Dr. T. SUMATHY (A) THAMIZHACHI THANGAPANDIAN (CHENNAI SOUTH): I would like to express my views about this budget. I am certainly disappointed after hearing the President’s Address, Prime Minister’s speech and our Finance Minister’s budget like last year and it has been no different since 2014. This aside, there seems to be a common pattern in all three addresses where the government is in denial to the actual situation. The government seems to be basking in the false glorying the indices on the Ease of Business ranking, Global Innovation Ranking, Logistic Performance Ranking and many more. But, is it worth basking? Definitely NOT! The Government seems take a blindsight to India falling behind in some of the major indices like World Hunger Index, World Democracy Index and Global Mobility Index. One Word SHAME of the Government for not addressing the elephant in the room. I’m very sorry, for us as citizen of India, the Government’s negligence in this issue is not just irresponsible but pure irreverence to the people of the nation. Getting into the nuances of the budget, the government clearly seems to lack a plan of action for the revival of the economy from its all – time low in over a decade. I wish the Finance Minister in her budget speech rather spending the time on coaxing the people’s sentiment with poems and proverbs, could have focused on the real economic problems. The Finance Minister has given a budget under three prominent themes namely:- Speech was laid on the Table. Aspirational India Economic development Caring society Aspirational India is a Utopian India. Honestly, the government seems to have bitten off more than it can chew in these 16 action points. At this point of time, neither the government nor the country needs fancy quantity of action points. The country is in desperate need of some quality plans to set the trail right for us to move. In aspirational India, it has been mentioned that the government is certainly going to impose National Education Policy soon. It is totally impractical to take into account and study those two lakhs suggestion from State Education Ministries, Members of Parliament and other stakeholders. Why the government within a short span of time and where is the necessity to bulldoze the Policy? Further the budget promised to concentrate more on the welfare of the farmers and has even envisioned to double their income by 2022. But, the average annual growth rate in real terms in agriculture as well as its allied sectors has remained static in the last six years, in turn impacting farmers’ income according to the Economic Survey 2019-20, released on January 31st, 2020. The annual growth rate in real terms in agriculture and its allied sectors was 2.88 per cent from 2014-15 to 2018-19, according to the Survey. The estimated growth rate in 2019-20 is 2.9 per cent. To achieve such a distant dream of doubling farmer’s income by 2022, the growth rate has to be around 10.8% which is a far – fetched dream. Leaving all the PSU in the purge and depending solely on the private sector is quite scary in terms of economic development, the government seems to rely on its disinvestment proposal like LIC and Jet Airways for the functioning of the economy. Selling the shares of IDBI banks is the scariest proof of all. The great poet Valluvar said, A nation does not earn its name when it relies on others for its development rather a nation is said to be a good nation only when it uses its own resources for the development. The government should heed to the guidelines of poet Thiruvalluvar. The government boasting on infrastructure, is a carrot before the rabbit – tantalizing towards a glorious future while missing the bus now. The government has slashed the tax slabs for the tax payers but it comes with a package of excluding the exemptions. But this will act to the certain sections of people while the majority will be left out of the umbrella. The Government claims to increase the purchasing power to boost the economy but reducing the budget allocation for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program (MNREGA) is an irony and an absurd farse. The Revised budget allocation for MNREGA scheme for the Financial Year 2019- 20 was 71,002 crore and for this Financial year the budget Estimate is 61,500 crores only! I wonder how this fund of less than 9.1% will help to sustain for the upcoming Financial Year with the pending dues under the MNREGA scheme. For the last few years, rural distress has been visible across India. There has been a sharp rise in the number of people dependent on the rural employment scheme for their sustenance. According to the NREGA Sangarsha Morcha, a national platform of workers’ collectives, trade unions, organizations and individuals, an allocation of a minimum Rs. 1 lakh crore is required to ensure a smooth running of the scheme. According