The dwindling allocation for social sectors attracted criticism from not just the Opposition parties but even from pro-Government trade unions such as the BMS.

The farmers’ organisations and trade unions in the Opposition camp also urged the Centre to increase the allocations to social welfare schemes, such as the MGNREGA.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said every key subsidy has been slashed. He said the petroleum subsidy has been slashed from ₹6,517 crore to ₹5,813 crore and the fertiliser subsidy is down from ₹1,40,000 crore to ₹1,05,000 crore. He said the food subsidy, too, faced cuts from ₹2,86,219 crore to ₹2,06,481 crore. Similarly, the outlay for agriculture and allied activities — which was 4.3 per cent of the GDP — came down to 3.84 per cent of the GDP. The subsidy for crop insurance was ₹15,989 crore and it decreased to ₹15,500 crore.

MGNREGA allocation down

Most of the criticism is against cutting the MGNREGA allocation to ₹73,000 crore from the revised estimates in 2021-22 of ₹98,000 crore. “The total subsidy bill has been cut by a humongous 27 per cent. This is the ‘most unkindest cut’ in this Budget. The FM may have forgotten the poor but the poor have long memories,” Chidambaram said.

The CPI(M) said in all the recent years, the government has not spent even the meagre allocation for welfare of children. “The revised estimates for expenditure on welfare of children is ₹5,700 crore — less than what was budgeted. Nothing has been done to help children cope with the devastating impact of closure of schools and anganwadis,” the party said.

Similarly, criticism is there on allocation of funds for the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, though it shows a marginal increase. The criticism is that it does not factor inflation. “Similarly, the renaming of mid-day meal scheme as PM Poshan could not raise the allocation from ₹10,234 crore despite the fact that 35 per cent of children did not receive MDM last year. The Finance Minister talked about Narishakti upgrading two lakh anganwadis but the allocation is frozen at the revised estimates at ₹20,000 crore,” the CPI(M) said.

The CPI said the decision to extend red carpet welcome to foreign universities will accentuate the class divide in the education sector resulting in the denial of access to poor Dalits, tribals and the downtrodden to higher education.

Farm and rural economy hit

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha said the allocation for the Market Intervention Scheme is ₹1,500 crore, while the actual expenditure last year was ₹3,596 crore. “These amounts are paltry compared to anywhere between ₹50,000 and ₹75,000 crore which is the estimated shortfall between MSP and the actual price obtained by the farmers in the markets nationwide. Allocations for MGNREGA have been reduced relative to the expenditures of the previous years, though the scheme has been very important for sustaining the rural economy and the rural poor during the past several years including the pandemic crisis. The actual expenditure in 2020-21 was ₹111,169 crore, the revised estimate in 2021-22 was ₹98,000 crore; while the budget allocation for 2022-23 has been reduced to ₹73,000 crore, whereas it should have been further strengthened,” the SKM said.

The BMS said a major disappointment in the Budget was the decision to not to increase the pension under the EPS 95. “Similarly, the government has left the income tax slab unchanged for another year. Revised fiscal deficit of 6.9 per cent is a matter of concern. It seems that the government is tilting towards privatisation,” the BMS said.

The CITU said this Budget exposed anti-people contractionary character of the Centre. “The revenue expenditure of ₹3.19-lakh crore supposed to include the so-called host of welfare schemes named after Prime Minister marks an increase by less than one per cent, despite a huge increase in GST collection as boasted by the Finance Minister in her Budget speech,” the CITU said.

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