March 21, 2013
Speech of Shri Sukhendu Sekhar Roy in the Discussion of Budget 2013-14 on 21.3.2013
When we look at this Budget, we find an element of Alchemist as well as Fortune Teller, in our Finance Minister as he said and I quote, ‘Our goal is higher growth leading to inclusive and sustainable development. That is the mool mantra‘ (unquote). But Sir, the mool mantra sounds like bhool mantra. Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development have been proved to be merely slogans or rhetoric for public consumption.
On a careful analysis of this anti-people Budget, one will find that in the name of reducing fiscal deficit, it fails to raise social sector expenditure which is badly needed for the poor. The budget fails to stimulate growth and it makes relative economic stagnation and high inflation. The Govt’s bias towards foreign capital has become more brazen. When a quantum speeding leap is needed to make foodgrains available at affordable prices through a Universal Public Distribution System, the food subsidy is raised to a laughable Rs 5000 crores over last year’s revised estimate. MNREGA has been frozen at last year’s level of Rs 33,000 crores and well below its peak allocation of Rs 40,000 crores. Allocation to Health and Family welfare is raised by a paltry 8% which is less than the inflation rate. This will lead to further impoverishment, ill health and miseries to poorer section of the society. Allocation for Pradhan Mantri Gram Sarak Yojna has also been reduced to half which will affect road expansion in the Rural India.
Sir, the Govt’s pro rich bias is writ large everywhere in this Budget. Revenue to the extent of Rs 5,73,630 crores was foregone in 2012-13 through tax write-offs and exemptions and this figure is 130% higher than in 2006-2007. This amount is larger than the entire fiscal deficit. And pursuant to this budget, the poor must bear the burden from reduced social spending and higher indirect taxes on the commodities of mass consumption like kerosene, clothing and footwear. The Non-Performing Assets of PSU Banks rose to Rs 2,25,000 crores in Dec 2012.Who are the top 50 Wilful defaulters? Govt. has taken refuge to RBI Rules not to disclose their names. More than Rs 13000 crores have been diverted by a number of Big Companies for the past 3 years in contravention of the External Commercial Borrowing Scheme.
No punitive action has yet been taken by the Reserve Bank. Why and at whose instance? This is another scam. And this is the real picture of Aam Admi Sarkar.
Sir, opening up Multibrand retail, aviation and Direct to Home Services to FDI, in addition to petroleum, power and real estate is not enough for the super greedy capital. It always wants more and our Govt. has invited foreign capital and suspect investment through tax havens or double taxation avoidance treaty like Mauritius and Finance Minister’s declaration that Indian tax authorities will ask proof of income through routes like Mauritius proved to be a hoax since the next day of his Budget speech it was withdrawn following loss of 291 points in the Sensex. The implementation of GAAR has also been deferred in supersession of the Budget announcement of his predecessor-in-office. The McKinsey Global Institute Report has estimated global capital flows were 13% lower in 2012 than 2011 and 61% below the peak of 2007. Hence, to bank on FDI substantially would be suicidal for our alarming economic situation. If we do so India will be a big Casino for the foreign players.
Sir, the FM has referred in his budget that India ranks 10th among economically advanced country. While I look at the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2013, I find the HDI Profile of India is at 136 among 187 countries, 53.7% Indian live in Multi Dimensional poverty and another 16.4% are vulnerable to multiple deprivations. Only 29 countries do worse in this field than India. Maternal mortality rate per 1 lakh live births is 200 and Children under 5 mortality rate per 1000 live births is 63. Hence, in so far as the Human Development Report is concerned ,we share our position with Equatorial Guniea, a country, name of which is hardly known to people. What a shame! Perhaps, this is why renowned social activist and a Member of NAC, Smt. Aruna Roy has commented and I quote “the truth is: the budget perpetuates what it claims to tackle centuries of neglect, discrimination and deprivation” (Unquote). She has also deplored the so-called success story of Aadhar-based Direct Cash Benefit Transfer in most districts and has claimed no impact. More than 60% of our people do not get banking services. How the benefits will reach them within one year?
