Impact of budget sops

The Centre announced a number of sops for the salaried middle class and the farmers in the budget. Since then a high voltage propaganda blitz has been unleashed by the BJP, mainly through a docile media, about the relief the Government has sought to give the urban middle class and the small and marginal farmers. Opinion surveys carried out among sections of both classes of the people brought out the fact that by and large, the targeted people are unappreciative of what has been given them. Live interviews with farmers about the supposed benefit of Rs. 6000 annual grant have been telecast. With rare exceptions, all the farmers have said that six thousand rupees a year and that, too, in three installments, is far too inadequate. They have given details of the cost of farming per acre and hectare and shown that the budget sop will hardly alleviate their suffering. Will six thousand rupees a year bring farmers’ vote to the ruling party in a big way?
Similarly, the ceiling of tax-free income has been raised from Rs. 2.5 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh.  Taking into account the standard deduction and tax exemption on certain investments, the total tax-free income comes to Rs. 6.1 lakh. Does the middle class think it is a great benefit to them?  Last year’s Economic Survey claimed that average inflation during 2017-18 had come down to a six year low of 3.5 per cent. But as is well known, official figures are often fudged and conceal rather than reveal the true state of affairs. The recent “leak” of official statistics on unemployment and job creation caught the Government on the wrong foot and its spokesmen were at a loss how to wriggle out of a difficult situation. The question is, taking into account rising fuel prices (including cooking gas) and cost of health care and education, how much relief will the tax exemption up to five lakh rupees give to the urban middle class?  How far will it induce this section of people to vote for a government that has been accused of bungling the national economy?
These are the basic issues that affect the people. If the opposition can mount a sustained campaign, exposing the hollowness of the much tom-tomed “relief” the Government claims to have given, it can blunt the government propaganda effectively. The people have to be told clearly that the sops given in the budget are, technically, ‘promises’ of the Government for the next year when the present government may not be in power. People still remember Modi’s promises in 2014.

Wednesday, 6 February, 2019