The finance budget upholds democratic values

The recent Finance-Budget presented by the finance minister Smt Nirmala Sitaraman in the parliament, was hailed by the ruling and obviously baited by the opposition. However, the eminent economist-columnists doubted the goal of $5 trillion GDP target to reach for the country. The prime minister called the critics of the goal as “professional pessimists”. Many economists have been criticising the sops or giveaways that PM Modi has promised to the poor by indirectly citing that Rahul Gandhi’s “suit-boot sarkar” jibe led to that pro-poor turn. That is not so. As a matter of fact, this BJP government in its previous term itself, realised that there was a large inequality in the society which had to be addressed.

Marked Inequalities in Material Conditions:- The external conditions of the poor are not same as the middle class or the rich in India. The poor dwell in slums with no electricity to light their homes and no gas to cook in their kitchens like the affluent middle and high classes. Specially, the rural people have no such required amenities. So, the BJP government recognised and put in place Ujjwala and Saubhagya schemes in its earlier term and as a result gained the confidence of the poor.

Now, in this term, they are concentrating on housing and water facility also for all poor families . Housing for the poor is a much needed program. ‘Equality of all Humans’ is enshrined in our Constitution. Hence, essential Equality of Material Conditions would produce equality among the inhabitants that would ultimately lead to equal power and political rights. In matured democracies (in the West), first they catered to material conditions of the people to be equal before becoming a democracy. That’s how they provided ample room for their people to take essentially similar positions. So, the government spending on the poor is not a futile exercise. Mahatma Gandhi and Deendayal Upadhayaya are for Antyodaya i.e. for the uplift of last man in the ladder. Normal social development of the poor is not possible without the government-support. Democratic society has to have a level playing field. Otherwise, democracy disappears that is even more dangerous to the nation.

Risks of takings big Reforms:- Some economists say – that big-ticket reforms are the need of the hour-the government has to take them up in this honey-moon period ( i.e. soon after getting elected with people’s mandate on a grand scale). Further, they are saying, since there are state elections round the corner, the government is resorting to populist measures. The analysis is: damn if the government does or damn if it doesn’t. Suppose, the government goes on a big way on labour and land reforms, which, of course, are not liked by people in general, the opposition takes to its advantages and wins elections. In that scenario, news channels, political parties and these predictive economists all join the bandwagon to say that the ruling is bad, state elections are a referendum etc. Let the law for ‘one nation one poll’ be passed to have hassle-free economic reforms for growth and development and for creation of jobs. However, the pro-poor programs have to be taken with renewed vigour, once the economy booms.

Equality and democracy go hand in hand:- In our country there is large inequality through inheritance. Rich become richer through inherited property. In the present budget, when the finance minister increased the tax-rate for the super rich, there was so much hullabaloo. The eminent economists say, the rich would opt for other Asian countries like the Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam etc. where tax-rate is less. Their other point -the government should invest and create a climate for the rich to have their enterprises, is a valid point. However, the rich should be happy for the government for not imposing inheritance tax. In all developed countries it (the inheritance tax) is in place. Following China’s Deng’s policy: the government should take poverty alleviation programs as well as creating conducive environment for the rich to invest-policies, for the development of the country.

In any case, the government has its own wisdom and is going accordingly. Of course, in equal measure, it’s taking the wisdom of crowds into account through ‘crowd-sourcing’ (for all decisions) which cannot be underestimated. So, the budget is a vision document for our society.

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