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Pandemic and the Union Budget 2021: Implementation and the way forward


By Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Ritika Gupta
The Indian economy was quite sluggish even before the pandemic made the unfortunate appearance. Inefficient policies and structural issues took a toll on the economy, further exasperated by the pandemic. Now that we are emerging from the shadows of the ill-planned lockdowns and inefficient bailout packages, the growth rates have still not returned to a healthy pace. We are also faced with new challenges of ensuring universal vaccination and the emergence of new variants of COVID-19. Given all these uncertainties, there is a need to focus on what the government can do, what the budget has done, and what it ought to have done, remarked Dr Arun Kumar, Malcolm S. Adiseshiah Chair Professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi.
Dr Kumar was speaking at a Panel discussion held on 08 February 2021, on the topic, ‘Pandemic & Union Budget 2021: Implementation and the way forward’ he chaired. This pertinent deliberation was organized by IMPRI – Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi and Counterview. The eminent panelists for the discussion included Ms Malini Chakravarty, Associate Director- Research, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), New Delhi; Dr Jyotsna Jha, Director, Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS), Bengaluru and Prof Jyoti Chandiramani, Director, Symbiosis School of Economics; Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Symbiosis International (Deemed University), Pune.

Budget 2021: A Brief Analysis by Ms Malini Chakravarthy

Ms Chakravarthy shared the analysis of Budget 2021 brought out by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA). She outlined the unusual context in which the Budget was prepared and presented this year. The pandemic, the unfolding economic crisis, high unemployment rates which hit a 45 year high of 6.1% in 2019, increased hunger and destitution, widening social and economic inequalities, overburdened and under-resourced health system and the strained state finances added a lot of expectations onto the Budget 2021.
She highlighted that despite the total budget outlay increased from 30,42,230 crores in the 2020 Budget estimate, and 34,50,305 crores in the 2020 Revised estimates to 34,83,236 crores in the 2021 Budget estimates, 65-70% of the increase is not additional spending but instead includes payment dues that were cleared. Hence the fiscal deficit is an overestimation, she added.
Regarding taxation, she noted a fall in tax revenues across the different tax components, except excise. This is because of the imposition of additional levies on fuel, she maintained. This focus on indirect tax revenues, especially excise is inflationary and regressive, which is proving counterproductive to the need to put money in the hands of the people and revive the fallen demand, remarked Ms Chakravarthy.
Talking about the allocation towards the social sectors, she refutes the claim of a 137 per cent rise in health expenditure. On close examination, one would notice that the allocations for drinking water and sanitation, vaccines etc, have been included under the health and wellness pillar, causing an apparent increase in the health sector’s allocation, she noted. The core allocations for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Ayush have seen only a meager increase compared to the 2020 Budget estimate and decline compared to the 2020 Revised estimates, added Ms Chakravarthy. On the nutrition vertical, the allocation for Mission POSHAN 2.0 in 2021 Budget estimates shows a drop of 18.5 per cent compared to the combined allocation for the four merged schemes in 2020 Budget estimates. This comes at a time when the pandemic has increased the inaccessibility to nutritional food for the poor, and the National Family Health Survey 5 showing increased rates of malnutrition, she remarked.
She noted that there have been no allocations towards the Nation Education Policy that was recently passed regarding education. Water, Sanitation, and Health – WASH sector did see a large leap in allocations, mainly owning to the Jal Jeevan Mission and the Swachh Bharat Mission. However, she expressed concern over the decrease in funding for preventing manual scavenging through the Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) scheme. Dwelling on the agriculture sector, she noted that there is a decline in allocations to the flagship Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi – PM KISAN, which was highly inappropriate given the agriculture and rural distress that is at play.
Ms Chakravarthy also briefly touched upon the allocations towards the marginal sectors. She held that violence against women has seen a rise, however, there is a decline in funding for schemes aimed at protection and empowerment of women. Similarly, the allocation for child schemes also saw a drop and there have been no measures for the Accredited Social Health Activist – ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers despite longstanding demands. There is a reduction in allocations for minorities including for scholarship schemes and a severe cut in various schemes targeted at Persons with Disabilities – PwD’s, on whom the COVID-19 impact has been the harshest. On a whole, there is a critical reduction in allocation seen across several social and economic sectors and nothing much for equitably raising revenues, she added.

