Dearth of funds for welfare
Modi’s budget antithesis of BJP menifesto
“I must here emphasize that this country is composed of different communities. All these communities are unequal in their status and progress. If they are to be brought to the level of equality then the only remedy is to adopt the principle of inequality and to give favoured treatment to those who are below the level…..”
About 75 years ago Dr. B. R. Ambedkar urged the Indian Parliament to take into consideration the socio-economic conditions in our country while formulating the Union budget. Our leaders have either forgotten his message or have been ignoring the glaring reality of inequality. The Constitution carries in itself special provisions for the protection and safe upbringing of the downtrodden and underdeveloped. Even the Directive Principles of State Policy carry these ideals. The Indian Constitution is not the idea of a single person, the Constituent Assembly toiled and debated over a period of three and a half years to come up with the world’s most elaborate Constitution. Articles 38 and 46 have been drafted to better cope the backward classes to a formerly oppressive system, the constitution instructs the state to make provisions for educational and economic reservations for people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes. the state holds the responsibility of nurturing the growth of these communities.
For the past 65 years various schemes have been launched but very few have been proved effective though they are under special Ministries and Departments, the Central Government plays an important role in formulating these schemes and implementing them.
The present Government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley showed no inclination to improve or add to the schemes but have cut down on welfare measures which generally form a huge part of the Union Budget. It can be clearly seen that the Union Budget was drafted in a way that favours Corporate sector and provide leeway for companies while the allocations to the schemes for welfare of pregnant women and infant children have been cut down by half (from INR 16,000 Crores to INR 8,000 Crores) which would adversely affect women and children below poverty line.
The fetus depends on its pregnant mother for its growth which again depends on the diet and level of care taken by the mother at the time of pregnancy. It is said that the primary half of the development of brain and mental faculties of the child take place in the womb and the rest in its infancy. It is only the harsh reality that the effect of this cut in the budget for the welfare of pregnant women will be acute on the weaker and downtrodden populace. The midday meal scheme that had an allocation of INR 13,000 Crores in 2014 has been cut down to INR 9,000 Crores. At a time when the midday meal scheme showed improvement in terms of rise in attendance and a decrease in drop-out rates. Children depend on this scheme owing to lack of nourishment at home. If this scheme is ever recalled we are sure to see a rise a child labour.
Health and family welfare have also seen a similar decline in allocation of funds (INR 35,163 crore to INR 29,653 crore). Health and medicare is still a sour grape scenario in rural India. People in the Adivasi areas often succumb to common fevers that are easily treatable in makeshift hospitals, and this is a cause of embarrassment and shame to those of us who have the luxury and access to medical facilities. Sarva Sikha Abhiyaan has been cut short by INR 6,000 Crore, which will only adversely effects those who are downtrodden and have no economic standing for the education which nowadays has become a business more than a responsibility of the government. A cut in the Rajiv Gandhi Fellowship for Higher Education also will have undesirable fallout.
The recent SC/ST Sub Plan has been a let-down with about a 50% cut from the allocated funds last year. It is important to notice that there is no mention of Adivasis or Dalits in the Budget speech or Economic Survey, moreover there is no sight of BJP keeping up to their Election Manifesto.
BJP, in its election manifesto had promised that it will work towards social equality and justice and removing economic inequality thus putting an end to identity politics. Moreover, promises were made regarding development of backward classes, scheduled caste and scheduled tribes; and that they will strive for equal opportunity in education, medical facilities and employment.
It is quite important however for us to look into the reasons for this dearth of funds for welfare in the Union budget this year. If the Indian economy is in fact weak more pressure has to be put on the industries and corporate houses, instead the industrial and corporate sectors have been given a total of INR 5,89,285 Crores in subsidies and incentives which is about 30% of our budget. This is the kind of preference the Corporate sector is receiving from the Modi government.
By doing away with the Planning Commission which has been functional in our country for the past six and a half decades, the Modi’s government might have caused more harm than good to the people. According to the recommendations of “Neeti Aayog” the funding to states from centre has been increased exponentially as a result of which there would be an increase of INR 1,09,000 Crores in the Union Budget. As consequence a whole avenue of social welfare has taken badly hit. This has been openly admitted by Minister of Human Resources, Smriti Irani.
It is not advisable to risk economic and social progress to increase the share of states from central revenue, this will only cause irreparable harm to the downtrodden and the poor. Many states have been cutting down on social welfare measures to provide for corporate incentives and subsidies. This can be seen as a deliberate attempt to enrich contractors in the infrastructure sector by providing more and more tenders in the name of development. No matter what increase the state shares see, the expenditure of the states will be no different from the past. With both center and states ignoring welfare sector, there is a chance that our country might stop providing succor to those in need. An example could be the post matriculation scholarships from the Central government, in case the Center and State stop providing such scholarships there is a chance that students belonging to SC/ST and BC communities may not be able to avail the facility of hostels.
Contituent Assembly witnessed a lengthy and meaningful debate on Centre and State relations, it was hoped and urged by the members, that the Center gains strength while giving freedom to the States. It was primarily argued that the fate of welfare cannot and should not be left in the hands of the States, as this may cause groups from the upper classes to try and subjugate those in the backward classes. The development and welfare of the backward classes had to be made a central subject so that there was uniform growth in society and all over the country and protection of rights of those who were suppressed. The present budget shows us that Modi’s government is proving to be the antithesis of what the makers of our constitution prescribed. There is hope only if our leaders and citizens realize and protest against the proposed budget and bring pressure on the government to make credible changes.