The interim budget presented by the interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal is a full fledged budget. It bypassed the established convention of not making major policy announcements on the eve of general election. The former Finance Minister P Chidambaram says, “it was not a voter on account, but an account for votes.”
The budget proposals promise something to every section of population – the middle class, salaried people, senior citizens, farmers etc. What the government could not do in the past five years, it is promising to do now, knowing well it is the new government after the election which has to bear the brunt of these schemes.
How does the government hope to fund them? How does it identify the beneficiaries in the absence of creditable data and statistics with regard to poverty and actual earnings among the marginalized? Be that as it may, the government has no answer to its failures and misgovernance. First, there is no mention about how the government plans to tackle the unemployment, pegged at 6.1 per cent – the highest since 1972, as revealed by the National Statistical Commission (NSC) in its NSSO report, not allowed to be released, but now leaked, resulting in the NSC acting Chairman P C Mohanan resigning in protest.
Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar tried to defend, stating the NSSO report needed the cabinet approval before the release. This was rebutted by the former Chief of NSC Pronab Sen that there was no practice of the cabinet approving the report. It is obvious the government is hiding the facts regarding unemployment and the job losses, following the demonetization and the flawed implementation of the GST. The people have a right to know how many jobs are created and lost during the present regime and the number of unemployed, particularly among the educated. According to CMIE, 15 lakh jobs were lost last year.
Arun Jaitley’s argument that since the GDP is growing at more than 7 per cent, it is wrong to say no jobs are created. But fudging the figures and showing the enhanced GDP growth raise doubts about the credibility of the government. Second, public institutions have received a severe blow during the Modi government. The sanctity of Parliament as a debating house is lost. Modi’s moral authority as the leader of Lok Sabha has diminished, with himself not attending the sessions.
If only he could remain present and answer the opposition onslaught on various issues — the effects of demonetarization on economy, the Rafale deal and the like — the situation could have been different. On every issue, an attempt is made to cover up rather than counter the opposition charges with reasoned arguments and hard facts.
Today, almost all public institutions – the CBI, the RBI, the ECI, the CIC, the ED, the CBDT etcetera — not to forget the universities and institutions like the JNU end the NMML, have lost functional autonomy, with the persons subscribing to the ruling party ideology occupying the top administrative and executive positions — an unprecedented new phenomenon.
The Governments come and go, but it is the independent institutions which provide continuity and ultimately safeguard our freedom and democratic rights. Narendra Modi wants to reject the past and create a new paradigm, but in the process he is destroying the time-tested institutions, without ensuring viable and credible alternative to them. It is the wanton sacrifice of institutions for the political mileage.
Third, Arun Jaitley, who is recuperating in New York, in a tweet charged the CBI of “investigative adventurism, “ following the filing of FIR against Chanda Kochhar and others, for violating the ICICI Bank’s code of conduct in granting loans to corporate houses. But it is alright if the investigating agencies – the CBI the ED, the IT — conduct raids indiscriminately almost on a daily basis on political rivals and register FIRs against them, just when the notification for general election is expected next month. There is no denying the fact the investigating agencies are abused for political reasons. This is doing irreparable damage to the principle of political neutrality that governs the bureaucracy, denting its ability to function independently in an impartial and objective manner.
The Civil Service is the steel frame of public administration. It is important to preserve it or else the entire administrative apparatus would collapse. Fourth, we are witnessing heightened communal tension and social unrest, with cow vigilantism, mob lynching and the Ram Mandir occupying the political space. How is the construction of Ram Mandir more important than finding solution to agrarian crisis? Fifth, on the foreign policy, Modi government has been a failure, in spite of Modi undertaking unprecedented trips to foreign countries, ever since he assumed the office.
His muscular posture has not yielded any positive results. It has not attracted much FDI. There is no coherent policy towards Pakistan, resulting in increased cross border infiltrations, more violence and bleeding in J&K. And China continues to encircle India and oppose its vital interests. It is this overall failure of the Modi government that should worry us.
G Ramachandram is a professor of Political Science, retired principal and an independent author.