The Union Budget seems to have gone along the lines that fit this government — more for the rich and corporates, and less for the social sector.
The Rural Development budget has been reduced from ₹80,000 to ₹7,1000 crore with dramatic cuts, in almost every scheme except for MGNREGA and PMGSY.
Even the increases barely keep pace with inflation, and to really understand prioritisation of social sector expenditure, a true indicator would be to see if the allocation of the particular sector remains at least the same as a percentage of GDP.
MGNREGA is a curious case in this Budget. It’s increase has been a nominal ₹550 crore. However, as a percentage of GDP, allocation for MGNREGA has fallen from 0.8 per cent in 2009-10 to roughly 0.2 per cent of GDP last year.
That explains why the expenditure in the last two years has exceeded allocations by more than 20 per cent, leaving huge unpaid balances with crores of workers suffering deep distress for non payment and delayed payment of wages.
New category The curious assurance by the Finance Minister that MGNREGA may get another ₹5,000 crore is without precedence. It seems to indicate that there is a new category of waitlisted allocations that will get money only if and when revenue is collected! In any case, it is a violation of the MGNREGA which is by law based on demand, and cannot be constrained by budgetary allocations.
Greater devolution of Central Tax Revenue to States, means the Budget needs deeper and detailed analysis. There have nevertheless been unambiguous cuts across the social sector with Dalits, tribals, marginalised groups and their Ministries being squeezed for funds.
The Panchayati Raj Ministry is being allocated a total of ₹90 crore to look after the interest of decentralised governance in the country.
On the revenue side, the reduction in corporate taxes from 30 per cent to 25 per cent clearly indicates the government’s priorities and for whom the ‘achche din’ will ring true.
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