One person had borrowed Rs 5 lakhs from his friend. But he was persistently evading repayment. His friend was indeed enraged. From friend, he was turning into a foe. No promise of earliest repayment or ‘impeccable’ reasons for inability to pay back the loan at present could satisfy the friend. Seeing no way to come out of the predicament, the person planted a sandal wood tree and told his friend: ‘‘This sapling is yours. When it would grow into a tree in about 10 years’s time, its value would be more than Rs 5 lakhs. Hope you would agree that I have not only honoured my words but made provision for your extra gains.’’ When one looks at this years’ Union Budget, one would find that the BJP-led government, its Prime Minister (PM), Finance Minister (FM), a slew of bureaucrats and erudite economic advisors have found the above story worth emulating in preparing their ritualistic document interspersed with high-sounding phrases and jargons sans substance. ‘‘This Budget seeks to lay the foundation and give a blueprint to steer the economy over the Amrit Kaal (time of nectar) of the next 25 years – from India at 75 to India at 100. It continues to build on the vision drawn in the Budget of 2021,’’ said the BJP FM in her budget speech. In last year’s budget speech, she exclaimed: ‘‘This moment in history is the dawn of a new era–one in which India is well-poised to truly be the land of promise and hope.’’ And then she quoted from Rabindranath Tagore’s Fireflies–a collection of Aphorisms, ‘‘Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark’’. Then she informed the countrymen relentlessly assailed by economic distress, fiscal savagery, mounting unemployment and rising corruption at all levels of government administration that her budget proposals ‘‘will further strengthen the Sankalp (pledge) of Nation First, Doubling Farmer’s Income, Strong Infrastructure, Healthy India, Good Governance, Opportunities for Youth, Education for All, Women Empowerment, and Inclusive Development, among others. Additionally, also on the path to fast-implementation are the 13 promises we (the BJP government) had made in the Budget of 2015-16 which were to materialise during the Amrut Mahotsav of 2022… too resonate with this vision of AtmaNirbharta (Self-reliance).’’ Excellent conjuring !!! But then honourable FM, where is your report card of fulfilment of the ‘‘13 promises’’ and strengthening of ‘‘Sankalp’’? Do you not owe a responsibility to the citizens of India who expect corroboration of that? Or do you and your PM as well as other colleagues and associates believe that substituting Budget speech by a hollow pedagogic discourse would well neigh be a cover to bountiful deceptions you have been dishing out customarily every year and the people would be overwhelmed by repeated obnoxious desk-thumping by the treasury bench during delivery of the speech? Then you all are living in fool’s paradise. And we shall prove that hereunder.
Example of ‘‘bold strides’’ towards self-reliance
Earlier it was celebration of Amrit Mahotsav in 2022. Now it is stepping into an Amritkal having a span of 25 years. Earlier it was a mission. Now it is a vision. By ‘‘Nation First’, the FM in 2021 might have referred to the ‘‘Make in India’’ slogan, an offshoot of Atmanirvar Bharat. What is the progress in this respect and how have the common toiling masses been benefitted from that? Which are the consumable goods that have been produced in the country for people’s benefit? Are the Indian people getting items of daily necessity at a much cheaper price? Mahotsav has no answer. For example, China’s share in India’s import basket has surged over a year after calls emerged for boycott of Chinese goods in the aftermath of the India-China standoff and the subsequent proclaimed push by the BJP government for ‘Atmanirbharta’ (self-sufficiency). India’s imports from China jumped to $97.5 billion. The major items of import from China include telecom instruments, computer hardware and peripherals, fertilisers, electronic components/instruments, project goods, organic chemicals, drug intermediates, consumer electronics, and electrical machinery, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Anupriya Patel said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. (The Hindu 15-02-22) Let us not cite more examples.
Doubling farmer’s income (!)
