Women Welcome Tamil Nadu Budget, Transport Workers Unhappy
Image Courtesy: PTI
The Tamil Nadu 2023-24 Budget, presented by the state finance minister Palanivel Thiagarajan on March 20, has got mixed responses.
The minister announcement of the much-awaited DMK’s poll promise of Rs 1,000 monthly assistance to women heads of families was welcomed by the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).
“This may not be the best way to empower women. But we should welcome it. The ruling party is implementing its election promise. At least, 50 lakh people will benefit from it,” professor Venkatesh Athreya told Newsclick.
At the same time, AIDWA said that the “suspension of allowances for the elderly, widows, women abandoned by their husbands and differently abled people” would “gravely affect” them, and urged the state to provide them regularly and without delay.
Chief minster MK Stalin’s breakfast scheme for primary school students has been extended to cover all 30,122 government schools at the cost of Rs 500 crore.
“The outlay for school education was increased from Rs 36,896 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 40,299 crore in 2023-2024, a 9% increase that in real terms is hardly 2%,” said Athreya.
“To be fair, the higher education department got a more significant increase from Rs 5,669 crore to Rs 6,967 crore, a 20% plus rise, but remains low in relation to the needs of that sector,” he added.
The Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers appreciated the decision to bring schools run by other departments under the school education department.
Association general secretary Nambu Rajan urged the state to “sort out long-pending issues related to special education of various kinds of disabled children”.
Thiagarajan’s announcement of the introduction of a law for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes subplan in the next Assembly session after consulting all stakeholders was welcomed by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF). It was a long-pending demand of the National Coalition on SCP/TSP Legislation.
“It is a bitter truth that in the last six years, more than Rs 5,000 crore of the allocated amount towards the schemes for empowerment of SCs and STs has not been spent in Tamil Nadu,” said TNUEF general secretary Samuel Raaj told Newsclick. “This year’s fund allocation, including the unspent funds from the previous years, should be spent,” he said.
TRANSPORT UNION DISAPPOINTED
The transport workers union, affiliated to the CITU, welcomed the increase in funds for subsidies towards free travel for women, bus fare concessions for students and subsidised diesel. Funds allotted for the state transport department were increased by Rs 2,700 crore compared to last year.
However, the union was disappointed that the government did not promise to not incorporate private players in the state transport sector.
“It is a shame that the government did not announce that it will bear the full expenditure on public transportation,” a union statement read. “It is unfortunate that the finance minister did not announce that the old pension scheme would be implemented for those who joined service after 2003.”
TEACHERS, GOVERNMENTWORKERS UNHAPPY
Teachers and government employees criticised the budget for “not fulfilling” their long-pending demands. The secondary grade teachers association said that it was disappointed that the demand for considering secondary grade teachers in government and aided schools as graduate teachers was not met.
The Tamil Nadu Secretariat Workers Union in its statement criticised the state government for not filling the four lakh-plus posts.
The Tamil Nadu nutrition scheme workers association welcomed the allocation of Rs 500 crore for the breakfast scheme, but was disappointed that its demands for more wages, and pension and filling vacances were not met.
‘COMMITED TO NEOLIBERAL AGENDA’
Thiagarajan reiterated his commitment to ‘fiscal rectitude’ by presenting a Budget with a small deficit. Fiscal deficit has been set at 3.25% of the GDP.
Athreya said that this implies a “rather modest increase in outlays for several key sectors”.
The Budget Estimate of outlay for health and family welfare was increased from Rs 17,902 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 18,661 crore. “An increase of around 4% is below the inflation rate and a decline in real terms,” he said.
He also said that “although the DMK is taking credit for the welfare measures by claiming these are achievements of the Dravidian model of governance, it should be remembered they were won by sustained struggles by people”.
“The Budget is characterised neither by an assertion of the state’s rights nor by a focus on the well-being of working people. In essence, it is neoliberal with focus on fiscal rectitude and the hopes it places on wooing corporate entities via global investor summits,” Athreya added.
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