In the budget presented on February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that this budget has ushered in an amrit kal period , but for Dalits, tribals and farmers, this budgetary amrit period is a mirage and there is no way to face the challenges like inflation and unemployment in the budget.
This budget has once again confirmed that the Modi government is operating under a corporate economic policy. That is why this budget has given all the benefits to the corporate and upper-middle class.
People expected that MNREGA would increase the budget to meet the unemployment challenge and make some provision in the budget to tackle urban unemployment. 10 lakh crore capital expenditure will also be spent on the development of airports and heliports, which will benefit corporates.
As far as the skill development scheme that claims to help traditional artisans like potters, carpenters and blacksmiths is concerned, it is actually very meager and will not help them much.
When it comes to the social sector budget, there has been a marginal increase in the health and education sectors. The budget under the PM Awas Yojana has been increased by 66% to Rs 79,000 crore from Rs 48,000 crore, which again reflects concerns about the upcoming elections.
The total budget for the financial year 2023-24 is Rs 49,90,842.73 crore and the total allocation for the welfare of Scheduled Castes is Rs 1,59,126.22 crore (3.1%) and the total allocation for Scheduled Tribes is Rs 1,19,509.87 crore. 2.3%). Out of this, the target to reach Dalits is Rs 30,475 crore and the target to reach tribals is Rs 24,384 crore.
Dalit organizations across the country have been demanding an allocation of Rs 10,000 crore for post-matric scholarship scheme for a long time. Although the total fund this year is less than this demand, the increase in the allocation of the scheme is welcome. A provision of Rs 6,359.14 crore has been made under the Scheduled Caste budget and Rs 1,970 crore under the Scheduled Tribe budget for this scheme.
The total allocation for Saksham Anganwadi and Mission Shakti Yojana under the Ministry of Women and Child Development is Rs 20,554 crore. Out of which Rs 5,038 crore has been given to Scheduled Caste women and Rs 2,166 crore to Scheduled Tribe women. But if we look at the budget, no target has been fixed for this scheme and hence this scheme is not a targeted scheme for SC and ST community.
The analysis reveals that a large part of the approved budget has been allocated to irrelevant and generic schemes, ignoring the essential needs of these communities.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data, a total of 50,000 crimes against Dalits and tribals were reported in 2021. In which eight thousand crimes were committed against Dalit and tribal women.
Despite this, only Rs 150 crore has been earmarked for dealing with atrocities against Dalit women out of the Rs 500 crore budget earmarked for the implementation of the POA and PCR Acts.
It is very regrettable that even after a decade of the ‘Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers Act 2013’, the heinous practice of manual scavenging still persists. According to the Ministry of Social Justice Authority, 58,089 manual scavengers have been identified across the country. But it is disappointing that the ‘Self-Employment Scheme for the Rehabilitation of Sanitation Holders’ has been rejected this year and no provision has been made for it. There is no provision in this budget for “special post-matric scholarship scheme for children of parents engaged in unsanitary and unsanitary occupations”.
Rs 97 crore has been earmarked for a new scheme called Namaste, which aims to promote mechanization in sanitation work. The establishment of a new mission for the development of especially vulnerable tribal groups with an allocation of Rs 256 crore is a welcome step.
Focusing on Eklavya Adarsh Residential Schools is very important for the development of Scheduled Castes and has been allocated Rs 5,943 crore in this financial year. There was a need for more community-oriented programs in the budget, but instead of the development of scheduled castes and tribes, the budget has laid more emphasis on infrastructure development.
On the other hand, in the budget for the financial year 2023-24, only Rs 10 crore has been allocated for madrassas and education scheme for minorities. 160 crore was allocated in the budget for 2022-23, which is 93 percent short.
The total budget allocation for educational empowerment of minorities has been increased from Rs 2,515 crore last year to Rs 1,689 crore this year. The budget for research schemes for minorities has also been reduced to Rs 20 crore from last year’s budget of Rs 41 crore. The PMJV’s budget was Rs 1,650 crore last year, which has been increased to Rs 600 crore this year.
If we look at the provision of agriculture sector in the budget, it has decreased instead of increasing, it is like cheating the sentiments of the farmers. In 2022-23, the allocation for agriculture sector has come down from 3.84% to 3.20% now. Similarly, the budget for rural development has also reduced to 5.29% from earlier 5.81%.
The chemical subsidy has come down to Rs 175,000 crore from Rs 225,000 crore in the previous budget.
The budget earmarked Rs 73,000 crore for MGNREGA in 2022, but the government had to spend Rs 90,000 crore in the face of rising unemployment and rising demand in rural areas. At a time when the economy in general and the rural economy and employment in particular is in dire straits, it is inconceivable that the government has reduced the provision for MGNREGA by ₹30,000 crore to ₹60,000 crore.
A shocking revelation has already been made about the much-hyped Kisan-Sanman Fund that the number of its beneficiaries has drastically reduced. Where the farmers expected an increase from 6 thousand to 12 thousand, now the total provision for it has been brought from 68 thousand crores to 60 thousand crores.
Similarly, the budget for the PM Fasal Bima Yojana, which was meant to protect farmers against losses due to natural calamities, has also come down to Rs 13,625 crore from last year’s Rs 15,500 crore.
The government has moved away from the issue of doubling farmers’ income and guaranteeing MSP. “The Union Budget 2023 is silent on the status of minimum support price (MSP) for crops as recommended by the Swaminathan Commission and the steps to be taken to ensure legal guarantee of MSP to farmers,” said the budget while the government has unreasonably opposed farmers’ demand for MSP and its guaranteed price. Even modest efforts to do so have been eliminated.”
“Allocation of major schemes like PM Annadata i Sankarshan Abhiyan (Asha) has been steadily declining. 2 years ago it was ₹ 1500 crore. In 2022 it was ₹ 1 crore. Only ₹ 1 crore has been allocated to protect 15 crore agricultural families
“Also, the allocation for price support scheme and market intervention scheme was reduced from ₹3,000 crore to ₹1,500 crore in 2022 and has come down to an unimaginable ₹10 lakh this year. In fact, no substantial provisioning effort is seen by the government regarding Asha, PSS and MIS, and with it farmers’ hope of getting the minimum support price for crops has been dashed.”
“With such massive cuts in all farm inputs, the government’s intention is clear: to take away the purchasing power of India’s agriculture sector and farmers.” This seems to be the purpose
Vikas Parasram Meshram is a journalist