What should have only been for a few months vote on account has indeed bulldozed its limits. Except for the absence of any fresh levies the Union Budget 2019 presented on February 1 by Union Minister Piyush Goyal reads like a virtual election manifesto.
And so it is redolent with quite a few sops meant to woo middle classes, small farmers in general and low-paid workers when they get old, or reach the age of retirement by hitting 60.
Yet, the list of beneficiaries ends there. So let’s see who all have been left in the cold by the messiah of doles offering tens of thousands of crores to farmers and workers with such great flourish:
Landless farmhands: The numbers of people dependents on farmers are far more than farm or landowners. The dependents on landowners in villages are not only the members of farm owning families but also those who till the land and work in farms without having any land in their names.
They are landless farmers and so are dependent on others, or those who own the farmlands. Their numbers are huge though the Government obviously has no data or estimates about them or their sheer size in the villages. The Budget presented in Parliament on Friday has no provision to benefit landless and, thus, abysmally poor farmhands.
Dalits: Often the poor and landless farm workers in villages are Dalits, or members of scheduled castes. Throughout the history of independent India uplifting them to dignified levels has been an issue and despite efforts many among Dalits, or most or bulk of them, continue to reel under poverty where they are forced to keep their body and soul together by grabbing hard manual work whenever it comes their way whether in villages or cities.
They face most of the drudgery and hard physical labour whether in farms or construction sites. Some of the menial work like scavenging and cleaning of sewage or sewer-lines is still reserved for them and there have been deaths of some of them while doing this impossibly hazardous task. The Budget has no provision, or allocation set aside for them so as to enable them to get rid of the grinding poverty they face.
Tribesmen: Loss of dignity, trampling of rights and crass discrimination has always been faced by tribal communities almost at a level that Dalits experience on a daily basis.
Despite provisions in the constitution to protect tribal habitations their living spaces often in forested parts of the country have been shrinking. This causes widespread displacement for tribesmen and their families leaving them with little options other than opt for menial works in villages and cities like Dalits.
The Budget should have made special provisions to take care of the needs of tribal people. But sadly the more clearly defined plight of farmers and low-paid workers needs alone could bring doles in the first case and old-age pension in the second in Goyal’s so glorified Budget.
Minorities: Neglect of minority community, or Muslim, Christians and Ramgarhias or Dalit-turned-Sikhs has for long been palpable but under the present regime this has become all the more grim.
Discrimination against members of minority communities, sects and groups has virtually been a rule rather than being an exception. And in case of Muslims the economic and educational backwardness has been starkly brought out by Ranganath Mishra and Rajinder Sachar commissions appointed by Governments in the past.
Dalit converts among Christians are not recognised as scheduled castes though they often continue to do the menial work like Dalits. It is no secret that minorities amid prejudice and discrimination are being pushed deeper into poverty and deprivation. They deserve a far better deal and special provisions, allocations and succour in the Budget.
Women: Discrimination against women cuts across the divides like castes, communities, faiths and belief and the poorer among them suffer the most. Past Budgets often had provisions and sums to make women self-dependent and their self-help groups were formed with the hope to get Government aid and assistance. Obviously, this has missed Piyush Goyal’s attention when he made his Budget speech today
He has, indeed, belied women’s expectations.
And overall: So instead of helping these poor, needy and deserving sections of the society Goyal presented a Budget in the absence of his Cabinet colleague Arun Jaitley that waives off income tax through cent percent rebate to those earning over Rs 41,000 a month or Rs 5 lakh a year.
His rebate scheme went further to exempt from income tax those earning over Rs 54,000 a month, or Rs 6.5 lakh a year, in case they make a few tax-relieving deposits in banks or other financial institutions. And this is how the well-heeled are applauding Goyal while those without means are silent like ever.