A zero allocation for the national programme on mid-day meals in schools is disturbing and the budget for the LPG connections for poor households and MGNREGA have been slashed. Simultaneously, there is an over 50 per cent hike in funds for MPLADS.
As India stands at the thresholds of Amrit Kaal, the 25 year long lead up to India @100, the union budget presented by union finance minister has made provisions for 60 lakh new jobs to be created under the productivity linked incentive scheme in 14 sectors that have the potential to create an additional production of Rs 30 lakh crore.
Yet, while the Vikas-aur-Virasat line for the tourism sector is sure to rent the air with pride, there is growing concern about how the budget impacts the life of the poorest.
For instance, the budget sees a 25.5 per cent dip in allocation for the rural employment guarantee scheme, MGNREGA. The budget for the scheme in the upcoming financial year (2022-23) is ₹73,000 crores, as compared to ₹98,000 crores in the revised estimate for FY 2021-22. The figure remains unchanged from initial estimate for FY 2021-22.
The revised estimates for for LPG connection scheme for poor households under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana for the past financial year (2021-22) is ₹1,618 crores where as the proposed for FY 2022-23 is ₹800 crores. This represents an over 50 per cent dip in allocation for LPG connection scheme for poor households.
There is a more than 50 per cent hike in funds for MPLADS, the scheme allocating budgets for Members of Parliament to spend on development needs of their constituencies. Against a ₹2,634 crores in the revised estimates for FY 2021-22, the budget for the coming year proposes an allocation of ₹3,965 crores for 2022-23.
Zero for mid-day meals
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s PM Poshan scheme has been allocated ₹10,234 crores for the coming financial year (2022-23). But there is a zero allocation for the national programme on mid-day meals in schools for FY 2022-23. The revised estimate for the now-ending financial year (2021-22) is ₹10,234 crores.
The finance minister has proposed a more than 30 per cent dip in food subsidy for decentralised procurement of food grains under NFS Act: from revised estimates of ₹2,10,929 crores in FY 2021-22 to ₹1,45,920 crores in budget proposals for FY 2022-23.
Right to Information activist Venkatesh Nayak points out, “CIC and public service establishment board have together been allocated ₹32.70 crore for FY 2022-23. But the Lokpal has been allocated total of ₹34 crores which includes ₹10 crores capital expenditure.”
This raises questions. “₹34 crores to Lokpal for doing what exactly, is the question all of us must ask,” Nayak, who is the programme coordinator at the access to information programme of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative says.
“₹104.50 crores allocated for industrial development in Jammu and Kashmir in FY 2021-22 budget has been revised to ₹1.82 crores – representing a fall of more than 98 per cent,” Venkatesh Nayak says, and asks. “Now 2022-23 budget is seeking ₹150 crores. Will it be spent or remain mostly unspent?”
Nayak also alluded to the high expenditure on elections. “Expenditure on Lok Sabha elections was ₹13.87 crores in FY 2020-21 but the revised estimate in FY 2021-22 is ₹1,000 crores – that is almost ten times the original estimate of ₹100 crores.”
He says that the demand for the coming financial year (2022-23) is ₹180 crores in this item. He says that the law ministry must clarify what the money was used for in 2021-22 and what is the proposed expenditure in 2022-23. The two years in question are not general election years, he says.