B S Raghavan

Post-Budget ruminations

B. S. Raghavan | Updated on March 03, 2013

Now that the fizz of the initial reactions is spent, it is time to take note of the enormous enterprise that Budget-making in India represents. Putting together a Budget of close to Rs 20 lakh crore for a country of the complexity and diversity of India is truly a mammoth exercise. Indeed, because of different parts of India being in different stages of development, the Budget has to take into account the special features and requirements of not just one India, but several Indias.

Horizontally, there is first the developed India comprising the advanced States of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal; next, the BIMARU States of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh; then the still-to-settle-down States of Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand; the distant and off-the-mainstream States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, each with its own distinctive set of endowments and problems; and finally, the Island India of Andamans & Nicobar and Lakshadweep, which are mostly outside the ken of the people of the mainland.

Vertically, there are the three layers — the topmost being that of the super-rich, the middle consisting of the rising middle-class and the bottom one of the teeming numbers of the under-privileged and the vulnerable, and those below the poverty line, who have begun so show signs of restiveness.

Both the horizontally and vertically split Indias have sizeable proportions of youth and women. There is a whiff of a revolution of rising expectations in the air and no Government, sensitive to the origins of the Arab Spring and the recent upsurges which shook India itself, can afford to ignore the pressure that is building up in every section of the population demanding its legitimate and long-pending entitlements.

SAFETY VALVE

Thus, whichever party is in power, the Budget it frames will essentially be a patchwork of compromises and improvisations. It will be unrealistic to expect every loose end to be neatly tied up, every contingency taken care of and a definitive solution found for every problem.

Hence, the Budget, in circumstances such as those prevailing in India, should not be viewed simply as a litany of schemes and allocations or as a book-keeper’s ledger toting up the totals, neatly balancing the credit and debit sides. It has necessarily to serve as a safety valve, a beacon of hope, and a catalyst of accelerated development.

From that standpoint, I think, in the Budget of 2013-14, a systematic and frontal attack has been made on the challenges crying for immediate attention. In doing so, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, has taken sufficient care not to rock the economic boat and tried his best to remove the uncertainties and ambiguities that were the cause of uneasiness to the economic players and stakeholders.

What I liked the most about the Budget was that it has provided encouraging pointers, away from the glare and glamour of the big business, to some little-noticed aspects crucial to inclusive and sustained development that Chidambaram has rightly made out to be the nation’s watchword.

FUTURE SALVATION

First among them is the perceptible rise in the growth of agriculture and allied sectors from around 2.4 per cent to 3.6 per cent in the last decade or so.

The success of the efforts to reach the benefits of the Green Revolution to the Eastern States is also something that will contribute enormously to raising the quality of life of the people of those States by creating greater avenues for livelihood and generating resources for the important sectors of rural development, healthcare and education.

The increase of allocation by 22 per cent to agriculture and allied sectors and 46 per cent to rural development in the current Budget will certainly help build on some of the notable achievements already made.

The Budget provisions meant to give a fillip to projects relating to the clean-and-green energy and waste-to-energy projects may not be eye-catching, but they are vital for sustainable development.

The future salvation of India, indeed, any country, lies in a massive channelling of resources to the production of renewable and non-conventional energy, and with the increase of population and hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste swamping available space all over the country, the key to the protection of environment lies in the launching of schemes on a wide scale for converting waste into energy.

Published on March 03, 2013

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