NALSAR Lecture Series on Constitutionalism: Mr P. Chidambaram talk on Union Budget 2018-19

As part of NALSAR Lecture Series on Constitutionalism, Mr. P. Chidambaram delivered a talk on ‘Union Budget 2018-19’ in NALSAR University of Law. He started his talk with the relevance of budget to everyone in the country including Law students. “The budget is an important document and the budget speech is an important speech. Perhaps not many law students think that budget is a great concern to them. Actually it is. There is no activity which is unaffected by the budget. For example, Budget affects your Education Loans (with floating interest rates) and your Recruitment process. You should disabuse yourself if you think that budget won’t affect you.”

He then discussed the context of Union Budget 2018-19. “Every budget has a context that is objective and it must have a purpose that is subjective. What is the context of Union Budget 2018-19? While the world growth rate is steadily increasing, India’s growth rate is steadily decreasing. When the world growth rate is increasing, we expect India’s growth rate also to be increasing proportionately. India is growing but not as fast as it can. The second context to the budget is the price of crude oil. For many months, it remained below 40 dollars. During the previous government, it was never below 100 dollars. The government enjoyed the huge windfall of difference between 100 dollar and 40 dollars which might not be there.”

After discussing the context, he discussed about the Economic survey which was released prior to budget. “Did the budget meet what the Economic survey expected? Economic survey concluded that India faces 3 challenges i.e., Education, Employment and Agriculture sector after these 4 years. No tangible outcomes can be calculated for major flagship programmes like Swacch Bharat, Jan dhan etc. For example, toilets have been constructed but they are not in use because of there is no water. Economic survey acknowledges the problem and mentioned the problem but to overcome the difficulty, they are hoping that the world economy will continue to grow.”

After discussing about the Economic Survey, he discussed about the purpose of this budget. “This budget has failed to stimulate consumption and investment. The budget has nothing to do with the both. Consumption is the only way to keep the economy going. Now in this situation, shouldn’t the budget serve some purpose?

Is it promoting India’s Macro Economic Stability? – No.

Is it relieving the farmers from agricultural distress? – No.

Is it concentrating on Social sector? – No.

Since this is the budget before elections, did they follow ‘go for broke’ method? –  No.”

“The budget is completely silent on farming sector. It has provided nothing to relieve farmers from distress. India’s food requirement can only be met in India. We have to produce the food we need. The level of agricultural growth has remained constant throughout these 4 years. Real agricultural Revenue has also remained constant. In comparison to the non-agricultural income, the income of farmers has remained constant. Relatively, that sector has become poor. If there is inequality between farming sector and non-farming sector, then the 55%- 65% of the Indian population who are heavily dependent on agriculture have relatively become poorer.”

“Take Education, ACR report says that 8th standard student cannot do simple arithmetic and a 5th standard student cannot tell the time by looking at the clock. There is one part of the country where we find children going to IITs, NLUs and winning world cups and there is other side who cannot do simple arithmetic calculations. This country’s budget should lean in favour of the poor whatever the name you give it, be it communalism or socialism or anything. The government with a conscience should favour poor. This budget does nothing in relation to that.”

“If you look at both health and educational sectors after borrowing 3.5%, what is the consequence? There are hospitals without doctors and infrastructure and schools without teachers. We are postponing our targets to 2021/2022 in health and educational sectors. What does it mean? Many more people will be turned away and they won’t get the level of education they should be getting or the treatment they should be getting.”

“The budget announcement of mega health service insurance scheme for the poor as World’s largest health scheme is a jumla. Two years back, they made the same announcement and nothing has been done to that affect. They made the same announcement this year as well. It is not administratively possible to roll out this scheme. Not even a single rupee has been provided in the expenditure to that effect. The world’s largest health scheme is without debate, money and paper.”

“90% of non-government jobs are created by small and medium enterprise sector but most of the industries in that sector are closing down or are at the brink of closing down due to demonetization and flawed GST. The budget has failed to address this problem as well. If they are promoting frying pakodas as a job, it is an insult to the country. According to ILO, a job has to be regular, certain and reasonably secure. It is neither secure nor regular.”

He ended the talk saying that this budget has failed education sector, farming sector, social welfare and employment. And the only satisfaction from this budget is that this government will not present another budget.”

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