Hence, ‘Aap Ka Paisa Aap Ka Haath’ is essentially a pre-election slogan like ‘Garibi Hatao’ to ensure ‘Aap Ka Vote Congress ke Haath’. Lekin Desh Ki Janta Ki Awaz aap sun nahin pa rahe hain. Janta bol rahi hai ‘Hamne ki thi unse bafa ki ummid, Jo nahin jante bafa kya hota hai’.
Sir, India’s trade imbalance is 11% of GDP. In terms of Fiscal Deficit, India’s position is 148 among 150 countries. Import is more than Export-61% of GDP. External Debt is 25% more than our Foreign Exchange Reserve. Employment generation is 0.41% in 2011-2012 compared to 2.08% during 2004-2005. Inflation in Vegetables, Pulses etc. is about 11% at present. Yet the Govt. is happy with Moody’s assessment. The Govt. has no assessment about the mood of the people. People feel themselves alienated. Fears abound that if India does not grow continuously at the rate of 8% there will be danger to basic equilibrium that keeps India united. Derek Scissors of the Washington based think tank – Heritage Foundation, has commented on our Budget saying (quote) ‘the proposal for the year is a triumph of hope over courage: spending is to increase by 17%,yet the deficit is to fall to 4.8% of GDP. This won’t happen. Govt. revenue and GDP will continue to disappoint, deficits will continue to be high and consumers will continue to suffer. This is the path India remains on’ (Unquote). What a mess the mandarins of North Block and Yojna Ayog have created.
Sir, there is no whisper in this Budget about recovery of Black Money since the Govt. has wilfully neglected and deliberately failed to recover Black Money from within and outside our country. Report of Washington-based Global Financial Integrity of Nov 2010 shows that between 1948 and 2008, i.e; 60 years of Indian Independence, illicit financial flow in our country was 213 billion US Dollars and it rose to 462 billion dollars in 2010, a rarest of the rare achievement that the UPA-II Govt. can claim. The underground economy of our country, as per the report, was 640 billion US Dollars at the end of 2008. As per 2012 Report of Transparency International, India ranks 94 among 174 countries in Corruption Perception Index. So, Black Money also does not grow on trees, but blooms underground.
Sir, the National Commission to Review the Working of Constitution recommended inter alia in 2002 for doing away with surcharges as part of the Union’s fiscal armoury. Yet in this Budget,10% surcharges has been imposed on a section of private individuals, etc and additional 5% surcharges for domestic companies and 3% increase for foreign companies. Well, this is another way to deprive the states in revenue sharing since under article 271 of the Constitution whole proceeds of such surcharges shall form part of the Consolidated Fund of the Union. The enhanced surcharge ought to have been in the direct tax net.
Sir, examples are galore in regard to financial dictatorship of the centre. I am citing only one example. Take the case of West Bengal. A govt. ruled and ruined Bengal for long 34 years, nowhere in the world this has happened. After the change of guards at Writers’ Building in 2011, the newly elected Govt found that more than 2 lakh crores of loan had been thrusted upon it. Ms Mamata Banerjee, the Hon’ble C.M of Bengal urged upon the Central Govt. not for any dole or package, but to put a Moratorium on this huge loan amount for a period of only 3 years and restructuring of the interest amount accordingly. But no murmur is heard as yet in response to the appeal of Mamataji. Even XIIth Finance Commission characterized West Bengal as most debt stressed state. Why such indifferent attitude? Why Govt. has turned deaf ears? Is there any state in this country which has inherited from its previous Govt. a debt burden of Rs 2 lakh crores? Then why Bengal should not be declared as a Special Category State? Does Bengal exist outside India? The Centre, as a part of political vendetta, has intentionally put an economic blockade to West Bengal which has not been taken kindly by the 8 crore people of the State. But I assure the Govt. that the voice of Mamataji can neither be throttled nor the demands of 8 crore people of Bengal can be ignored. She is Leader of the masses, rose like a finix and is committed to do justice to all her people, come what may.
