India is not for sale : Medha Patkar on Budget 2013

India is not for sale : Foreign Investments Can’t be the Bedrock of Indian Economy

In his budget speech, lasting for 2 hours, Mr. Chidambaram, the finance minister, with undoubted eloquence talked much about the poverty to equity, churned out thoughts and principles of taxing the rich, empowering women and youth, enabling the children, including the poor. However, if one looks at his principles and promises on one hand and the plans, projects and allocations on the other, one finds a very limited redressal of grievances and no fulfillment of dreams of the toiling sections of India.

capitalismAs expected, Finance Minister’s presentation of budget revolved much around the womenfolk, the question of violence, exclusion and security yet where are new plans to use the contributions of human resource, creativity, perseverance and hard work and the productivity with skills of Women? It is only a small share in the sectoral or schematic budget calculated on the basis of the proportional number of women as beneficiaries, that is projected as ‘ Gender-Budget’ indicator. Is that enough to ensure every girl child will get education, nutrition, health facility and every mother, a shelter and livelihood ? No! With no adequate increase in the budget allocation for health, education or even MGNREGA (Rozgar), human security will not be ensured. It’s unfortunate that while defence has got its due with no increase, yet no curtailment in the huge allocation as always. Security measures, social and economic, is beyond allocating funds for first women bank. Pension, provident fund or any livelihood security measures for women in farming to other unprotected sector would go a long way. No doubt, the first ever “Women’s Bank’ is a attractive gift but cash based approach to almost all welfare schemes now resorting to cash transfer is likely to expand to PDS sector too and no universalisation of PDS is certainly anti-women.

Inequity and inclusiveness have been the aspects of our social and economic scenario, highlighted time and again, by the PM to FM, however the highly inadequate solution is that of a small increase of about 14,000 crores to direct tax collection and 4,000 crores to indirect tax collection. It’s a welcome move to categorise those with income above 1 crore and earning above 10 crores yet the total collection by charging 10% of additional taxes, that too for one year can’t fool us who are challenging vulgar inequities, furthered by move such as 30 lakh crores worth tax/duty concessions granted to the corporates during just 6 years, 2005-2012.

Why not the optimum for Social Sectors?

No increase in allocation to education against 6% as suggested by Kothari Commission in 1966 and demanded by all people’s organizations is once again to be condemned, priority and allocation to not only Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan but with new innovative schemes to reach out to the dropouts, leftouts and thrown outs in millions is needed. ‘Health for all’ too is remaining to be a slogan more than a targeted goal with well planned approach. NREGA in the name of Mahatma also has not got the raise to cover all villages, districts, while there is not even a thought in favour of employment guarantee to the urban poor.

Foreign investments won’t boost growth and bridge fiscal deficit

The budget continues the path led out by his predecessors as visible in blind pursuit with the same paradigm based on FDI, FII and CII. Is the confidence that he has expressed in this foreign/corporate investments justifiable? Is it acceptable, given the past experience? The experience is, even a small percentage of foreign investment leads to a large extent of foreign ‘influence not only on the specific projects but policies’. The crucial sectors such as Khadi village industries and the micro, small, medium industries is also left to the World bank and other multinational development banks. But the sops to the corporate or the heavily funded ‘Infrastructure’ is not!

Undue importance given to infrastructure of one kind is obvious in the Budget. It’s establishment of 7 cities and ports under Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor and ports like Dholera, Gujrat and Shendra – Bidkin, Maharashtra. But this is not all. It’s known that progress on DMIC which FM specially mentioned, is towards acquiring/ diverting 3,50,000 hectares of land and yet, without impact assessment, necessary clearances, with no guarantee of more employment generation than to be lost, and with Japanese support. No concern is expressed for affected, while so many projects – industries, power to infrastructure are proposed. Without consent of the Gram- Sabhas or local urban unit, this is surely to crush life and livelihood.

The truly necessary infrastructure for the millions of urban poor is that of shelter and neighbourhood amenities. A passing mention of 2000 crores indicates, it is to be left to the private developers and not brought into the plan expenditure. Not a mention about Rajiv Awas Yojana which is the only scheme to usher in slum free cities, is not even mentioned.

We welcome higher allocation for SCs, STs, minorities as non- transferable, we appreciate some priority given to alternatives. India as a country firstly has to secure food, clothing, shelter and livelihood for every citizen before it becomes the 7th largest or fall in the 5 top economies of the world. We surely have to change, till then we can’t claim to have carried out our role within the fiscal regions and other world fora.

Medha Patkar

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