Budget 2021: The Intricacies by Dr Jyotsna Jha

Dr Jha unearthed certain intricacies of the Budget. She remarked that the Budget is an annual financial statement, a tool of accountability and therefore it is a serious issue when the truth is tried to be masked. She added that the GDP growth estimates seem to be too optimistic and the degree to which the economy is shown to have shrunk is an underestimation.
Regarding increase investments proposed in infrastructure, she appraised it as a step in the right direction, however, she added that the kind of infrastructure that is being planned needs to be accounted for considering that each type may have varying multiplier effects on employment and growth. She briefly touched upon the proposal to open the insurance sector to a higher Foreign Direct Investment – FDI, stating that this may create a problem since the system is health finance-oriented and not health service-oriented.
Commenting on the revenue sources of the government, she noted that the income from corporate tax has fallen while there is an increase in revenue from instruments like cess which does not go into the divisible pool of taxes, thus having a bearing on the Centre-State financial relations. Also, such a taxation regime is highly inflationary and unequal in its impact, she remarked. On the expenditure side, she reiterated the decline in allocations to schemes promoting women and child development, education, agriculture, despite the prevalent distress seen in these sectors.
Dr Jha maintained that the Budget talks only about growth and not about mitigating inequalities. Growth may lift people above the poverty line but that is indifferent to the concept of inequality and distress. She remarked that the growth achieved may even be a jobless growth or a job loss growth that does not address inequality.

Budget 2021: The Urban Context by Prof Jyoti Chandiramani

The budget was well camouflaged, opened Dr Prof Chandiramani. In unravelling the document’s various contours, she touched upon the 6 pillars of the Budget 2021. She appraised the push for health and wellness, investments, and the insurance sector’s opening to higher Foreign Direct Investment proposed in Budget 2021. However, regarding a few allocations made over five years, she sought to understand whether this is to be regarded as a tool for a one-year assessment of the budget or as a longer five-year plan. While commenting on the sixth pillar of Minimum government, maximum governance, she pointed out that certain components under the Ease of Doing Business Index like registration of properties, India still ranks quite low despite the substantial rise in the overall ranking.
Prof Chandiramani called the decade of 2010-20 as the lost decade. The capital investment has come down by ten per cent (39.8% in 2010 to 29% currently) and the Savings to GDP ratio has seen a dramatic fall. It is amidst this bleak environment and with limited fiscal space that the Budget 2021 has come out with certain allocations which broadly echo the framework mentioned in the bare necessities chapter of the Economic survey, however, the emoluments under several critical heads are not as high as it has been shown to be, she emphasized.
Speaking on the urban context of the Budget 2021, she highlighted the decline in allocation towards the Clear Air Program. Increase in outlay for the Atal Mission for rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) is commendable but the allocations are very marginal. This is largely because the definition of urban is very stringent, she opined.
Dr Jha estimated that about 2231 more census towns will be added after the current census’ to ‘Dr Chandiramani estimated that about 2231 more census towns will be added after the current census. However, this will only lead to being defined as urban but governed by rural structures. On the other side, there are 24,000 large villages housing 190 million people who do not fit the stringent definitions of what urban is. They will be denied the basic amenities and public services and they don’t feature in the budget analysis, she added.

Budget 2021: Ignoring the Macroeconomic Picture by Dr Arun Kumar

Dr Kumar presented a macroeconomic picture based on his article published in the Economic and Political Weakly (EPW) on 26 September 2020 and his latest book titled, ‘Indian Economy’s Greatest Crisis’. He opined that the country is heading towards a new normal that the budget hasn’t adequately planned for. The framework of the Atmanirbhar package of the government envisaged to revive the sinking economy focuses on the supply side, rather than the demand side which is the need of the hour, he remarked.
From a critical standpoint, Dr Kumar opined that there should be more spending on creating health infrastructure, relieving agriculture distress, promoting rural development and defense in the budget. There has been a demand shortage and rising unemployment. The decline in private sector demand needed to be compensated by increased public sector expenditure, but this was missing, he remarked.
He reciprocated Ms Chakravarthy’s remark that the fiscal deficit is an overestimation as about three lakh crore accounts for transfers to India’s Food Corporation. Hence the demand boosting component of the Fiscal Deficit remains more or less stagnant. He quested that if the overall expenditure has remained the same and the Fiscal Deficit is small, how will the demand that is required to revive the economy be generated? He outlined the social sector schemes which could have been allocated more funds to revive demand quickly like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), National Social Assistance Program (NSAP), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM Kisan) and food subsidy.
He vociferously pointed out how the pandemic has shown that the Public Sector is most needed but the government under its slogan of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’ aims to dismantle the Public Sector. “We need a more efficient Public Sector rather than a disinvested one”, he remarked. He maintained that the crony capitalism that has crept up in Politics and the Public sector needs to be cleaned up and more accountability needs to be achieved.
Commenting on the investment allocations, Dr Kumar noted that an increase in the disinvestments offsets the increase in capital expenditure from 4.39 crores in 2020 Revised estimates to 5.54 crores in 2021 Budget estimates. He added that disinvestment needs to be netted out of the government’s capital expenditure. He also noted that most of the investment is into capital intensive projects which do not create employment. Hence, the focus should be on investing in local infrastructure, education and health. Dr Kumar strong opined that the Finance Minister has not taken the correct macroeconomic framework into account and missed a chance to rapidly shift the economy onto its tracks.

