The Statue Of Liabilities: A Budget Of Blunders And Misplaced Priorities

Posted on July 11, 2014 in Politics

By Mayank Jain:

The budget of hope, as it was fondly called by the media and especially the party itself, has turned out to be a lukewarm pot of alms and appropriations which look good from far away but a close scrutiny confirms the fact that ‘devil is in the details’.

Picture Credit: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Picture Credit: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Arun Jaitley was in no mood for literary ostentation as he went on demarcating the expenditures and revenue sources with minimal explanation or larger picture references, much like the bullet trains promised by the Railway Minister just two days back. The budget is a great tool to correct what’s wrong and build what’s missing but India needs much more than that. When we were in the need of social change, equitable distribution of resources, public sector spending and fiscal discipline that goes beyond mere words, we got this budget which hardly fulfills any of the above purposes. All Jaitley looks keen on doing with this budget is to focus on taking up ‘challenges’ that weren’t posed to him in the first place and brag about great targets that the government is setting for itself which are ultimately doomed since there are no plans or checks in place. Forget about plans, there are no substantial allocations of funds either in some crucial areas.

Statue of Wastage

What do you do with 2,500 crores to spare in a country of malnourished and impoverished people? You build an iron statue of a national figure which will compete with the Eiffel tower in height and hence provide food for the Indian ego for a long time to come. Because, who needs wheat and rice to fill their stomachs? We are getting a really tall statue in Gujarat. The budget appropriations were going considerably fine until Jaitley appropriated a whole lot of money to the ambitious statue in Gujarat which Narendra Modi promised in his election speeches. Precisely, 200 crores have been appropriated from the current budget but women’s safety had to take a backseat in his list of priorities as only 150 crores got allocated.

Muddled up priorities

The whole cost of this debacle will be more than 2,500 crores and the statue will stand tall as a testimony to our collective stupidity and prodigal wastefulness to turn our prime minister’s reverence into a national liability. Fun Fact: We could do 5 similar Mars missions in the same amount and still be left with money to spare and spend. On women’s safety, this time at least. It is horrific to see the budget full of similar appropriations which are totally reckless in some places including Ganga Restoration Project which will take a bigger chunk of our revenues in this year. 2,037 crores have been allocated in this regard which is an almost 566 per cent increase from the last appropriation made for the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit and Flood Management Programme.

The budget is government’s show of commitment to things which could definitely come much lower in our list of priorities. The 10,000 crores fund for the startups is a welcome move but how do you justify only 100 crores for a sports university and the same amount for training of athletes? Why are we looking at things from a short term point of view? Patching it up with the 100 crores chips is something that our Finance Minister must answer. 100 crores were given to Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyaan which is clearly not a fair appropriation to something as pervasive as the dwindling sex ratio in the country where a huge population is still marred by dogma and prefers to kill girl child rather than raise them up. A similar fate has been dished out to other important things like e-classrooms or widespread healthcare programs which weren’t announced and only renamed or revived on the UPA’s footsteps and quite unlike the promise of a golden future that the party made in every part of the country.

Statue Of Limitations

The budget is an average one, to be lenient in judgment, and might work well for the economy due to better taxation policy but the fact that government conveniently refrained from giving any timelines for things as important as the Goods and Services Tax proves that there is much hiding in the lines that we haven’t read so far. With no mention whatsoever of much needed reforms, the government played safe and avoided any controversy and removed the possibility of many critical op eds. Progress, however, needs bold steps and more than just Public Private Partnerships which appear to be a solution to everything now.

Till the time we see the next budget, the picture will be clearer and the facts will have settled in the public domain about the utility of the Statue of Unity. Meanwhile, we can only hope that they put solar cells on the statue and at least derive some much needed power while we are busy fulfilling the ambitions of that one man who sold us the ‘development dream’ with money that we save off from bribes.

PS: There was no mention of words like corruption and black money, forget appropriation of money to fix the problems.

Is development too, a state of mind?

To know more about this story and what I think, follow me on Twitter at @mayank1029