Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her most critical and closely watched Budget 2021 today (February 1). There was enormous pressure on her, as she was tasked with providing a budget to get India back on track as the world’s fastest-growing major economy, even as it counters the deadly coronavirus.
The Budget 2021 tabled by the FM in the Parliament this morning concentrated on six key areas for growth – health and well-being, infrastructure, inclusive growth, human capital, R&D and minimum government and maximum governance. While senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh, called it a budget for ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, a few quarters in the financial world are praising the FM for giving a memorable budget with no changes in Direct taxes. The domestic equity benchmark index Sensex too zoomed 1,600 points as a reaction to her budget.
But, here’s what a few political leaders from Karnataka and Kerala had to say about the 2021 Budget:
“I think this budget is like a survival budget rather than a revival one. The government seems to be clueless about the entire scheme of things. The cess on various daily essentials will only burden the poor and middle-class at a time of acute distress due to COVID-19,” Priyank Kharge, Congress leader and former IT/BT Minister, Karnataka told The Federal.
He criticised the government for not reducing taxes and extending relief packages when there are job losses all around. “But instead, they have chosen to burden the taxpayers,” he said.
Kharge further added that the government has failed to substantially increase the MGNREGA budget, which could have helped the rural poor to lessen their pandemic induced stress. The government lowered the allocation under MGNREGA from Rs.1,11,500.00 crore (revised estimate) in 2020-21, to Rs. 73,000.00 crore (budget) in 2021-22.
Also, if the Centre was serious about SC/ST upliftment, the allocation in the budget should have been strictly proportional to the SC/ST population. But instead, they just extended existing schemes and there’s nothing new in the budget for the marginalised, he felt.
Nalin Kumar Kateel, Karnataka BJP state president said this year’s budget has laid a strong emphasis on the security, health and economy of the country. This will lead to all-round development, he said. He lauded the extension of minimum wages across the sector and for making provision to allow women to work in all fields.
“The announcement to ensure minimum wages to all categories of workers and allowing women to work in all fields and also in night shifts with adequate protection, is a testament to the empowerment of women,” Kateel said.
The Kerala MPs meanwhile are disappointed over the budget. The announcement of attractive packages for Kerala is nothing more than an appeasement technique with an eye on the upcoming assembly election, they believed. In the 2021 budget, Rs 65,000 crores has been announced for the National Highway development in Kerala and Rs 1,957 crores for the second phase of expansion of the Kochi Metro project.
Binoy Viswam, MP, said, “It is a document only for privatisation and corporatisation. There are no constructive plans for the revival of the economy. The most awaited announcement is absent, that of free COVID-19 vaccination for all.”
“Some of the announcements are actually a reiteration of the existing projects,” pointed out Benny Behanan, MP. “The expansion of Kochi Metro is a classic example. The 2nd stage of the Metro has already been approved and we had asked for the budgetary allocation for the third phase,” he revealed.
MP Premachandran, an MP however welcomed the allocations for the National Highway Development for Kerala in general, but he points out that the announcement is slightly misleading. “The Rs.65,000 cr is for the 1,100 kilometer stretch of Mumbai Kanyakumari Highway, and this is not entirely a package exclusively for Kerala. Yet, it is good for the state,” said Premachandran.