Farmers were assured that their income would double by 2022. Has it been achieved? The government is tight-lipped. It is also silent over growing suicides by peasants. Over 4.5 lakh peasants have committed suicide in the last two decades. Every day, 28 people dependent on farming die by suicide. Will the days to come bring any relief to the highly distressed peasants ? At least, the agriculture budget does not give any such indication. Budget allocation towards agriculture has dropped from 4.3% to 3.8% when compared with the total budget figure. Allocation towards Fasal Bima Yoyna (Crop Insurance) has been reduced. Last year, Rs 4000 crores were allocated for PM Sichai Yoyna (which is meant to focus on investment in irrigation and improving water-use efficiency). Half of that has not been spent despite tagging PM’s name to it. In fact, for farmer-centric allocations, the picture of proposed outlays versus actual disbursements looks murky. Even before the pandemic, the shortfall between budgeted and actual expenditure claims was roughly 42% for schemes of the aforesaid Sichai Yojana. The proposed five river linking projects by spending Rs 44,605 crore on the pretext of augmenting irrigation benefits might prove disastrous to maintaining ecological balance. This year, glaringly to incite Hindutva passion centring round the Ganga river, a scheme of Chemical-free Natural Farming on farmlands in 5-km wide corridors along river Ganga has been announced. In fact, this would cater to the profit maximization motive of the big multi-nationals who are now seeing fortune in marketing organic food to the affluent and overseas buyers. The government says this would clean the Ganga river. This is also a bluff. The factories situated along the bank of the Ganga are merrily releasing industrial wastes including toxic wastes into the river violating environmental norms. That is causing river pollution. Floating dead bodies in UP and Bihar during corona pandemic bore testimony of how ‘‘concerned’’ the government is about purification of the Ganga.
Allocation towards agricultural education and research has been curtailed. Budget for procuring crops at Minimum Support Price (MSP) has been stated to be Rs 2.38 lakh crores, lower than the actual expenditure of last year. Incidentally, the historic peasant movement has demanded for legal guarantee to MSP which the government has not yet accepted. Interestingly, the Budget speech has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets and said that support will be provided for post-harvest value addition, enhancing domestic consumption, and for branding millet products nationally and internationally. Millets are crops of smaller granules which were hitherto known as poor man’s food. But the nutritional value of millet is more than rice or wheat. So the giant multinationals are procuring millets, processing them and then selling them as attractive brands of course at a higher price. In keeping with the profit interest of the agri-giants from millet trading, the BJP FM has promised support for post-harvest value addition, enhancing domestic consumption and for branding millet products nationally and internationally. What is more noteworthy is that for financing the start-up agriculture and rural enterprise which would provide IT-based technical support to the Farmer Producer Organizations and delivery of digital and high-tech services to the peasants like ‘‘use of ‘Kisan Drones’ for crop assessment, digitization of land records, spraying of insecticides, and nutrients’’, the FM besides announcing such schemes to be on PPP model has talked of creating a fund with ‘blended capital’, to be raised under the co-investment (means so called private-public partnership) model. This evidently would not benefit the peasants but the giant private players in agriculture. Moreover, in a country where around 80 crore people are stated to be in poor category and most of the villages do not have potable water supply, how would private player-sponsored digital agriculture be of any service to the peasants at large?
The PM has claimed that fertilizer subsidy has been raised this year from Rs 79,000 crores to Rs1.05 lakh crores. Is it a truthful claim? Searching out budget figures from the annexures to the FM’s speech, it is seen that fertilizer subsidy is estimated to decline from from Rs 1,40,122 crore last year to Rs 1,05,222 crore during 2022-23 fiscal i.e. a reduction by 25% while food subsidy is estimated to decline by 28% to Rs 2,06,831 crore from Rs 2,86,469 crore in the same period. Taken together, total subsidies towards food and fertilizer are estimated to further decline to Rs 3,17,866 crore from Rs 4,33,108 crore in the current fiscal. In its revised budget estimate for 2021-22 fiscal, the government pegged total subsidies to be at Rs 4,33,108 crore as against the actual budget estimate of Rs 7,07,707 crore in the previous financial year, a decline by 39%. So, what about doubling farmers’ income? If the government had instituted a sharp course correction in agricultural policy by including a major rise of public investment; increasing in subsidy support to farmers, ensuring more institutional credit supply to the smallest of the peasants, raising and guaranteeing MSP at 50% above actual cost of farming, securing hassle-free government procurement of crops, the peasants could have some relief. But the BJP government apart from paying meagre Rs 500 in cash per head per month under PM Kisan scheme as consolation, the BJP government did nothing to improve the lot of the peasants. Even under this scheme, budget allocation has marginally increased from Rs 67, 507 crores to 68, 000 crores. If one factors in inflation, the allocation is actually less. Allocation towards Public Distribution System (I.e. ration) is also lowered from Rs 2.42 lakh crores to Rs 2.06 lakh crores. On the contrary, it drew up a scheme to fully corporatize agriculture much to the detriment of the interest of the peasants.