to the data, this includes the salary for 298 crore people, the materials required and the pending dues. Considering these facts, SABKA SAATH, SABKA VIKAS and SABKA VISHWAS is absolutely a Utopian ideal. It has put the country in the deep perils of a grave economic crisis. Government’s Budget 2020 is a “zero” growth budget as it failed to arrest the six – quarter decline and revive growth. The budget offered nothing to the poor and middle class. The projected nominal growth at 10 per cent, that’s not a revival. And if nominal is going to be 10 per cent, how the Centre say that the growth will be 6 – 6.5%. The government claim that the inflation was under control. “But I am afraid it is not. The CPI (consumer price index) inflation had crossed 7 per cent. “WPI is high, and food inflation is over 10 per cent. The Rs. 100 lakh crore to be infused on infrastructure development is all puffery. In the current year, the government had planned to spend (total expenditure) Rs. 27,86,000 crore. They ended up spending Rs. 26,98,000 crore, roughly Rs. 1 lakh crore less. Thus, it is evident that this government is not even able to spend the money allocated, either because of lack of funds or the government does not know how to spend. Centre’s divestment target was highly exaggerated. There is no clarity in numbers that the government’s plan of disinvestment and partial stake sale of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and other PSUs. The Centre needed to tell people why it wanted to sell the LIC when it is profitable, well managed and has increased its market share last year. On the issue of $5 trillion economy while the Chief Economic Advisor in the Economic Survey 2020, shifted the $5 trillion economy goal to 2030 from 2024 why hasn’t the government acknowledged that? The Hon’ble Finance Minister has to tell if the $5 trillion economy goal was nominal or real GDP, and what is the assumed dollar value of rupee? That assumption is very important. This government has failed miserably in increasing the value of INR against US dollar. The Rupee – Dollar value reached historical low due to the 6 years misrule. The government had given up on reviving the economy or accelerating the growth rate, promoting private investment or increasing efficiency or creating jobs or winning a greater share of world trade. There was no strategic idea or anything concrete in the Budget to counter the growing unemployment rate. Demonetisation proved to be fatal for several thousands of MSMEs and small businesses which thrived on hand cash economy. Women particularly middle class home makers in this country suffered the most due to this thoughtless economic terror unleashed by this Government. The government had not only bothered to hear the voices of the learned public as well as the complaints from the common public. Our Great Poet Thiruvalluvar Says: “The ruler who gives not facile audience (to those who approach him), and who does not examine and pass judgment (on their complaints), will perish in disgrace”. This government should understand the meaning of the Thirukkural and act accordingly. The government is in complete denial that the economy faces a grave macro – economic challenge and the growth rate has declined in six successive quarters. There is no way government could increase its income. In fact, it is making a loss hitherto unheard in the annals of economic history of independent India. The government has held onto debatable positions like “self – reliance, protectionism, control and aggressive taxation. The economy, is “demand constrained and investment – starved. The Hon’ble Finance Minister has not acknowledged these two challenges. If the twin challenges remain, the economy will not turn around and there will be no relief to the millions of poor and the middle class people of this country. This government time and again proves that they are not for the poor people but for the few super rich corporates. Remember this government has categorically declined to waive either the Agriculture loans provided for the poor farmers or the education loans of the poor students but in the last 6 years they have waived a whopping Rs. 5.5 lakh crore bad loans of rich corporate. Is this a good governance? I have a strong apprehension that this is the government for few super rich Corporates. Our party founder Perarignar Anna’s philosophy says that one can see God in the smile of a poor was followed and practised by Dr. Kalaignar during his golden rule in Tamil Nadu. Every scheme was designed for the betterment of the poor downtrodden people. But this government has no compassion for the poor people and extracts tears of blood from the poor people. The tears shed by the poor is mightier than the missiles. It has the power to dislodge any Government. I hope the rulers will understand this. This government is just