.
AIAWU said today the people of
In context of food security, the AIAWU said the subsidies have come down by Rs 26,571 crore as a whole. The food subsidy, which was revised to Rs 85,000 crore in 2012-13, has now been downscaled to Rs 80,000 crore if we exclude the provision of Rs 10,000 crore for implementing the Food Security Bill. This will definitely increase inflation, as there is nothing to suggest an improvement of supply through the rationing system. The only way relief could be provided is by increasing employment; in fact the low one per cent increase actually means a relative decline in employment per unit of investment.
Nor has the government shown any interest in increasing funds for the MGNREGA. The fund for this scheme has been pegged at Rs 33,000 crore, which is the same as that budgeted for last year, but was not fully spent. No funds have been allocated for the rehabilitation of bonded labour this time, while the beedi workers welfare fund sees no increase from last year. So we can expect the life and livelihood of the working people and small owners to become even more unbearable.
Scheduled tribes and scheduled castes are likely to be the worst sufferers. They are being given a half to a quarter of what is their constitutional due. Also, there is reason to believe that their sub-plans may be further confounded with other schemes to cut down their benefits.
On the other hand, the finance minister, who has cut down subsidies and expenditure in general in the name of balancing a fiscal deficit of Rs 5,20,925 crore, has happily foregone revenues worth Rs 5,73,630 crore which the corporates would have paid. Thus, while the rich get tax exemptions for their non-performance, workers and peasants, craftsmen and small traders are asked to pay for it, to tighten their belts when their consumption has come down by half. This is unacceptable to us, the AIAWU said.
To the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the union budget has failed to address the serious problem of unemployment; there is no concrete proposal in this budget to generate employment. It said the problem for the government is only of growth, but from the youth community’s point of view the biggest challenge that our economy faces is spiralling unemployment due to jobless and job-loss growth. The budget has not shown any concern for the all important aspect.
Te DYFI has therefore urged upon the youth community to unite for a nationwide campaign against this budget and its neo-liberal agenda, unemployment and corruption.
THE All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) said that, coming at the threshold of an economic crisis, rising unemployment, fall in real wages and rising instances of violence amongst women, the budget proposals show that the government is not serious about solving the basic problems confronting women. Even more disturbingly, total allocation for the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the nodal ministry for combating violence against women and looking after their welfare, has gone up by a paltry Rs 97.5 crore while the allocation for 100 per cent women specific schemes of the ministry has declined from Rs 1673.98 crore to Rs 1553.98 crore.
In their pre-budget memorandum to the finance minister, women’s organisations had demanded effective measures to strengthen the infrastructure to combat the increasing anti-women violence, and adequate allocations to strengthen the implementation of Domestic Violence Act 2005 and create fast track courts for speedy trial for victims of domestic violence. The government’s response to this increasing public pressure is seen in the finance minister’s announcement of the Nirbhaya Fund for which he has promised Rs 1000 crore, the scope of whose expenditure has been left unclear. Also, this fund is not accounted for in the gender budget and it is unclear whether it will eventually materialise. This shows that the UPA is only keen to make a hasty political move to garner the confidence of women without taking any concrete steps to implement the Justice Verma committee recommendations.
As for the AIDWA’s demand for a universal public distribution system (PDS) for tackling the problems of malnutrition and food security, the budget has once again ignored it. The allocation for food security is miniscule. Last year the food subsidy was Rs 5,000 crore less, as reflected in the revised estimates of 2012-13; thus the budget has actually proposed an increase of Rs 5,000 crore only. It has further announced the setting up of nutria farms which would only benefit big corporate farming initiatives that are now getting into food processing and contract farming.
One the major causalities of this budget would be the employment generation efforts for women under the MGNREGA which has been given the same decreased allocation of Rs 33,000 crore, with the gender component going up by a mere 12 crore. The gender component of the National Rural Livelihood Mission, aimed to induce employment for women, has got an increase of 13.8 per cent only. The government’s announcement of relief for handloom weavers would supposedly benefit women but this measure is not enough as it provides no debt relief. Allocation for the welfare scheme for women handloom weavers has been reduced from 48 crore to 28.50 crore.
The allocation for the rural and urban health missions has come down from Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 21,239 crore. The ICDS allocation has gone up by 11.9 per cent only, which is not enough to take care of the rising costs of delivery and will not aid in the scheme’s expansion. Nor is there any commitment for its universalisation for tackling women and child malnutrition. The budget just proposed an inadequate Rs 300 crore for its expansion 100 to 200 districts.
The budget also liberalises the norms for health insurance schemes and paves the way for exploitative micro-insurance companies. Though it extends this scheme to rickshaw-pullers, rag-pickers and Anganwadi workers, it provides no social security measure for women in the unorganised sector. No fund has been provided for relief to families of farmers who have committed suicides due to the agrarian crisis.
The creation of a public sector women’s bank, with Rs 1000 crore allocated for it, is claimed to meet the credit needs of women and expand the bank linkage programme to support the National Rural Livelihood Mission. The measure is, however, too little and too late; it does not ensure that women and their self help groups will get loans at four per cent, a long standing demand of women’s groups. Rather the proposed measures mean more opportunities for microfinance institutions to exploit the women’s groups.
An additional Rs 200 crore has been allocated for the formation of schemes for single women. But this amount is a lump sum, not allocated for any specific scheme. The finance minister has only urged the ministry to formulate a scheme covering such women. At present it remains a hypothetical allocation. On the other hand, many schemes that could have strengthened the support for single women have suffered in this budget. The allocation for the Central Social Welfare Board has come down by Rs 10 crore and that for short stay homes by Rs 25 crore.
In sum, the budget only shows that the UPA-2 does not have the political will to respond to the common women’s needs. That is why the AIDWA rejected this budget and called for a campaign to expose its political rhetoric and populism.
THE Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM) has registered its protest against the continued injustice for tribal communities, as reflected in the budget. According to it, the finance minister has violated the Planning Commission guidelines to allocate resources for the tribal sub-plan (TSP) at least in proportion to the ST population. This at present is taken to be 8.2 per cent of the Indian population but, as these tribal people live in the most remote and backward areas of the country, they need more than their proportionate share in resources. Even according to the minimal 8.2 per cent of plan expenditure, the budget should have allocated Rs 45,563 crore for the TSP. But the allocation is less by Rs 20,938 crore, a shortfall of 46 per cent. This implies that the government would deprive the ST population of public expenditure to the tune of Rs 2200 per capita in this fiscal year alone.
However, the scheduled tribes have thus been deprived of almost Rs 21,000 crore while they account for the largest number of malnourished population, particularly women and children. The largest number of those deprived of education, the largest number of youth requiring jobs, the largest number of farmers requiring land, water and extension services are among the ST communities. Tribal habitations are the areas most deprived of minimum civic facilities and connectivity.
Moreover, out of even the last year’s inadequate allocation, the revised estimates show that 15 per cent of that allocation (Rs 3000 crore) was not utilised The AARS described it as criminally callous.
This year there is no increase in the number of ministries and departments that allocate funds for TSP; 43 ministries and departments are arbitrarily exempted. Of the remaining ministries and departments, about one third have made no allocations at all. Clearly, the AARM said, we need a legal mechanism to ensure that the ministries statutorily allocate funds and also to monitor fund utilisation. Studies show a disturbingly high level of diversion of funds meant for tribal welfare to other, totally unrelated purposes.
Demanding at least full TSP allocation of Rs 45,563 crore, the AARM also said all the ministries and departments and all central welfare schemes must be made to allocate funds for the TSP.