So, the peasants had to thwart the move by spearheading a year-long epoch-making movement braving all odds.
Customary parroting of strong infrastructure and capex
The FM has made capital investment the lynchpin of the government’s growth strategy in Budget 2022. ‘‘…public investment must continue to take the lead and pump-prime the private investment and demand in 2022-23’’, she said in her speech. Last year she talked of monetizing operating public infrastructure assets as a very important financing option for new infrastructure construction. Thereby, she opened the floodgate of leasing out assets created by public money to corporate houses under the pretext of garnering resources for new infrastructure. No statement has been made as to what extent creation of new infrastructure has come to the benefit of people at large. This time, she has boasted of securing ‘‘big public investment for modern infrastructure, readying for India at 100’’ (means on the 100th year of India’s independence).
To show how serious is the government in this regard, the FM stepped up the outlay for capital expenditure (capex) in the central government budget sharply by 35.4% —from Rs 5.54 lakh crore in 2021-22 to Rs 7.50 lakh crore in 2022-23 i.e. 2.9% of GDP and an increase of Rs 2 lakh crores. If the provision made for the creation of capital assets through central grants-in-aid to states is taken into account, the ‘effective capital expenditure’ of the Union government would rise as high as Rs 10.68 lakh crore in 2022-23, amounting to 4.1% of GDP. The FM exuded immense pride in this. But dissecting the figures, one comes to a contrary conclusion.
Let us explain a bit as the truth is cunningly camouflaged. We need to recall that Central government’s capital expenditure (capex) is incurred through a provision in its budget, which includes budgetary support in the form of equity and loans to public sector enterprises (PSEs). The larger central public sector comprises two big groups – one, the Union government with its ministries and departments and two, central public sector enterprises and entities. PSEs raise their own capital resources from the market as well. Their own resources are classified as internal and extra-budgetary resources (IEBR). Central government’s loans to the state governments also count as the central government’s capital expenditure. Strictly speaking, this loan cannot be construed as capital expenditure. In any case, capital expenditure of central government together with internal and extra-budgetary resources make up the total Union government and public sector capital expenditure (total central capex). Statement I annexed to the budget speech has provided the details. The IEBR of the PSEs, as disclosed in Statement 1, was Rs 5.83 lakh crore in Budget 2021-22 and has decreased to Rs 4.69 lakh crore in Budget 2022-23.The central government has substantially hiked the loans to state governments from Rs 10,000 crore in Budget 2021-22 to Rs 1,00,000 crore in Budget 2022-23.The total central government and public sector capital expenditure disclosed in the annexure was Rs 11.37 lakh crore in Budget 2021-22 and placed at Rs 12.20 lakh crore in Budget 2022-23. So the net increase is Rs 83,000 crores and not Rs 2 lakh crores as claimed. Moreover, if one subtracts Rs 90,000 crores of additional loan to the states (Rs 1 lakh crore this year minus Rs 10,000 crores last year), capex in 2022-23 would be only Rs 11.30 lakh crore –a net reduction of Rs 7,000 crore.
Of the capital expenditure provision of Rs 7.50 lakh crore in Budget 2022-23–excluding the capex through public sector enterprises, state government loans and Rs 1.52 lakh crore of defence capital expenditure—only Rs 1.39 lakh crore of capex is to be incurred by all other ministries and departments. The FM’s argument that by increasing the capex, the Central government was creating conditions for crowding in more private investment could not have sounded hollower either in the facts of the case. This is just one example of how facts are cunningly suppressed under jugglery of figures. Also it requires to be borne in mind that spurt in infrastructural development ipso facto does not mean increase in production.
Everyone has seen during the pandemic how the rickety structure of Indian Healthcare system dominated by private players was laid bare. It brought to the fore how the successive governments, the current one included, have for decades ignored public healthcare systems, which has led to a situation where privatization of healthcare has been vigorously promoted and the state’s duty to protect the right to life of individuals grossly neglected. Primary and secondary healthcare centres at a local level lie abandoned or unmanned. General medical practitioners, who formed the backbone of private healthcare have all, but disappeared. There are no credible government medical testing labs, except in large towns and district headquarters. In most states at the block-level, government healthcare presence is either non-existent or ineffective. In some states, primary healthcare has been taken away from municipal bodies and is back with the state government, with no benefit to the ailing impoverished. Besides, access to health care is poor, fragmented, skewed to urban areas, and often of low quality.
