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

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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


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  1. Anubhav Singh

    kya baat hai, dur dur tak koi modi supporter nahi nazar ara?

  2. Contrasting Articles

    This is so much in contrast to your yesterday’s article on the budget.

    Though I have to agree about the statue;To put it in simple words;Its a useless waste of money,metal & labour.

    1. Mayank Jain

      Yes. It is my job to bring out both the sides to a story but this is definitely the more appalling one. Thank you for the comment.

  3. Pooja Arora

    So yet again highlighting the negativities without going into the economics of it, without checking the scope which government had. Please highlight what so much good was given in the budget.
    1) Pretty good investments in manufacturing and infrastructure thus giving jobs hence growth based budget
    2) While UPA was totally capital account based budget, this budget is revenue based because at the end government can’t take burden of expenses
    3) While subsidies could be reduced but yet untouched because of prediction of poor monsoons. Still quite better is proposed.
    4) Again 10 years tax exemption to projects in power sector for next 3 years to improve growth
    5) To initiate growth further, exemptions on PF, income of all by 50K
    6) To retain the right of government status quo on retrospective taxes and again a committee further to boost investments.
    7) It’s just 45 days for the government and you want results on DTC issues and what not. Still the good thing to close this chapter in positive note by the end of this year
    8) FDIs increased in Defence & insurance again to boost growth
    List is endless. Exceptions are there but a few as to what you wrote a whole article over river fund allocation and statue of unity funds. If you had tried written the other side, the write-up would be worth reading & informative thus creating positive opinion amongst people

    lastly just quoting the 1st line of Mr FM’s speech:
    “Its not wise to expect everything that can be done to be done in the first budget announced within first 45 days of formation of the Government”

  4. Prashant Kaushik

    The world is full of such intellectuals who would cry foul at Modi’s attempt at building an architectural marvel, and who flock to foreign locations to waste an years saving’s on Honeymoon tourism there.
    Not directed to you Mr Mayank, but I am sick of many dozens of people who spend a plethora of foreign Currencies just to get an Eiffel tower or London’s eye pic in their honeymoon albums. The same breed of learned people, after having contributed in the rising demand of Dollar currency and Rupee fall, come back home and cry a lot that money is being wasted in India on useless structures!!!!

    We can waste Couple of year’s earning on stupid marriage functions to fake our richness , burn entire months salaries on Diwali /New year celebrations , but when some one is spending 200 crore /1800000 crore i.e. 0.0001 fraction of Budget on building a National Memorial, then suddenly our prudence for Expenditure is awakened !!

    And Mr Writer, are you going to give us a final rating of this budget based just upon the entitlement of this 0.01 %age of Budget ??
    Any talk of the remaining 99.99 % ?

    1. Umm Hello !?!!

      Firstly the statue is allocated 200 crore from the Union budget;The entire cost of building the statue is estimated around 2500 crore;I respect your sentiment but there is a difference between countries like India and UK/France.I’m not saying this in a way to insult India but we have serious problems we need to deal with – The major ones being Malnutrition – About 2/3rd of the country still doesn’t get 3 square meals a day
      Infrastructure – Indian infrastructure is seriously lagging behind.
      Education – We still are lagging behind in providing basic education to most people.There is a serious need of more schools especially in the rural areas and the ones that are already there are in a sordid state.Even private instituitions are not up to the mark.And again we need more ‘Quality’ colleges.Think in the 2500 crores spent on the statue,How many colleges could have been built?

      These are just sliver of Problems;The list goes on & on & on !

      You say about us burning our pockets on foreign vacations ; How many percent of Indians do you think can afford a vacation in a destination in India itself let alone think of foreign destinations like UK or France.I’d say less than 5-10 percent.

      And you are comparing chalk & cheese.We are public ;Our job is to vote ;Pay our taxes dutifully; Follow rules and be good citizens;If we do this then we are justified to spend our money wherever the hell we want as this Is a democracy and we are all entitled to our personal choices. They on the other hand are in the government.Its their job to govern this nation without spending colossal amounts on useless projects.

      So I would suggest you use your conscience and think if we really need that statue.We already have enough monuments which are seriously illmaintained.

      Maybe when we are a developed nation with none of those problems ;Hell yes we should build such statues and many other more artifacts for Indians and the world to adore.But for now We don’t need it!Period!!

    2. Prashant Kaushik

      How can u so easily underestimate the foreign currencies which people of this country spend in tourist activities on foreign shores ?
      If that precious money is spent within India, it can generate far more employment opportunities that that token of subsidy of Rs 200 Crore could.
      For me its a moral duty and a pledge that I will spend my precious honeymoon money in some Sikkim, Rajasthan or Kerala or some other Indian territory, .. so that my own people get the economic benefit out of that extra money.
      But here lies the hypocrisy, people have no remorse in contributing in the growth of western elitist economies, and then come back to cry foul at an Indian’s attempt to create an architectural marvel.

      You just cant have double standards for your personal life and the government of India.
      Ethics are universal and they don’t change even if you earn handsome and have paid your taxes.

      And I don’t know why you are unnecessarily linking that 200 Crore with malnourishement/ illiteracy. I guess that’s an emotional trap.
      Schemes and programs to address malnourished or illiterate people, such as Mid-day meal, Right to food, Universal education are already existing and they run into whooping LAKHS OF CRORES OF Rupees. A 200 Crore more or less, will hardly make a difference there.

      Moreover, There is no dearth of schemes and budgetary allocation for literacy and malnourished. What lacks is there implementation as all money is eaten up by corrupt bugs of middlemen. Even if we were to add 400 Crore Rs, that would hardly make a difference there.

