Budget 2023 – Election Budget?
Budget 2023 presented in Parliament today (01.02.2023) is hailed by some as the ‘Election Budget’ and ‘Pro Middle Class budget’ etc. But if you look at it deeply, you can easily understand that it is a budget mainly for the corporates! How? Let us analyze!
Income Tax: People are overwhelmingly praising the budget as people friendly because tax slabs are liberalized by the Finance Minister! What is the liberalization offered? Earlier exemption to taxation for income was given up to 2,50,000/-. We were demanding this ceiling of taxation should be revised as 10,00,000/-. Some Pensioners Associations were even demanding that the Pension quantum should be exempted from taxation for long. But repeatedly the Government at the Centre had denied any relief to the wage earning and pension earning sections in the past! In this budget also the limit is marginally enhanced to 3,00,000/- from 2,50,000/-. Just taxation limit is refixed for an income of additional 50,000/- only. Immediately, the budget is showered with encomiums! The tax rebate up to 7 lakhs income is like a drop in the ocean of many ills faced by us due to inflation and denial of DA/DR arrears for 18 months. Any one whose earnings is more than seven lakhs, he would get exemption only up to 3 lakhs and at the prevailing rates (5%) he has to pay tax for his income above 3 to 6 lakhs and for the amount above 6 lakhs at the rate of 10% as per new Income Tax rates.
Railways: People are appreciating the news that the plan outlay for Railways is highest ever with 2.4 lakh crores earmarked for the financial year 2024. But read the news that 75 Vande Bharat Trains are going to be rolled out! There is no assurance in the budget that the Railways will not be privatized! On the other hand, Railways are going to be bartered at a price far inferior to the value to the Corporates after spending more money of the exchequer. The announcement that there will be more Vande Bharat Trains means that there will be more privatization! What is there to rejoice?
The Budget maintains a wonderful silence about recruitment of youth to the regular jobs in Railways and other Government and Public Sector Undertakings. Lakhs of vacancies are remaining to be filled in Railways and other Departments! Even during the presentation of so-called Election Budget, the Central Government is not coming forward to make any verbal assurance of filling the vacancies!
NPS: There is no mention about the woes of NPS employees and workers. The Central Government is not coming forward to introspect the NPS scheme even after 18 long years! Six State Governments in India have repudiated NPS and opted for OPS. The Central Government and the Reserve Bank Of India are threatening those State Governments that they will face stringent financial crisis if they want to revert to OPS! What is the meaning? The pro-corporate stance of the Central Government towards NPS will be strictly implemented in the future also whether there will be general elections or not.
Defence: Defence Budget has been hiked by enormous 13%! A huge sum of 5.94 lakh crores are earmarked for Defence. What is not mentioned here is that privatization of defence going to be a major policy of the Government. We know that the Army Personnel were exempted from NPS ealier. But now in the name of Agnipath any regular appointment or pension will be denied to them. The current budget is not going to remove the burden imposed on the Indian Youth!
Jobs: The Budget on the other hand not speaks much about creation of Jobs! It says about schemes but only to create jobs for some lakhs of youth. Stress is given for job opportunities in foreign countries! Meaning is very clear. The crores of educated and uneducated youth are going to get only oral assurances which will never be implemented as in the past budgets. Lakhs of vacancies in the Government and Public sector will go unfilled and regular jobs will be given to contractors and the industries will be disinvested to corporates!
MGNREGS Scheme: A Scheme started in the UPA-1 regime which will guarantee the families in rural areas that they will not sleep hungry but ensured of a minimum income is not encouraged by the budget. A huge cut of 32% in the budget for MGNREGS shows clearly that the present Government is not ensuring the poor to get any assured income.
Postal: What is the plan outlay allotted for Postal? Around 25,000 crores! For what use? Even improving the infrastructure of computers with replacements all over India and updating of software etc., alone will cost huge in the Postal. But the Government is silent on these vital aspects. There is no guarantee that the Postal will not be corporatized and the functions of Postal will be executed only by Postal Staff. Concessions shown towards Senior Citizen Savings Schemes are of course welcome. But by attacking the working people below the belts and granting some concessions for the retired people at the time of retirement while denying pension in the name of NPS are not going to be praised by the retiring people.
In total, the budget is not for the common workers and people in general but for the welfare of the corporate sections as usual, even though this is the last full budget of the present Central Government before General Elections!