Skip to main content

A lacklustre Budget: It's neither populous nor does it provide ease of doing anything. Not even ease of leaving...

By Himanshu Thakkar*
Finance Minister Arun Jaitely presented the last full budget of the Modi-led NDA government at centre on February 1, 2018. Considering the impending elections and the prospects of facing the elections next year (possibly earlier as some speculate), one thought the Budget will try to do justice to the promises the BJP made to the people in 2014 elections, particularly to farmers, about Ganga and other rivers. Modi has just returned from Davos where he said climate change is one of the biggest challenges of future, so one expected that the budget will also have something on environment and climate change. Even the Economic Survey 2017 put out on January 29, 2018 was focused on climate change impact on farmers. Considering the Rural distress that got reflected in Gujarat election results in Dec 2017, one expected credible and substantial better deal for villages and agriculture.
Unfortunately, we are mostly disappointed in all these aspects.
The speech was full of a lot of politically correct statements, but lacked substance to inspire confidence. The track record of the government has been so poor that such empty words are not going to help convince anyone. Let us look at some key aspects.

Ease of Leaving?

It’s well known that this govt is focused on improving the EASE of doing business, but has done little by way or ease of living for the farmers, common rural or urban people. So the FM, in very beginning of the speech said: “Now, our Government has taken Ease of Doing business further by stress on ‘Ease of Leaving’ for the common men of this country, especially for those belonging to poor & middle class of the society.” Providentially, LIVING was mis-spelt as LEAVING, or is the govt interested in helping “the common men of this country” LEAVE (the world) more easily?

More geoundwater use rather than regulation and augmentation?

It’s now well known that groundwater is India’s water lifeline, though the government has not found it useful to accept that reality. It’s equally well known that the groundwater use is unsustainable at most locations, including the Indus and Ganga plains. What we need is credible measures to recognise, protect and rejuvenate groundwater recharge zones, augment recharge and most importantly, regulate groundwater use. This government has done NOTHING effective in these directions. In stead now the Budget has a new scheme to increase groundwater use, see para 44 of FM’s speech: “Ground water irrigation scheme under Prime Minister Krishi Sinchai Yojna- Har Khet ko Pani will be taken up in 96 deprived irrigation districts where less than 30% of the land holdings gets assured irrigation presently. I have allocated `2600 crore for this purpose.”
This norms of districts where less than 30% of the land holdings get assured irrigation presently can be very misleading. For example, in Maharashtra, a state with by far the highest number of large dams in the country, has less than 20% of cropped land under irrigation. So most districts of this state may come under this norm, even though they may already be over exploiting groundwater. Now this scheme can be used to further increase groundwater exploitation.

Eco survey uses misleading irrigation parameter

While the budget does not have anything more substantial about irrigation, it's noteworthy that the Economic Survey 2017 released on Jan 29, 2018 makes use of a rather strange ratio of Net Irrigated Area over gross cropped area to compare state (see figure 6 on page 109 in Volume II, Chapter 6). This is a patently misleading and wrong parameter to use. So even though Haryana is better off than UP in terms of irrigation in all seasons, it seems, going by this parameter, to be performing worse than UP, since UP possibly has less area under double or multiple cropping. This is because, for Haryana, since there is more area under multiple cropping, the denominator becomes high, bringing down the ratio. One has never seen use of this parameter and it's a mystery why this has been used.

Ganga and other rivers

Prime Minister Mr Modi is known to have given high priority for Ganga and declared after winning the 2014 parliamentary elections that Mother Ganga has called me. Unfortunately, the state of Ganga has only worsened under this government, even more than earlier government, since it's business priority even for Ganga. So the high investment, but river destroying schemes like inter-linking of rivers (Ken Betwa, their top priority scheme is in the Ganga basin), big dams (world’s tallest ever dam, Pancheshwar is in Ganga basin), water ways (national waterways 1 is in Ganga basin and they are already doing massive, destructive dredging, river ports and so on, without any environment or social impact assessment or public consultation process), River Front Development, Big Sewage Treatment Plants and sew lines, to name some, are their priority.
The Budget had to mention Ganga, so it makes run of the mill statement in para 66: “Cleaning the Ganga is work of national importance and it is our firm commitment. Members will be happy to learn that this work has gathered speed. A total of 187 projects have been sanctioned under the Namami Gange programme for infrastructure development, river surface cleaning, rural sanitation and other interventions at a cost of Rs 16,713 crore. 47 projects have been completed and remaining projects are at various stages of execution. All 4465 Ganga Grams – villages on the bank of river – have been declared open defecation free.”
So four years into the government, they are still talking about “firm commitment”, while the state of the river has only gone worse, majorly due to their own actions and inactions. There is no mention of other rivers at all.

Farmers getting 50% return on cost 

The FM said in Para 13: “in our party’s manifesto it has been stated that the farmers should realize at least 50 per cent more than the cost of their produce, in other words, one and a half times of the cost of their production. Government have been very much sensitive to this resolutions and it has declared Minimum support price (MSP) for the majority of rabi crops at least at one and a half times the cost involved. Now, we have decided to implement this resolution as a principle for the rest of crops. I am pleased to announce that as per pre-determined principle, Government has decided to keep MSP for the all unannounced crops of kharif at least at one and half times of their production cost. I am confident that this historic decision will prove an important step towards doubling the income of our farmers.” The claim that this promise of at least 50% return on cost for farmers have been achieved for Rabi crops, is clearly wrong. Even the Economic Survey released three days back clearly says that real incomes of farmers has NOT increased in last four years and thus contradicts the FM’s claim. Secondly, four years into the government, the government still has no clue how they are going to achieve this objective for kharif or summer crop.
FM also says in para 11: “Honourable Prime Minister gave a clarion call to double farmers’ income by 2022 when India celebrates its 75th year of independence.” While the economic survey has confirmed that real income of farmers has not increased in last four years, and this budget, the last one of this govt, has no credible steps to achieve that. So this government is going to leave farmers worse off than what they were, leave aside the question of doubling their income and if they go to voters saying give us a chance, we will do it by 2022, that wont have much credibility either.

