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Ignoring an all important focus

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on February 09, 2019 with No Comments

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi faces his real test. He has to face reelection in a few months amid growing dissatisfaction with his government’s performance. Some of the TV channels known as ruling party BJP’s mouthpieces, have not given ample numbers to the party for securing a majority in the opinion polls that were aired last week.
Considering that election is just two months away, any prime minister is expected to use all levers to strengthen the election campaign. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the first move in an unprecedented manner by using the interim budget as an election manifesto. His stand-in finance minister Piyush Goel broke with the bipartisan convention. He used the occasion to remind the nation of the promises made over the last four and a half years, promise fulfilled. Prime Minister Modi let his finance minister launch his election appeal to the India’s voters right from the lower house.
The highlights of the interim budget included freebies of Rs 6000/- per year that amounts to less than 25 cents per day to poor farmers. This has come from a government that came on the promise of “doubling the farmers’ income”. The timing of the scheme is under cloud of suspicion too. The introdctuion of the scheme at the very last moment of the term isn’t to reform the agricultural policy but he is clearly hoping that the farmers would walk to the polling booths to vote for his party. To a large extent, the government was forced into announcing this, as the main opposition Congress Party had announced plans for a minimum income guarantee just a days earlier. However, Prime Minister didn’t stop there. A whole lot of goodies were announced to lure voters, including a tax cut for low earners. Narendra Modi during his campaign in 2014, had assured that he would lead India away from populist economics, but nw he has turned out to be an arch-populist himself. Why did a politician who during his campaign and his first days in office insisted that he would transform India’s economy has now returned return to the old vote-buying formula he had once mocked? The present government is being accused of doing nothing for the farmers, helping the industrialist and in turn making the middle class pay more taxes. The announcements have come to counter these very accusations and create an impression that the government does care for them.
While any budget is being presented, the government is expected to highlight avenues by which jobs can be created. However, this was not at all addressed by the finance minister and that too at time, when the government is facing allegations that the job date being presented by it, is totally contrary to the date that the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) has and is not being allowed to present. The NSSO believes that the unemployment in India is at 45 years high, and still the government preferred not to mention any plan for generating employment. A major act of omission!
Centre for the Monitoring of the Indian Economy has said that the reckless and ill-considered demonetisation, the botched and hasty rollout of GST, and five years of macro-economic ineptness have all robbed India of 3.5 millions jobs in two years. This has happened right under the government that came to power promising 10 million jobs a year.
While the government virtually converted the interim budget into an election platform, it forgot to even address the employment generation. It only tells about the focus of the government !


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