Acknowledgements: Sunidhi Agarwal, Nikhil Jacob, Nishi Verma, Manoswini Sarkar, Researchers at IMPRI

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हिंदी आलोचना जैसे पिछड़ चुके अनुशासन की जगह हिंदी वैचारिकी का विकास जरूरी

0 - प्रमोद रंजन  भारतीय राजनीति में सांप्रदायिक व प्रतिक्रियावादी ताकतों को सत्ता तक पहुंचाने में हिंदी पट्टी का सबसे बड़ा योगदान है। इसका मुख्य कारण हिंदी-पट्टी में कार्यरत समाजवादी व जनपक्षधर हिरावल दस्ते का विचारहीन, अनैतिक और  प्रतिक्रियावादी होते जाना है। अगर हम उपरोक्त बातों को स्वीकार करते हैं, तो कुछ रोचक निष्कर्ष निकलते हैं। हिंदी-जनता और उसके हिरावल दस्ते को विचारहीन और प्रतिक्रियावादी बनने से रोकने की मुख्य ज़िम्मेदारी किसकी थी?

नफरती बातें: मुसलमानों में असुरक्षा का भाव बढ़ रहा है, वे अपने मोहल्लों में सिमट रहे हैं

- राम पुनियानी*  भारत पर पिछले 10 सालों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) राज कर रही है. भाजपा आरएसएस परिवार की सदस्य है और आरएसएस का लक्ष्य है हिन्दू राष्ट्र का निर्माण. आरएसएस से जुड़ी सैंकड़ों संस्थाएँ हैं. उसके लाखों, बल्कि शायद, करोड़ों स्वयंसेवक हैं. इसके अलावा कई हजार वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्ता हैं जिन्हें प्रचारक कहा जाता है. भाजपा के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस दुगनी गति से हिन्दू राष्ट्र के निर्माण के अपने एजेण्डे को पूरा करने में जुट गया है. यदि भाजपा को चुनावों में लगातार सफलता हासिल हो रही है तो उसका कारण है देश में साम्प्रदायिकता और साम्प्रदायिक मुद्दों का बढ़ता बोलबाला. इनमें से कुछ हैं राम मंदिर, गौमांस और गोवध एवं लव जिहाद. 

देशव्यापी ग्रामीण भारत बंध में उतरे मध्य प्रदेश के आदिवासी, किया केंद्र सरकार का विरोध

- हरसिंग जमरे, भिखला सोलंकी, रतन अलावे*  15 और 16 फरवरी को निमाड के बड़वानी, खरगोन और बुरहानपुर में जागृत आदिवासी दलित संगठन के नेतृत्व में आदिवासी महिला-पुरुषों ग्रामीण भारत बंद में रैली एवं विरोध प्रदर्शन किया । प्रधान मंत्री द्वारा 2014 में फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने का वादा किया गया था, 2016 में किसानों की आय दुगना करने का वादा किया गया था । आज, फसलों का दाम नहीं बढ़ रहा है, लेकिन खेती में खर्च बढ़ता जा रहा है! खाद, बीज और दवाइयों का दाम, तीन-चार गुना बढ़ चुका है! किसानों को लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने के बजाए, खेती को कंपनियों के हवाले करने के लिए 3 काले कृषि कानून लाए गए । 3 काले कानून वापस लेते समय प्रधान मंत्री ने फिर वादा किया था कि फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव की कानूनी गारंटी के लिए कानून बनाएँगे, लेकिन वो भी झूठ निकला! आज जब देश के किसान दिल्ली में आपको अपना वादा याद दिलाने आए है, तब आप उनका रास्ता रोक रहें है, उनके साथ मारपीट कर उन पर आँसू गैस फेंक रहें हैं, उन पर छर्रों से फायरिंग कर रहें है! देश को खिलाने वाला किसान खुद भूखा रहे, क्या यही विकास है?