diverting the core issues from the eyes of public and force everyone busy in debating on India – Pakistan, Abrogation of Article, CAA, NRC, NPR, etc. We miss to notice what’s happening to our country in and around. The entire cabinet and their men are busy in spitting venom on those who give dissenting views and carried away by their religious jingoistic hate mongering slogans. Our Prime Minister unfortunately is not ready to correct them. “Let a king daily examine the conduct of his servants; if they do not act crookedly, the world will not act crookedly” While the government is keen in selling 5G to a foreign company that too from China the state run BSNL is in total doldrums and make a loss of 14,000 crore. In privatizing the BSNL and MTNL several thousand crore worth assets are to be gifted to the buyer but seventy thousand employees (70000 plus) who toiled for Telecom development in the country rendered jobless. Is this a prudent governance. The same is the case with BPCL which is in loss of 750 crore, the country’s iron and steel SAIL is in loss of 286 crore and sad that the highly equipped Salem Steel Plant has been chosen for disinvestment. This is unfair and cannot be allowed. Aviation industry is in big doldrums but the government is ready to spend several crores for creation of new airports. For whose interest this has been done. Private players have swallowed the major airports of the country and the government in coming years may sell more airports to private companies. BHEL is in loss of 219 Crore and India Post is in loss of 15,000 crore. And most of the PSBs record losses. Union Bank is in loss of 1190 Crore. PNB Bank is in loss of 4750 crore. Is this the New India propped up by the government. No money to pay salary for HAL employees and million workers to be laid off in Auto Industry. 12.76 lakhs house unsold in 30 major cities. Even the Most profitable company in India – ONGC is now making losses. Is this the New India the PM and FM wish to boost? Due to GST regime and government policies Rs. 55,000 crores car inventory lying at factories, with no buyers. Builders all over stressed. Some committing suicide, no buyers. Construction Stopped due Mat cost rise (GST at 18% to 28%). Is this the New India to government wish to create? OFB under corporatization affecting over 1.5 lakh employee and families. Millions become unemployed due to Demonetization. Highest unemployment in 45 years. Is this the New India the government wish to project? “The minister is one who can make an excellent choice of means, time, manner of execution, and the difficult undertaking (itself)” I hope the Hon’ble PM and Finance Minister who have the habit of quoting the verses from Thirukkural should also follow and practice what is advised through great Thirukkural instead of doing just lip service. The budget speech by the Finance Minister has shaken economists and historians alike. Now, the ill thought surgical strikes by the Government have been extended beyond the economy to distort the history of our great civilisation. The new term coined by the Minister, “Sindhu – Saraswati Civilization”, is a historical misnomer. It shows the desperate attempts by the Hindutuva Sectionists, to reverse the historical facts and findings. The Hindutuva machinery has been trying to brand the Vedic culture as Saraswati civilization and rename our Indus Valley civilization. The voice of the finance minister is the official voice of that effort. This is an example of how the fascist mindset distort the historical truth according to their whims and wishes. The basic identification of civilization lies in the discovery of pots and bricks. But the very creators of these pots and bricks have been labelled as Asuras or demons in Vedic Literature. How can one claim lineage to a civilization that labels one evil? What is the relationship between the Vedic culture and the Indus Valley civilisation? In Vedic times, we can understand from the texts, the practice of homam (sacrifice) was done entirely using non – baked bricks. In the Vedic literature on rituals, the first mention of bricks is only in the Satapatha Brahmana for the ritual Agnisena. However, three thousand years before that, the fire baked brick was used in the Indus Valley! In recently discovered Keezhadi excavation also, we can see the usage of fire baked bricks. Let us resist the attempt to bring together proven history and myths to colour a saffron narrative on the history of the nation. The archaeological survey project that has been announced for the Adichanallur excavation has also not been excluded out of this. In her spirit, she said, “Take the soil away as you like”. However, we reinstate that soil is the habitat of a multitude of history and culture. It can never be robbed of by any government in power. Adichanallur is one of the important ancient archaeological