Skip to main content

Ram Rajya for many? Sitharaman's budget seeks to promise development for a few

By Gautam Modi* 

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her interim Budget Statement (BS) of 2024 speech, lauded about how the BJP government has transformed the economy in the past 10 years but she failed to mention who in the country has benefited from this transformation and where have the crores of jobs that existed in the economy 10 years ago disappeared today.
The BS is a testimony of the countless empty promises made by the BJP government over the past 10 years to the working people and the poor that still remain unfulfilled.

Declining social spending

In the past 10 years, the money government spends on health and education, in real terms, has not increased. The same holds true for the expenditure on MNREGA and other social protection programmes including the ICDS (anganwadi) programme.
Money budgeted for the so called Ayushman Bharat and PM-Awaas Yojna for 2023-24 remain unspent. Capital expenditure, apart from on national highways and the railways, in several key areas including irrigation works, rural roads, small production unit, on research and development, on rail and road safety, etc., remain unspent and incomplete. 
These could have been areas that could contribute to better and stable earnings and livelihoods for working people employed in these projects but the government clearly lack both the desire and the will to complete tasks that do not involve and benefit large corporates.
The BS is replete with numbers of loans given out for all forms of minor self-employment to crores of people. According to the BS the total number of loans given out for self-employment by government exceeds 75 crore. It is for no one to know what is the outcome of these loans and how many safe, stable and sustainable livelihoods have been created by these loans. There is however an exception where we know what the outcome is.
The BS states that, under PM-SVANidhi scheme, 78 lakh street vendors have received loans yet only 2.3 lakh of these are returning borrowers. This implies that out of 100 street vendors only 3 have made good their loans. We are not informed about the plight of the remaining 97 of 100 or 75+ lakh vendors.
The government projects its benevolence in announcing that food rations have been made available through the public distribution system to about 80% of the population. This however does not square up with the government’s claim of having taken 25 crore people out of poverty in the last 10 years. The reach of Ujwala has been included as an anti-poverty measure by government. Ujwala only reaches about 80% of households in Gujarat, Jharkhand and Tripura.
Today one rupee out of every five rupees of union government expenditure goes in paying interest
Furthermore, as a result of the high price of cooking gas, 1.1 crore Ujwala beneficiaries did not buy a single cylinder of gas in the last year and 90 lakhs bought only one cylinder in a year. This tells us that at least 2 crore households, who may be Ujwala ‘beneficiaries’, are continuing to use unsafe and harmful cooking fuels since they cannot afford even subsidised cooking gas.

Development for the few, Mandir for the many

The BS highlights the growing number of airports that have been built in the last 10 years and the number of new air routes that have been introduced, but it fails to tell us that 25% of the second-class seats have disappeared and been replaced by expensive, ‘dynamically priced’, air-conditioned seats and berths on our trains, which have become out of reach of the many who rely on it to travel across the country.
We know that over the last 10 years nearly 2 crore workers returned from cities to their villages. The number of workers ‘employed’ in agriculture has gone up by this number. We also know agriculture is in distress and farmers are unable to make ends meet. The two taken together implies that 2 crore urban workers were forced to return to their villages as they lost their jobs putting their families in the village under more duress.
Household consumption is low and household savings are declining as working people are being pushed into debt to meet their daily needs. This also tells us that while the rich have grown much richer over the last 10 years, working people have been pushed to the wall.
The reality also is that whilst the BJP says it has managed the economy better than every government in past, the country is more indebted than it was 10 years ago. Today one rupee out of every five rupees of union government expenditure goes in paying interest. This is apart from repaying the loans that government has taken itself.
In many ways, the MGNREGA, which provides employment to the largest number of workers in the country signals the crisis that the BJP has pushed us all into. There is demand for MGNREGA work which is not fulfilled. When workers do get work their wages are not paid. As a result there are more workers who are willing to work for less.
The BJP has pushed us into becoming a country of destitution and deprivation yet blinded by a jingoistic zeal for a ‘hindu rashtra’ or ‘Ram Rajya’, symbolized by the Ram Mandir, that promises to bring an end to our collective suffering.
A people cannot rise, and a society cannot develop unless the gains of the economy are shared by all. Until this happens economic development will remain an illusion. This is what we must fight together to change.
*National Trade Union Initiative



'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site The article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

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".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.