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

રામનવમીના દિવસે મુસ્લિમ ધાર્મિક સ્થળો અને વિસ્તારોને અસામાજિક તત્વોથી રક્ષણ આપવી

- મુજાહિદ નફીસ*  પોલિસ મહાનિદેશક, ગુજરાત, ને આવનારા રામનવમીના તહેવારમાં નીકળતા જુલૂસમાં આવતા અસામાજિક તત્વોથી મુસ્લિમ ધાર્મિક સ્થળો અને મુસ્લિમ વિસ્તારોના રક્ષણ બાબત પત્ર:  આપ જાણો છો કે આવનારી 17મી એપ્રિલ ના રોજ રામનવમીનો તહેવાર છે. પાછલા વર્ષોના અનુભવ દ્વારા આપણે જાણીએ છીએ કે હિન્દુ ધાર્મિક તહેવારો મુસ્લિમોને હેરાન કરવા અને તેમના ધાર્મિક સ્થળો તેમજ દુકાનો મકાનોને નુકસાન કરવા માટેના માધ્યમ બની ગયા છે. 

सुप्रीम कोर्ट का चिकित्सा की दुनिया में बाबाओं की मनमानी को रोकने का प्रयास सराहनीय

- राम पुनियानी*  पिछले कुछ दशकों में भारत में कई बाबाओं का उदय हुआ है. इसके पहले भी बाबा हुआ करते थे मगर इन दिनों बाबाओं का जितना राजनैतिक और सामाजिक दबदबा है, उतना पहले शायद कभी नहीं रहा. कई बाबा अनेक तरह के काले कामों में लिप्त भी पाए गए हैं मगर उनकी दैवीय छवि के चलते उनके अपराधों को नज़रअंदाज़ किया जाता रहा है. 

18થી નાની ઉંમરના 1,15,129 બાળકો શાળા બહાર? વાસ્તવિક આંકડો 15-20 ગણો વધું

- સુખદેવ પટેલ*  16 એપ્રિલથી સમગ્ર ગુજરાતમાં શાળા બહારના 6 થી 19 વર્ષની ઉંમરના બાળકોનો સર્વે શરૂ થયો છે.  જે 26 એપ્રિલ સુધી ચાલશે. જેની જવાબદારી સરકારી શાળાના શિક્ષકોને સોંપવામાં આવી છે. અત્યારે પ્રાથમિક શાળાઓમાં વાર્ષિક પરીક્ષાઓ ચાલી રહી છે. લોકસભાની ચૂંટણીઓના કામ પણ શિક્ષકોને ભાગે કરવાના આવશે. શિક્ષકો કેટલું કરી શક્શે? શિક્ષકો પાસેથી વ્યાજબી રીતે કેટલી અપેક્ષાઓ રાખવી જોઈએ? RTE ની જોગવાઈઓ મુજબ દરેક બાળક શિક્ષણ મેળવી શકે, તે માટે શાળા બહારના બાળકોને સર્વે કરીને શોધી કાઢવાનું ઉમદા કામ સરકાર વિચારે છે, તે આવકારદાયક છે. આવાં ઉત્તમ કામમાં જેમને સીધો લાભ થવાનો છે,  તેવાં હિતધારકોની પ્રતિનિધિ સમિતિ SMC સ્કૂલ મેનેજમેન્ટ કમિટી આ જવાબદારી સારી રીતે ઉપાડી શકે તેમ છે. શિક્ષણ વિભાગ SSA તરફથી આ કામગીરીમાં SMC ની ભાગીદારીનું આયોજન કરીને યોગ્ય માર્ગદર્શિકા તૈયાર કરવી જોઈએ.

प्रगतिशील लेखक संघ के स्थापना दिवस पर फिलिस्तीनी जनता के साथ एकजुटता

- हरनाम सिंह, सारिका श्रीवास्तव  "मत रो बच्चे  तू मुस्काएगा तो शायद  सारे इक दिन भेस बदल कर  तुझसे खेलने लौट आएंगे" - फ़ैज़ अहमद फ़ैज़ प्रगतिशील लेखक संघ (प्रलेसं) की इंदौर इकाई ने अपना स्थापना दिवस (9 अप्रैल) फिलिस्तीनी जनता के संघर्ष के नाम समर्पित किया। अभिनव कला समाज सभागार में आयोजित इस कार्यक्रम में कलाकारों ने फिलिस्तीन कवियों के गीत गाए, उनके संघर्षों पर केंद्रित कविताओं का वाचन किया, फिलिस्तीनी चित्रकारों के चित्रों का पावर पॉइंट प्रजेंटेशन और उसकी व्याख्या की। वक्ताओं ने इजराइल द्वारा फिलिस्तीनी जनता पर ढ़ाए जा रहे जुल्मों की तुलना हिटलर के अत्याचारों से की।

ई.वी.एम. के खिलाफ सत्याग्रह क्यों? मतपत्र वापस लाना आज क्यों ज़रूरी हो गया है?