Impact of climate change on Farmers’ income

In fact the Economic Survey 2017 brings more bad news for farmers. It says: “A second key finding is that these impacts are significantly more adverse in unirrigated areas (and hence rainfed crops) compared to irrigated areas (and hence cereals). Applying these estimates to projected long-term weather patterns implies that climate change could reduce annual agricultural incomes in the range of 15 percent to 18 percent on average, and up to 20 percent to 25 percent for unirrigated areas.” (Ch 6, Vol 1, p 82) Now look at the Budget 2018 in this context and we find that the Budget has NOTHING to offer to farmers for these losses, and yet repeats its hollow promise of doubling the income! In fact the government even refuses to acknowledge that farmers are climate change victims, nor demand that farmers be compensated for the losses.

Environment

The Budget has nothing to offer for environment (even its promise of scheme for incentivizing use of machines in Punjab, Haryana, UP and NCR in para 35 “A special Scheme will be implemented to support the efforts of the governments of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the NCT of Delhi to address air pollution and to subsidize machinery required for in situ management of crop residue” is without substance), sustainable development, democratic governance, equity or participatory or transparent decision making.
On the whole, the Budget ends up being lacklustre, neither populous, nor helping Ease of Doing anything particular. Not ever Ease of LEAVING? You decide that.
---
*South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. Source: https://sandrp.wordpress.com

Comments

TRENDING

What's behind public sector banks showing huge profits in 2nd quarter of 2022-23?

By Thomas Franco*  The quarter two results of the public sector banks (PSBs) appear to be noteworthy compared to a few years ago. All these banks showed good profits in the financial year 2021-22. Twelve PSBs made a net profit of Rs 25,685 crore in quarter 2 of FY23 and a total of Rs 40,991 crore in the first half of 2023. The combined profit of 12 banks in March 2022 was Rs 66,539 crore which was 110% more than 2021 – Rs. 31,816 crore. The Asset Quality Review of 2015 saw a surge in NPAs of PSBs jumping to Rs 8.96 lakh crore in March 2018 from Rs 2.17 lakh crore in March 2014. This was simply because the norms for NPAs were changed from 180 days to 90 days, and all restructuring of even genuine accounts was done away with. In 2018 NPA of SBI was 5.73% which has come down to 0.8% in Q2 of FY23. The NPA of Canara Bank has come down to 2.19% from 7.48% in Mar 2018. The same trend is seen in all public banks. Now SBI has seen a jump of 74% in its net profit, while Canara Bank’s profit is

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Business back to normal? IIM-A survey says, sales expectations have sharply improved

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), which polls a panel of business leaders to find out their perception of slack in economy, including their inflation expectations, year-ahead cost expectations and the factors influencing price changes, such as profit and sales levels, etc., has said that the cost perceptions data indicates signs of moderation in price pressures. Carried out for September, the survey says, the cost pressure of the reporting firms has shifted from “very significant increase (over 6%) to moderate increase (3.1% to 6%).” It adds, “The percentage of firms perceiving over 10% cost increase y-o-y has declined. Over 21% of the firms in September 2022 round of the survey perceive that costs have increased very significantly (over 10%) – down from 26% recorded in August 2022.” Claiming to be a unique survey, in that it goes straight to businesses -- the price setters -- rather than to consumers or household

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

GoI's productivity linked incentives to corporates 'without independent analysis'

Counterview Desk  Wondering how prudent is the Government of India's (GoI's) Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, EAS Sarma, former secretary, GoI, in a representation to Nirmala Sitharaman, Union finance minister, has said it appears to be nothing more than subsidy to the private sector without any responsibility. Giving a specific example against the backdrop of announcement of 50% subsidy covering the project cost of the Vedanta Group's decision to set up a semiconductor fabrication plant in Gujarat, in collaboration with Foxconn, Sarma says, "The total cost of this project is reported to be Rs 1,54,000 crore. 50% of this works out to Rs 77,000 crore." Stating that this creates the impression that the entire subsidy allocation for the semiconductor manufacturing sector would be appropriated by this company, Sarma says, "The Gujarat government did not lag behind in liberally announcing similar incentives for the Vedanta-Foxconn project. It offered 7

As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

By DN Rath*  Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions. Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years. It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, b

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Amit Shah accused of inciting communal passion: Demand to postpone Gujarat polls

Counterview Desk  In an email representation to the Election Commission of India (ECI), Dr EAS Sarma, former secretary to the Government of India, has objected to the statement reported to have been made by Union home minister Amit Shah, who allegedly justified the 2002 Gujarat riots stating that certain sections of people “taught a lesson” to the rioters. Noting that the statement, if correct, “in effect implies those other than the law enforcement authorities had taken law into their hands”, Sarma says, “Shah's statement needs to be viewed by the ECI in conjunction with the reported fact that it was the Union Home Ministry that cleared the release of the eleven rape convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, directly related to the infamous Godhra incidents in 2002, which triggered the shameful sequence of events that shook the nation's conscience.” According to Sarma, if the statement is true, “I am constrained to draw the inevitable inference that it would have already impacted th