Sir, the Govt. must take a lesson from history. Why the 22 Republics of the erstwhile USSR disintegrated? There were political upheavals. But the main reason was economic exploitation of the Centre towards the States. We are having an identical situation in India. For example, Centre is collecting revenue to the extent of more than Rs 40, 000 crores from Bengal every year. And how much we are getting? Only 2% or so of the total allocation among the States. Govt. is glorifying itself with Centrally Sponsored Schemes. But the successive Commissions on the Centre-State Relations, namely the Sarkaria Commission and the Punchhi Commission inter alia recommended that – when the emphasis on the social justice, there is no escape from realignment of resources in favour of the States, because services and the programmes which are at the core of a more equitable social order come within the purviews of the States under the Constitution. This is the Constitutional Scheme, Sir. If we still want to respect the first line of Article 1 of our Constitution which says ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States’, then we must come out of our age long obsession that India is more unitary than federal. As an ordinary student of Law and political science, I understand that it is the duty and obligation of the Centre to respect the spirit of federalism as embodied in our Constitution to fulfill the aspirations of 120 crores of our people living in different states to emerge and remerge as one nation under the Indian Federation. This Budget deviates from that goal. This Budget is Anti-Federal if not Unconstitutional.
Sir, the Finance Minister has assured that new Criteria would be devolved for future planning and devolution of funds, particularly to the Backward States. My pointed question is whether the Govt. would shirk off the vintage formula called Gadgil Formula for distribution of revenues among the states? Whether the Govt. will redefine the role of Finance Commission and Planning Commission vis-a-vis our Constitution based on the recommendations of Sarkaria Commission and Punchhi Commission? As per Articles 268,269,270,275,280,282, and 293, it is the Finance Commission which is the only Constitutional Authority to look into all aspects of financial relations between the Centre and States. Even though, Planning Commission and different Ministries of the Govt. are allocating funds over the decades in the most arbitrary and unlawful manner. The Planning Commission has emerged as a robust extra constitutional centre of authority. Will the Govt. clip off the wings of Planning Commission and restrict its role to planning only? What about Plan and Non-Plan expenditure? Is there any such stipulation in our constitution? Please try to look into these issues and redefine the status of a Special Category State only on the basis of economic backwardness.
Sir, we do not have any objection if any State is granted special relief within the framework of the Constitution. Our Leader Ms Mamata Banerjee always says ‘let hundred flowers bloom’. In this budget, not a single km of road has been sanctioned for Bengal. No industrial corridors in the model of Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor has been proposed for any area under the Eastern Region? Is this not discrimination? Not a single paisa has been allotted for development of Jute cultivation in Jute growing states of West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Tripura or Meghalaya which encompasses 4 million jute growers. This has caused financial deprivation of the entire Eastern Region. Should we not express our agonies?
Sir, I would urge upon the Finance Minister and the Central Govt to rise above the regional and political bias, but act according to the Constitutional mandate as enshrined in Article 275 (ii) which guarantees equitable distribution of revenues and resources based on the principles of justice and fair play, as otherwise all your action or inaction will inflict grievous injury to the very root of our democratic structure endangering the unity and integrity of the nation. Centre must have a relook in continuous consultation with the States to remove the financial imbalances among the States and introduce a noble fiscal policy so that States march ahead in unison.
Sir, in fine I would like to quote the concluding sentences of the book titled ‘Under Cover Economist’ authored by Tim Harford (over 1 million copies of the book have since been sold, worldwide). It says, ‘Faced with the costs and risks of trial and error, should you and I try to experiment and adapt more than we do? What price would we pay in our quest to succeed?’ (Unquote)