- संदीप पाण्डेय*  चुनाव का पारा चढ़ रहा है और राजनीतिक दल प्रचार में जोर-शोर से लग गए हैं लेकिन चुनाव की घोषणा के बाद भी एक मुद्दा जो ठण्डा होने का नाम नहीं ले रहा है वह है इलेक्ट्रॉनिक वोटिंग मशीन व उसके साथ लगा हुआ वोटर वेरीफायेबल पेपर ऑडिट ट्रेल। सरकार में बैठे हुए व भारतीय जनता पार्टी से जुड़े हुए लोगों के अलावा आम जनता के मन में बड़े पैमाने पर इ.वी.एम. व वी.वी.पी.ए.टी. के प्रति संदेह घर कर गया है। हरदोई, उन्नाव व सीतापुर के आम अनपढ़ ग्रामीण आपको बताएंगे कि इ.वी.एम. जो मत वे डालते हैं उन्हें नहीं मालूम वह कहां चला जाता है? सीतापुर की महमूदाबाद तहसील के चांदपुर-फरीदपुर गांव के बनारसी बताते हैं कि पिछले चुनाव में उन्होंने इ.वी.एम. पर हाथी का बटन दबाया था किंतु वी.वी.पी.ए.टी. के शीशे में कमल का चिन्ह दिखाई पड़ा इसलिए उन्हें इ.वी.एम. पर बिल्कुल भरोसा नहीं है।

વિચારોના પ્રદૂષણનું ઉત્તમ ઉદાહરણ: વડાપ્રધાનની આટલી સ્તુતિ કરનારને લેખક કહી શકાય?

- રમેશ સવાણી   ગુણવંત શાહે 6 એપ્રિલ 2024ના રોજ ‘દિવ્યભાસ્કર’ની પોતાની કોલમમાં લખ્યું છે : “અરે ! એટલું તો માનો કે એને કેવળ લોકોના ભલામાં જ રસ છે ! એટલું તો માનો કે એને માટે કાયમ ‘નેશન ફર્સ્ટ’ છે ! અરે ! એટલું તો માને કે શું કરવું એ અંગે એ બિલકુલ સ્પષ્ટ છે, ક્યાંય અવઢવ નથી. એટલું તો માનો કે નેતા તરીકે એ સૌથી મોખરે છે ! અરે ! એટલું તો માનો કે એ દેશને હૃદયથી પ્રેમ કરે છે ! એટલું તો અ‌વશ્ય માનો કે વિદેશી નેતાઓ એને ભેટવાની ઉતાવળ કરે છે ! અરે ! એટલું તો માનો કે એના પરિવારમાં કોઇ વાડેરા નથી ! અરે ! એટલું તો માનો કે બિલ ગેટ્સ જેવું બ્રેન ગણાતા વ્યક્તિ સાથે ચર્ચા કરતી વખતે પૂરો આત્મવિશ્વાસ ધરાવીને ડિજિટલ રિવોલ્યૂશન અને આર્ટિફિશિયલ ઇન્ટેલિજન્સ પર ચર્ચા કરી શકે છે ! કેટલાક માણસો ઇતિહાસનાં સંતાનો હોય છે ખરા, પણ તેઓ નિયતિનાં સંતાનો નથી હોતાં. આવા લોકો પાસે એક વિઝન હોય છે, જે અન્ય પાસે હોતું નથી. આવા લોકોને ત્રણ ભેટ જીવનભર મળતી રહે છે. વિરોધ, નિંદા અને ઇર્ષ્યા. આવા જ નમૂનાઓ ગેરસમજનો જ્થ્થાબંધ વૈભવ પામે છે.  સ્પિનોઝા નામનો ચિંતક ઘરની બહાર નીકળી શકતો ન હતો. એ ચિંતકના વિચારો એવા હતા કે લોકોને ગુસ્સો આવ