Those who are aware of the rudiments of how parliamentary democracy functions in this country would know that the upcoming budget is virtually the last full-fledged one of the UPA government in the current tenure.
The major political implication is that it must be explicit in redeeming the commitment enshrined in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP). The bottom line of the NCMP has been to make a break with the past approach, wherein an economic boom mostly left the aam admi.
Commitments made in the NCMP would be put to test in this budget. The least one expects is that the glaring deficits in social sector funding in attaining the goals set in the NCMP be breached. The allocation for education and health have to be stepped up particularly for sarva shiksha abhiyan, midday meal schemes, National Rural Health Mission and expanding capacities in higher education.
On the question of employment, a beginning has been made with the NREGA, but allocations need to go up radically – more so, to cover all rural districts. The programme has started making its impact, but it is time to replicate it for the urban poor. Social security for employees in the unorganised sector has similarly become a compelling imperative given 78 per cent of our people earn Rs 20 or less per day.
The agrarian crisis is now an established fact. How can it be denied with the mounting suicides by farmers? There has to be a comprehensive plan to write off debt of small and marginal farmers and bring down the interest rate to 4 per cent as suggested by the National Commission on Farmers. The need for stepping up of irrigation and rural electrification also assumes underlined significance in this context. To conclude the component programmes on time, matching allocation is a must.
Inspite of manageable overall rate of inflation, food prices have been a major concern. Finally, if “inclusive growth” is to be achieved, gross budgetary support will have to go up. Without this, the aam admi will not be convinced of the intentions of the government. The Left has no separate agenda – it merely wants to discharge its role as sentinel of people’s interest.
(Nilotpal Basu is the MP, CPM)