Lakhs of corona patients died in absence of hospital beds, timely medical intervention and without oxygen support. The country has just 0.7 bed per 1,000 inhabitants. The prices of medicines including life saving drugs are soaring sky-high. Black-marketing in essential drugs is rampant. With private medical colleges admitting students based on hefty donations and irrespective of merit, the government diluting the medical education by espousing ‘mixopathy’ (a hotchpotch combination of modern medicine, Ayurveda, Homeopathy and others), the standard of medical assistance is also going down. Though the limited number of doctors and other health staff had set a glorious example by providing all available medical assistance to the corona patients risking their own lives, the government has not done anything to reward them other than dropping flower petals from helicopters and beating metal plates initially.
Moreover, despite India’s poor health care system, public health care expenditure is abysmally low. India spends less than 1.2 per cent of its GDP on public health while there is a long standing demand for raising the health budget to at least 3% of GDP. Unsurprisingly, the under-funding of public healthcare has created a demand for private hospitals among the middle class. Private hospitals have mushroomed in the last two decades so much so that they provide 51 per cent of the hospital beds available in India today. Most of them are unaffordable to the poor, of course. For brevity’s sake, we are not repeating how inefficiently and callously the BJP government handled the corona pandemic starting from arranging for medical assistance to vaccination.
Though it is proved that the sacrosanct ‘‘free market’’ has left Indians waiting in the lines to die and the glorified ‘‘private initiative’’ with the health corporates who promised the sky and the moon are distinctly failing to meet the minimum social requirements: life and health, the BJP government has not cared to retreat from its policies of privatization, commercialization and dilution of healthcare. It ended up announcing rolling out of a ‘Digital Health Ecosystem’ and a ‘National Tele Mental Health Programme’ and then sounded weird optimism that the with ‘‘accelerated improvement of health infrastructure in the past two years, we are in a strong position to withstand challenges’’.
When it comes to fund allocation, the total health budget this year is Rs 86, 200 crores which is only Rs 200 crores more than the previous year’s revised budget of Rs 86,000 crores. Total public health budget has been drastically cut from Rs 74,820 crores to Rs 41,011 crores i.e. by 45.19% which indicates that whatever little scope for getting free medical treatment in government hospitals is still available will also cease to exist. Over the Revised Estimates, the total health expenditure budget in 2022-23 has increased 0.23 per cent to Rs 86,200 crore. Cunningly the FM has taken last year’s original budget of Rs 73, 931 crores and not the revised budget to claim that there is 16% increase this year. Just 0.2% of GDP is spent on medical research. Even sum allocated for mid-day meal of school children has been curtailed by Rs 1,267 crores. This reduced focus on the health despite exposure of the near-dysfunctional health system during the pandemic is highly condemnable and shows the inhuman face of ruling capitalism the BJP government is subservient to. However, military budget has been further increased to Rs. 4.05 lakh crore and that too excluding the component of Defence pensions with exhortation to private houses to invest in the sector.
Opportunities for youth
Officially, the unemployment rate is hovering around 8% meaning 5.30 crore people are unemployed. But the CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy) report says India’s urban unemployment rate soars to 30.9%. Unemployment rate among those aged between 20 and 24 is 37%. Alone in the first three months of Corona-induced abrupt lockdown, over 11 crore people were estimated to have lost jobs. Of these, 9 crore were daily wagers and around 2 crores were salary earners. More than 80 percent of Indians work in jobs without regular pay or social benefits, according to the International Labour Organization. In the cities, they are employed as street vendors, construction workers and in small kirana shops, or as labourers on farms and in fields. So, these people cannot be recognized as employed but to be seen as under-employed, self-employed or in pseudo-employment. 84% Indian households saw their income falling in just one month in 2020. According to World Bank report, at 43%, India’s pre-pandemic employment-population ratio was lower than the global rate of 55% in 2020. The situation has further worsened during the pandemic. The recent example of engineers, graduates and postgraduates who were among 8,000 people applying for six posts of laboratory assistants, also called ‘‘dom’’ (those who handle and burn dead bodies) in the morgue parlance, to handle corpses at a state-run hospital in Kolkata, is symbolic of the acute unemployment problem in the country. Over and above, one after another, industries are closing down throwing lakhs out of jobs. Recently we have seen young people protesting for Railway jobs, micro-sector producers in dire straits as they have been facing closures and PSU workers in agitation as they fear? loss of jobs due to privatization. It was expected that the Union Budget would give some relief to these sections by promoting employment in these sectors. But the budget has no concern for that. It has not gone beyond routine pronouncements alike ‘‘Capital investment also helps in creating employment opportunities, inducing enhanced demand for manufactured inputs from large industries and MSMEs’’. But when purchasing power of the people is on a steady dwindle and the strength of India’s middle class has shrunk to 6.6 crores, down a third from a pre-pandemic estimate of 9.9 crores, entailing sharp fall in demand, are not such pronouncements preposterous?
