Union Budget 2023-24: A Huge Setback for Working People
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The Union Budget 2023-24 has dashed the hopes and expectations of working people. Despite the rising demand for a significant rise in MGNREGA (rural employment guarantee scheme) allocation, it has been reduced to Rs 60,000 crore from the revised estimate (RE) of Rs 89,400 crore in the previous fiscal. This is less than one-fourth of what is needed for legally stipulated employment of 100 days assuming the same number of people seek work.
In fact, the overall allocation for Central sector schemes of the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has come down from the Budget Estimate (BE) of Rs 105,710 crore last year to Rs 98,980 crore—a decline which would be higher considering the impact of inflation. Even the allocation for Central sector schemes in the Panchayati Raj Ministry has decreased from Rs 163 crore (BE) in the previous year to Rs 76 crore.
Most shocking is the reduction in the allocation for food and nutrition despite the publicity regarding free foodgrains. The food subsidy for Food Corporation of India under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) was Rs 2,14,696 crore in the previous year’s RE. Now, it is Rs 13,7207 crore in the BE this year.
Food subsidy for decentralised procurement of foodgrains under the NFSA was Rs 72,282 crore in the previous year RE, while it is Rs 5,9793 crore this year. The allocation for PM Poshan in the previous year RE was Rs 12,800 crore against Rs 11,600 crore this year.
The allocation for Central sector schemes in the Ministry of Labour and Employment was Rs 16,084 crore in the previous year compared with only Rs 1,2434 crore this year. The budget for the Labour Welfare Scheme has been reduced from Rs 120 crore in the previous year to Rs 75 crore this year.
The allocation for PM Karam Yogi Mandhan scheme has been reduced from Rs 50 crore in the BE of the last year to rs 3 crore this year. Similarly, the budget for Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana, which one would imagine to be the government’s high priority given its rhetoric, has been reduced from Rs 6,400 crore in the previous year BE to Rs 2,272 crore this year. The allocation for the National Child Labour Project has been reduced from Rs 30 crore to Rs 20 crore.
The budget for Central sector schemes under the Ministry of Minority Affairs has come down from the BE of Rs 3,074 crore last year to Rs 2,336 crore this year. More specifically, the allocation for education under the ministry has come down from Rs 2,515 crore in the BE of the previous year to Rs 1,689 crore while the budget for skill development and livelihood has come down from Rs 491 crore in the BE of the previous year to Rs 64 crore this year.
Similarly, the allocation for special programmes for minorities has decreased from Rs 53 crore to Rs 26 crore. In the case of core schemes, the budget of the Umbrella Programme for Development of Minorities has been reduced from Rs 1,810 crore in the BE of the previous year to Rs 610 crore.
The budget for Central sector schemes under the Department for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities has been reduced from Rs 740 crore in the previous year to Rs 680 crore.
Coming back to core schemes, the budget for the Mission for the Protection and Empowerment of Women has been slashed from the actual expenditure of Rs 500 crore in 2021-22 to Rs 20 crore this year. It was the same in the 2022-23 financial year.
In the case of PM Awas Yojana, the increase in allocation from Rs 48,000 crore to Rs 79,750 crore is big considering the BEs of the previous and this year. But a comparison between the allocation for this year and the actual spending in 2021-22, shows a decline.
Clearly, the Budget is a big disappointment for millions of working people and vulnerable sections, who have suffered much in recent years. A much better Budget was expected in the context of meeting their needs.
The writer is the honorary convener of Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘Planet in Peril’ and ‘A Day in 2071’. The views are personal.
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