All India Kisan Sabha and All India Democratic Women's Association have issued press releases pointing out serious flaws in the Modi-led NDA government’s last full budget. They have called the budget anti-people and anti-working class, and explained how the budget is increasingly relying on private sector investments for social welfare schemes.
AIKS said the government is trying to hoodwink farmers by claiming that MSPs have already been increased according to recommendations of National Commission of Farmers for the Rabi season. According to those recommendations, MSP should be at least 50% above cost of production. However, the MSPs announced for the 2018-19 Rabi season are not sufficient enough to meet these recommendations. “This is a blatant misrepresentation of facts,” says the release.
AIKS also points out that the calculations for the production costs are also widely disputed, with farmers’ organisations and Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices disregarding the government’s cost calculations. There is also no proper procurement mechanism in place for these MSPs to reach the farmers.
Another point made by AIKS is that no initiatives have been announced for liberating farmers from huge debts which have accrued over years of anti-farmer policies. Although the government claims that agricultural credit has been increased by 10%, the budget fails to take into account several important factors, such as the increasing cost of production. The budget also does not make efforts to address the disparities in distribution of agricultural credit.
Even now, only 41% of credit is given to small and marginal farmers who are in dire need of financial support. 14% of credit consists of loans higher than Rs 1 crore given to corporates and institutions.
AIKS further highlights the sorry state of affairs of MGNREGA. No increase in the state’s biggest employment guarantee act has been made. This is shocking considering that over 56% wages are pending and 15% of wage seekers remained unemployed last year. MGNREGA has consistently been seeing budget cuts and fall in work days. “The Budgetary proposals for agriculture are aimed to help the corporate agribusinesses and have no vision for promoting farmers’ welfare. The Budget fails to deliver on the demands of the farmers, agricultural workers and the poor.”
AIDWA also stated how the anti-poor budget affects the women of such families, who have to bear the burden of the increasing crisis of unemployment which has come in the wake of demonetisation and GST.
The size of the Gender budget has reduced despite government proclamations of ‘agriculture and rural sector’ and ‘women’s employment and health’ being some of the main priorities of this budget.
Budget of the Ministry of Women and Child Development has seen a minor increase from 0.95% of the total expenditure to 1% of the total expenditure. “This is nothing but an insult to the poor women workers and farmers of the country,” says AIDWA’s release.
The budget speech laid emphasis on women farmers, but the gender specific allocation for women farmers remains dismally low. Even announcements of initiatives such as Gramin Haats which are meant for farmers selling their produce directly to buyers rings hollow seeing the paltry amounts allocated for their implementation. Only an increase of Rs 1400 crore was seen in the budget of National Rural Livelihood Mission.
Although the Finance Minister is again making claims of increasing employment through this budget, budgets of Skill Development and Livelihood generation have decreased. Allocations for Medium and Small Scale Enterprises (MSME) are low with tax breaks being given only to enterprises having turnovers of Rs. 100 crore. “This effectively rules out 90 percent of the small scale enterprises where women make up a large part of the work force.”
The last couple of months saw huge movements by scheme workers including ASHA workers for increase in their salary, but those demands remained unaddressed. Only minor increases were seen in the Mid Day Meal scheme (up by Rs 500 crore) and ICDS (up by Rs 1090 crore).
Looking at women's education, budget of schemes for educating girls has gone down by Rs 64 crores. Safety of women has also not been addressed with the Nirbhaya fund remaining stagnant at Rs 500 crore.
Both AIKS and AIDWA have called for farmers and women across the country to protest against this budget and make the discontent of the common man known to the government.