Now if we look to unpack the numbers of the Union Budget and get to the core of what it means for job creation, we shall find that allocation towards skill development and employment generation has been cut from Rs 3,482 crores in 21-22 to Rs 2,688 crores. Most importantly, in a recent field study undertaken by the Centre for New Economics Studies, the team spoke to a number of daily-wage workers who have seen a 50%-60% dip in days of work during a given month, and a 70% drop on average in their daily incomes. This is even as their household expenses, especially transport and conveyance, have increased. Next is about the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA). The Economic Survey 2022-23 itself highlighted that the demand for the scheme remained higher than pre-pandemic levels, indicative of the fact that many millions still are relying on this programme to sustain themselves. Despite this, the scheme found no mention in Sitharaman’s 90-minute speech. Rather, the government has felt no qualm in reducing the allocated expenditure to the Scheme from Rs 98,000 crore under the revised estimate in the previous budget to Rs 73,000 crore in the current budget, i.e. a drop by 25.2%. It is much lower than the actual expenditure of Rs 1,11,170 crore during 2020-21. An analysis shows that government would need to earmark Rs 2.64 lakh crore towards MNREGA if it intends to offer 100 days of work per household for the same number of beneficiaries who opted for the scheme during the current financial year. Moreover, this is a guaranteed job scheme for 100 days only. The government is in no mood to think what would the downtrodden ready to give manual labour do for the rest 265 days of the year. The PM said recently that 20% of those who have lost job during the pandemic would get it back. What about the balance 80%? No answer. Who, therefore, can dare to say that the government is not keen to provide jobs and income?
Education for all (!)
Death sentence of secular, scientific education has already been pronounced through the National Education Policy that the BJP government has rolled out in 2020. Alongside, or as part of it, saffronization of education by way of revising syllabus is in full swing, while the principal objective is to completely privatize education and subvert academic autonomy. It is already known to all that there is severe dearth of schools, teachers and even proper school buildings. With mushrooming growth of private institutions providing modern education against exorbitant fees, the entire scope for education is being skewed to favour a handful of rich while the children of the poor and even the lower middle class are left in the lurch. The FM acknowledged that ‘‘Due to the pandemic-induced closure of schools, our children, particularly in the rural areas, and those from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections have lost almost 2 years of formal education, mostly in government schools’’. And then she prescribed the solution in introduction of a ‘one class-one TV channel’ programme of PM eVIDYA and establishment of a digital university. The budget does see an increase in allocation but this is not being used to hire more teachers, despite around 11 lakh pending appointments of teachers about which the budget makes no reference. The allocation will go towards expansion of ‘‘one class-one TV channel’’ from 12 to 200 in different languages. Thus is guaranteed ‘education for all’.
Empowerment of women?
‘‘Recognizing the importance of Nari Shakti as the harbinger of our bright future and for women-led development during the Amrit Kaal, our government has comprehensively revamped the schemes of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, informed the FM. But what about stemming growing crime against women like rape, gang-rape, dowry deaths, bride burning, domestic violence, trafficking, female foeticide and infanticide, eve-teasing, acid attacks, marriage at child age and so forth? What is the status of the ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ created after the horrendous Delhi rape and murder? The FM kept mum and skillfully avoided reference to women empowerment.