sites in Tamil Nadu was excavated in the year 1876 by an Ethnologist from Germany named Dr. Jagor. The excavation had brought to light baked earthenware utensils, a number of iron weapons and implements (mainly knives, short sword blades and hatchets) and a huge number of bones and skulls. All these artefacts were taken away by Dr. Jagor for the Berlin Museum furVolkerkunde, currently called as Ethnological Museum of Berlin. I urge the Government to take appropriate measures to bring back those important archaeological evidences to India. Alexander Rea had done a detailed investigation of the sites during the period between 1899 and 1905, when he was able to find large number of artefacts similar to Dr. Jagor consisted of huge amounts of bronze, iron, gold and earthen artefacts combined, the present day excavations yielded mainly earthen wares only. All the artefacts that Rea found was promptly catalogued and documented in his 1915 book titled Catalog of the Prehistoric Antiquities from Adichanallur and Perumbair. However, it remains unclear whether they are being preserved properly. It is for the Government to find out these artefacts from the Cupboards of Archaeological Survey of India and keep them at Adichcnallur site museum. These artefacts are very important. Sir, Tamil Nadu has been the cradle of civilizations and is one of the oldest and most advanced civilization in the annals of world History. I would request the Union Government to sanction Rs. 50 crore to conduct large scale Archaeological excavations in the ancient sites of Poompuhar, Keezhadi, Kodumanal, Korkai in Tamil Nadu and Arikkamedu in Pondicherry to bring out the archaeological and historical greatness of our ancient Tamil Civilization. Development for the urban poor is beyond the provision of social housing. It involves the improvement of people’s capacities within the urban sphere. In an era marked by rural to urban migration, it is important to include people and their livelihoods into the planning of urban habitat. This requires around 1.5 Lakh houses with all the associated infrastructure facilities for providing quality education to medical care to create Smart Slums in Chennai Metropolitan Area. I therefore urge the Government to take appropriate steps to provide funds for the construction of 1.5 lakh houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Housing for All (Urban) and also initiate the Smart Slums program under the Smart Cities Initiative in Chennai Metropolitan Area which cover my South Chennai Constituency. The expansion of the Chennai Metro Rail Project Phase II along 3 corridors North West to South East; West to East; and an orbital corridor for a length of 118.9 Kms at an estimated cost of Rs. 69,180 crores is very important for the people of Chennai particularly my South Chennai Constituency which extend upto Sholinganallur and beyond. I urge upon the Government to provide the financial support to the phase II of the Metro Rail Project of Chennai. Tamil Nadu has been one of the most consistent and productive states in the contributing substantially to the Central Exchequer. Unfortunately, the people of Tamil Nadu are suffering a lot due to the stepmotherly treatment by the Centre and lackadaisical approach of the Government in Tamil Nadu. When it comes to fulfilling the water needs of the people, especially the farmers both the centre and state are awfully short and inadequate. Tamil Nadu is always starving for water and perennially been water deficit state with the annual per capita availability of water being 860 cubic metres only, as against the national average of 1869 cubic metres. The only solution to water starved Tamil Nadu is to transfer water from Godavari to Cauvery. I urge the Union Government take necessary steps to provide 200 TMC ft. of water from Godavari so that the water needs of Tamil Nadu are fulfilled at the earliest. The City of Chennai and the Delta Districts of Tamil Nadu require innovative projects with generous funding for conservation and augmentation of water resources to cater the needs of the people. Therefore, I urge the Union Government to accord priority to the conservation and augmentation of water resources in Chennai Metropolitan Region (CMR) as well as the Modernisation of Grand Anicut Canal System for financial assistance from government of India or any other external funding for sanction of funds. I also urge the Union Government to provide necessary financial and technological support through the central agencies and sanction Rs. 500 Crores for the development and expansion of Tholkappiar Poonga and to expedite the Adyar River Restoration Project in my South Chennai constituency. In my earlier budget speech I had mentioned that wasn’t a budget but rather a FUDGET. I would call this present as FUDGET which would make the people FIDGET –y without any ray of hope!