      Get out of your comfort zone and stop being a sadistic critic.

    3. LOL

      So you think one statue will bring a radical change in the tourist industry ? Lol

      We already have a host of monuments which are seriously unmaintained.In fact India has one of the largest number of UNESCO heritage sites which are around 32 and still many places exist which are worthy of receiving this status but are not recognised,Again due to the lack of interest & duty by the government.So even if we want to allocate a portion of budget for monuments,Let us first maintain the existing ones and then go on further creating new ones.

      And you say foreign funds.Again mister,India is one of the top tourist destinations in the world.We already receive a high sum of foreign funds from tourists of other countries,And may recieve more if government as well as Public do more.Anyways as I said earlier,very few Indians can afford the luxury of a vacation and most of them select a destination in India itself due to cost.And Why shouldn’t Indians go abroad when they have the chance? Why shouldnt we learn about other cultures ?

      And sir,As I said the entire cost of the statue is 2500 crores.200 crores is just the budget allocated to the statue from the Union budget.Now call me sadist but I’d rather that money be diverted to anything use full like I dunno ;Women’s security or Education or anything which is productive.

      How do you plan to recover 2500 crores in a short span of time ?Do you expect people to come on their honeymoons to see the statue? Do the maths !

    4. Prashant Kaushik

      You have created a loop bringing same stale arguments over and over again. You are rigid and adamant not to come out of that vicious circle, and I don’t want to repeat them the 3rd time, though you may derive pleasure in quoting them again and again.
      Worse, you have mixed up some nuisance wrong facts (such as India getting enough number of tourists )
      Against my desire, I am explaining you again. ( and Last time)
      200rs crore figure is a minuscule amount compared to Lakhs of Crores of Rs which are allocated every year (including this year) to Education, Health , Food and so called social welfare schemes. 200 Crore don’t make any difference there.
      Go read the budget. If you don’t understand read it again. Refer the entire script than just an opinionated biased column. If you still don’t understand consult some one who has read and has good knowledge of budget, policies, history more than you.

      Now coming to other points raised by you.
      No. of tourists arriving in India is less than half of those visiting a tiny city sized country like Singapore. Yes we should take care of existing monuments, but there is no harm in creating another monument which serve dual purpose of tourism as well as National pride. Most existing monuments are legacy of a colonial humiliation. Nothing worthwhile has been created in free Independent India, which could symbolize and strengthen our pride, our unity, our confidence and our faith in our selves .
      The monuments made in free India were restricted to Gandhi-Nehru family or some individualistic political party.

      Here we have a monument, which cuts across all party line, all races, all castes, all regions, all languages. I don’t bother who is building it and for what purpose he built, all that matters is that tomorrow when it stands tall in glory, every child who sees it will feel inspired by it.
      If I want to pray I have a thousand temples or Church or Mosques to go, But what if I want to pray to my motherland ? Hardly a place dedicated for this purpose.

      Most middle class families who don’t spend even 2-5 lakhs on their child education easily spend 10-30 lakhs on marriage.
      MNC spend hundereds of crores to build their image.
      Example are many.
      So Why do you have a problem when a meager 200 Crore allocated to Showcase the idea of a United Strong, Confident and Resurgent India.
      Now, don’t drag Food, Education problems again for a 4th time. Am repeating it again, for them, we do have separate departments and schemes which get thousands time more than this 200 Crore.

      P.S. If you have any fresh arguments, you are welcome to bring them.
      If you bring the same stale or wrong facts, I would rather cease replying on this thread.

    5. Gaurav

      I completely agree with you, indians will go abroad to see ….. statue of libert (america) or eiffel tower but we do not want statue of unity,
      as indians we need to introspect what makes us feel so inferior .
      Why have we lost our self esteem ? those who talk about money should know that the monument will also be a tourist attraction and money will be recovered by the boost to tourism. so why are we hiding behind 200 crore or more.

    6. Gaurav

      Larsen and Tobrou have bid for the project, there bid is 2980 crore and it will take 42 months to build. so let L&T build it as a tourist attraction. btw there is a war memorial also coming up. hope indians do not find that objectionable

    7. Aman

      Well yes it can be said that the Government has thought that building a statue would increase revenue by increasing tourism…But the argument that indians spend a lot of money on wanting to see Eiffel tower or going abroad is an ludicurous argument…As Indians going to France/US/China dont just see Eiffel tower or statues ..they see and do many things in France or any other destination. You cannot stop them (That too by building a statue never) no matter what as it is there will and wish to see the world….infact many must have seen India as well from North to South..Just like a person in France irrespective of been having an Eifel tower will definately want to come to India (or for that sake may even go to Africa to experience the Jungle adventure) if he can afford to do that and yes the reason will not just be Statue of Unity but all possible things that he can do or visit in his stay…We Indians are very obssesed and money minded …If it would have been only Eifel tower or statue of Liberty do you think any of them would have gone there….Never…

      But yes i back the decission of the government as they should have some Fiscal space to implement there own decissions or invest on some matters for inclusive growth…and 200 crores is just a nominal amount….And if it is going to fetch 1000 crores say in 5 or 10 years it is still a good buisness deal that i would say….Lastly i would say it is good that people are doing an excellent Job of beign a critique as well as demanding …..As this sends a clear message that nothing of the mistakes that they did in the past are going to be repeated and every decission of the governement is under scrutiny….Good going India ,…This is how Democracy is actually wining…

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