The interim Union Budget 2019 saw the Modi government going into full election mode, While sections of the middle class may be happy with the tax benefits, the government seems to have failed to address the two major issues facing it - the agrarian crisis and unemployment. The announcement of Rs. 500 per month is unlikely to be of much help to struggling farmers and employment, while talked about often, was not concretely addressed. Newsclick will bring you more analysis of the budget in the coming hours.
Union Budget 2019 Live Updates
With the Loksabha elections around the corner, Interim Union Budget 2019 was supposed to be the last opportunity for the Narendra Modi-led BJP Government to do something to fulfil at least a part of the poll promises to the electorate. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has suffered body blows in the recently held assembly elections to five states. Observers believed that the BJP might be forced to announce some measures to placate farmers and workers who have been joining massive protests across the country against the policies of the Central Government.
The Interim Budget 2019 was presented by Union Minister for Railways Piyush Goyal in the absence of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who has gone to the United States for treatment. It was widely speculated that the Government might resort to declaring farm loan waivers, new welfare schemes and tax sops to woo the voters. But doing so would require higher fiscal outlays, which might add to the fiscal deficit and worry conservative sections and financial interests which are seen to be supportive of the BJP. Economists were eager to see how the Minister in charge of finance, who has worked as the BJP Treasurer, would tackle the situation.
Meanwhile, the Working People’s Charter - a platform under which groups like Action Aid and Delhi Rozi Roti Andolan has united - has organised a protest in the capital city on the Budget day. Thousands of workers marched to parliament, protesting against the anti-worker policies of the Narendra Modi Government. The workers alleged that Narendra Modi Government follows anti-worker policies and have demanded to raise the minimum wage to Rs. 18000 per month, strengthen the social security of working class and to ensure the right to housing for all.
NewsClick’s Union Budget 2019 Live will present detailed, expert commentary on the budgetary announcements.
Welcome to Newsclick’s Budget coverage
Welcome to Newsclick’s Budget coverage. India is in the grip of a severe agrarian and employment crisis. In recent days, reports have proved the real nature of the employment crisis in India. It is in this context that Piyush Goyal presented the interim budget for 2019-20.
Goyal claims the government has restored the confidence of the country
Goyal claims the government has restored the confidence of the country and is back on track. He touts the fact that the country is the sixth largest economy in the world.
Goyal is on the attack early on, targeting the previous government for high inflation
Goyal is on the attack early on, targeting the previous government for high inflation, saying the government brought the inflation down to 4.6%. He says the fiscal deficit has been brought down to 3.4%.
"We restored the [government's] fiscal balance," says Piyush Goyal.
Is that true? CP Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh in their recent article "The mistaken obsession with the fiscal deficit" have shown that revenue and expenditure statistics have been fudged, and give no real indication of the fiscal or revenue deficit.
Foreign Direct Investment
Rs. 339 billion was received in five years.
Goyal claims the government had the courage to ask the RBI to scrutinise the true situation of banks
Goyal claims the government had the courage to ask the RBI to scrutinise the true situation of banks. Incidentally, during this time, two RBI governors have resigned, unhappy over the nature of government interference, including on demonetisation. However, Non-Performing Assets are at all-time high at 11 Lakh Crores.
India has achieved 98% rural sanitation coverage, claims Goyal
India has achieved 98% rural sanitation coverage, claims Goyal. However, many reports have questioned the validity of the figure. While toilets have been built in large numbers, the usage of these facilities has been disputed by surveys.
Goyal celebrates the reservation for economically underprivileged
Goyal celebrates the reservation for economically underprivileged but there has been no increased outlay for education to meet the increase in seats. Similarly, the cap of Rs. 8 lakh per annum brings almost all of the Indian population in the scheme and is not the poor.
Over Rs. 60,000 crore has been allotted for MGNREGA
Over Rs. 60,000 crore has been allotted for MGNREGA. A scheme that was developed by the UPA government under pressure from the Left remains one of the biggest sources of employment in India.
Goyal now talks about what he calls "the massive scale-up" in health care
Piyush Goyal repeats the claim that Ayushman Bharat is the largest healthcare scheme in the world.
Piyush Goyal repeats the claim that Ayushman Bharat is the largest healthcare scheme in the world. Watch Dr. Amit Sengupta, convener of the People’s Health Movement, point out that this is not the largest healthcare scheme in India, let alone the world.
Goyal has now moved on to farmers during what is a massive agrarian crisis
Goyal has now moved on to farmers during what is a massive agrarian crisis. He says the MSP is 50% more than the cost price.
To support small and marginal farmers, the government has announced the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi
To support small and marginal farmers, the government has announced the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi. The first big ticket announcement of the government. Farmers with holdings under two hectares will get direct income support of Rs 6,000 per annum. This will be transferred to the farmers directly in three installments. That works out to a paltry Rs. 500 per month. This is even as thousands of farmers across the country are increasingly in debt. Goyal claims this will help farmers will earn a respectable living.
Goyal announces the cow route, promising welfare schemes for cow
Goyal announces the cow route, promising welfare schemes for cow. Meanwhile, the ban of cattle slaughter has posed a massive crisis for farmers. Here’s a report from Uttar Pradesh where farmers demand the removal of the ban. Here’s another report which shows that stray cattle have been damaging crops. Goyal has been silent on these.
Goyal swears by India's soldiers. Reports, however, shown that both killings (including that of soldiers) and ceasefire violations in J&K have increased
Goyal swears by India's soldiers. Reports, however, show that both killings (including that of soldiers) and ceasefire violations in J&K have increased since the much hyped ‘surgical strikes’ from two years ago.
Goyal claims there has been a rise in employment opportunity
Goyal claims there has been a rise in employment opportunity, citing rising EPFO membership. This is after the CMIE has reported massive job losses and a leaked NSSO report points to a 45-year-high unemployment rate.
Goyal claims there has been an increase of 42% in minimum wages
Goyal claims there has been an increase of 42% in minimum wages. However, it is unclear where these numbers come from, and whether he is referring to the government sector alone.
Goyal talks about social security coverage for the informal sector
Goyal talks about social security coverage for the informal sector. He announces Shram Yogi Man Dhan, a pension scheme for informal workers who earn less than Rs. 15,000. They will get Rs. 3000 after the age of 60. However, even this is a contributory scheme, with workers having to contribute anywhere between Rs. 55-100 per month for this scheme throughout their working years. Even those earning less than Rs. 15,000 need to contribute for a pension, it seems.
Goyal talks about shifting from women’s development to women-led development. He touts the Ujjwala Yojana
Goyal talks about shifting from women’s development to women-led development. He touts the Ujjwala Yojana. However, a report from November shows that the cost of a subsidised LPG cylinder (14.2 kg) has risen by 21 per cent while that of the non-subsidised cylinder has zoomed up by nearly 80 per cent in the past two and a half years, effectively destroying the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) as well as family budgets of crores of people.
Goyal talks about MUDRA, celebrating the amount given as loans
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