On climate issue, the FM began quoting from the PM’s Glasgow summit speech that ‘‘what is needed today is mindful and deliberate utilization, instead of mindless and destructive consumption.’’ The PM’s Panchamrit (five elixirs) prescription in Glasgow comprised low carbon development strategy, domestic manufacturing for the ambitious goal of 280 GW of installed solar capacity by 2030 etc. As is known to all, India, instead of phasing out fossil fuel utilization expeditiously towards mitigating harmful climate change, had preached for ‘‘phasing down’’ carbon use, meaning prolonging the period of attaining desired ‘‘Net Zero’’ carbon emission. So, the less said about this, the better. But what the FM has not addressed at all is the issue of rising air pollution. In 2019, ‘National Clean Air Programme’ was inaugurated with much fanfare. But no additional allocation has been granted towards that. Budget ‘For the Commission on Air Quality Management’ has been curtailed from Rs 20 crore to Rs 17 crore. Moreover, in course of giving thrust on expansion of railways, road transport and construction of more airports, estimated 15 lakh hectares of land would be acquired. Around 44 lakh people would be affected, besides attendant environment pollution. The linking of rivers, as stated above, would also disturb ecological balance and biodiversity. What about all these? The Government is silent over that.
Inequity and tax proposals
The FM has taken credit for having not increased individual tax, let alone reducing it. But she brought down corporate surcharge from 12% to 7%. Bringing down corporate tax from 33 % to 22 % three years back resulted in revenue loss of around Rs 1.5 lakh crores. In fact, in the last two decades, nearly 60 lakh crore worth of tax waivers and concessions have been granted to the corporates. On the other hand, the toiling millions are back-broken because of rising indirect tax including abnormal hike in fuel tax and cess. Yet, the economy has not turned around.
During the pandemic, the common people faced worst pauperization. In glaring contrast, Indian billionaires saw their combined fortunes more than doubling during that period. Number of billionaires went up to 142, a rise by 39%. The wealth of the ten richest is enough to fund school and higher education of children in the country for 25 years, showed an Oxfam study. An additional one per cent tax on the richest 10 per cent can provide the country with nearly 17.7 lakh extra oxygen cylinders, while a similar wealth tax on the 98 richest billionaire families can finance Ayushman Bharat, the world’s largest health insurance scheme, for more than seven years. If each of the 10 richest Indian billionaires were to spend $ one million (Rs 750 lakhs) daily, it would take them 84 years to exhaust their current wealth. An annual wealth tax applied to multi-millionaires and billionaires would raise USD 78.3 billion a year that would be enough to increase government health budget by 271 per cent. A 4 per cent wealth tax on the 98 richest families in India (whose combined wealth is 41% of the union budget) would be enough to finance the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for more than 2 years and take care of Anganwadi Services, POSHAN Abhiyan, Scheme for Adolescent Girls, and National Creche Scheme, for 10 years.
In such a scenario of gigantic rise in inequity which militates against the catchy slogan of ‘‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’’ (inclusive growth), what debarred the FM from imposing levy on the super rich to garner additional revenue to finance essential public welfare measures? We know, she cannot. Because, they are instrumental in prolonging the gap between rich and poor in the class interest of the ruling monopolists they are committed to serve. This one example is enough to unfold the pro-rich, anti-people economic and fiscal policy of the government. Incidentally, the government which earlier negated any recognition too highly pernicious cryptocurrency, a convenient tool of wealth transaction in digital mode maintaining total anonymity, has undergone a somersault this time and announced launch of RBI-sponsored cryptocurrency. Not only that. The FM has imposed 30% tax on crypto-transactions knowing fully well that the very purpose of floating such a mode of transaction on digital base is to keep the entire operation undetectable.
Though this year’s budget speech customarily announced a plethora of schemes, it has evidently landed itself in a variety of contradictions. On the one hand, it talked of privatization while on the other, it promised more investment in the public sector. Similarly, it also spoke of encouraging growth of cities and mega cities and a massive increase in urbanization while talking of protecting the environment. Everyone knows that cities are guzzlers of energy and resources. One has to have a policy of creating smaller cities and not mega cities. How that is to be achieved requires planning, which is not in sight. Similarly, there is no fiscal relief to the common Indians while super-rich are allowed to multiply wealth by ruthless exploitation of the former.
The budget which has to give an action taken report of the previous year and concentrate on people’s welfare has, instead, been a hollow basket draped in variegated verbosity. Let us make no mistake–darker days are ahead. Only an organized people’s movement on the right track can force the government to take certain remedial measures.