Navjot Sidhu, MP from Amritsar
Firstly, I’ll not allow the two-dozen who occupy a large chunk of country’s wealth, to dictate to me the Budget agenda. My Budget would reflect the aspirations and needs of 80 per cent poor and middle class. Eradication of illiteracy and poverty would be the main thrust of my Budget. I would also overhaul the tax collection system to bring tax evasion to bare minimum and raise enough money to uplift the standard of government schools, hospitals besides providing the basic amenities like water, sewerage and network of roads, rails and airplanes. The targeted GDP growth, in my Budget, would reflect the common man’s earnings and the country’s infrastructure. The benefits would percolate down the line. I would also earmark money to launch a population control drive, which despite being the biggest challenge, hasn’t been on any party’s agenda till date. Though defence is important, I would slightly reduce budgetary allocation on this to improve infrastructure. I would implement the ‘Damdupat’ policy to ease farmers out of debt-trap and get remunerative prices for their produces.
Bose Krishnamachari, artist
As an artist I can only say that as long as we don’t have the state investing in visual art, we have no hope. It’s sad that ever since independence, the faculty of visual arts has always been seeking attention from the state, and the funds allocated for the arts include some for Bollywood, which is unfair. It’s good to see that the government is now paying attention to education but, unlike elsewhere in the world, it fails to bring arts into the realm of primary education. We need to develop a museum culture; we should also look at creating a culture of public art and creating awareness about the visual arts. I would like to infuse funds into primary education so that visual arts are added to the curriculum. I would also want funds flowing to the arts colleges so that the students studying there get some exposure to what is happening around the world — exchange programmes, accessibility to contemporary global art, etc. But before any budgetary allocation, there has to be some awareness among our decision makers. So, may I suggest an art camp inside Parliament House?
Raghu Ram, Executive Producer, MTV
The problem doesn’t lie so much in allocation of funds but in the way they are used (or not). That said, I would set aside a lion’s share of the funds for development of cities, education and environment. By cities I don’t mean just metros. Development — good roads, power, health services — must reach smaller towns too. We have been a third-world country for too long. We don’t need to continue as one, not with the amount of taxes that we collect. Next is education. Every Indian who wants to study should have the opportunity to do so. But when colleges have cut-off points of 98.5 per cent, and a student who’s got 95 per cent is made to feel like a failure, it is beyond ludicrous. It’s a demand-supply equation, with the ‘price’— in this case cut-off marks — going up irrationally. So let’s increase the supply. It’s the same with schools — we must increase the number of teachers, improve facilities. The word failure has to be banned from our schools. I would also earmark sizeable funds for afforestation, rebuilding the environment, making India environment friendly. We owe it to the next generation.
Ma Prem Ritambhara, tarot reader
I would set aside most of the funds for the basics — food, drinking water, housing and education. For the farmer who gives us our food, we should safeguard his land and ensure that agricultural subsidies and loans actually reach him and not some crook along the way. Let’s provide him enough water too — for his fields and for drinking. Let’s spend more on new technologies for water conservation. Affordable housing is a must; the government should encourage it. And if we can’t build houses for the poor, let’s at least build good bathrooms for them. We need to add more schools, especially in rural areas, and improve existing schools so that our education system is fair and just and offers equal opportunities to the underprivileged. We need to discover and nurture talent in our schools and not merely in TV shows. We can’t let our children’s dreams die. Finally, I’d like to introduce new schemes to unearth black money and keep the penalties low. The cards tell me it should be between 10 and 20 per cent. I know no society can be free from corruption, but we have to try.