Budget is a routine exercise in democracy. So is appreciation from the ruling party and criticism from the opposition. After a long time, budget in Bharat has seen something different in terms of reaction. Either there was appreciation or allegations of appropriation. Barring the issue of tax on interest component on withdrawal of Employees Provident Fund (EPF), there was nothing against which any sector has raised a red flag. The budget is neither ‘reformist’ in the conventional sense suggeting any bing bang reform agenda nor does it promise stars to the middle class. Then what is there in this budget that even the hardest critics had to scratch a bit before making any negative comment about the annual income expenditure statement of Bharat. This budget is different in three important ways.
Firstly, from the word go, the budget made the foundations of this year’s financial statement clear. The direction of the budget is based on nine fundamentals, rest of the provisions unfold from these nucleus indicators. The core principle of ‘Transform India’ binds all these indicators together. This edifice of the budget makes the statement coherent and lucid. It is not limited to numerical juggernaut but substantively rooted in the social, economic and political content.
Secondly, the first three out of nine parameters are dedicated to Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare; Rural Sector with emphasis on employment and infrastructure; and Social Sector including Healthcare. This clearly indicates that addressing rural distress is the prime focus of the government. It has taken a bottom up approach accroding to which demand generated in the rural areas is going to drive the growth prospects for the entire Bharat. Thinking beyond sloganeering and the government dependent food security, this budget talks about ‘income security’ for farmers by ensuring doubling of their income in the next five years. With integrating structural and practical aspects of agriculture, this budget set to create capital inflow through building up credit and marketing institutions. First time, all aspects related to rural life, that is soil, irrigation, scientific support, supply chain, infrastructure including roads and electricity, insurance, credit, food security, education, health facilities and the role of Panchayati Raj institutions are dealt in a coherent manner.
Thirdly and most importantly, this budget clearly indicates the ideological roots of the ruling dispensation. Since the change of guards at the Centre or even before that some people have been too busy targeting Prime Minister Modi and his background with all the possible jibes or humiliating comments. His foreign visits and clarion call to invest in Bharat were also hurriedly dumped and criticised. The reality is when Modi took over as Prime Minister, economic indicators were in bad shape, confidence of investors in Bharateeya economy was all time low, the system was grappling with rampant corruption and global economic conditions were gloomy which continues till date. In such a situation, regaining confidence of investers and ensuring industry and service sector back on track was the priority. Once that core issue is addressed, Modi has shown that he has not forgotten either his personal or ideological roots. For addressing the key issue of rural distress, bridging the gap between rural-urban divide was essential. For the same, revamping the approach of financial spending with institutional back up was the key, which was propounded by Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya through his integral approach. PM Modi and his team did exactly that.
On many occasions, political and financial pronouncements have the right spirit and intention but the things go haywire. Now the challenge is to ensure the right execution of the spirit, and then only coming year can reinforce the spirit of integral thinking and build a foundation for ‘Transform India’ in the coming years.