A Budget wasted
Analysing the Union Budget presented P Chidambaram, it seems the Government has targeted two sections mainly — women and youth. Elections are due by the end of the year after all.
The Government knows that these two sections of voters comprise more than 50 per cent of the vote share and if they are lucky enough (or crafty enough) to get that, then there will be nothing to worry about.
Chidambaram spoke the word ‘women’ more than 20 times in his speech. In the wake of its disasterous handling of popular protests after the gruesome Delhi rape incident, the Government has announced slew of measures for women, including the ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ for women’s security.
Rs 1,000 crore have been allocated for the newly-announced women’s safety fund. One wishes that rather than announcing money, the Government had announced measures like free medical treatment to rape victims and that money spent on legal cases following such incidents will be born by the state.
But Government’s intention seems only to cash on this restless vote-bank.
Otherwise, question arises is why has the Government woken up and announced a ‘fund’ for women’s safety when polls are round the corner? Was women’s security not important before the December 16 rape incident?
Secondly, sops for women announced in the Budget are a ‘women’s bank’ and 1,000 crore has been allocated for that. Bank will come into action by end of the October 2013.
Why this sudden compassion for women?
If they really care for women, why didn’t they let the Women’s Reservation Bill pass in Lok Sabha. A Bill which reserves 33 per cent of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies has been lingering since 2010 when it got passed in Rajya Sabha.
For youth, the Finance Minister declared, “My budget for 2013-14 has before it one overarching goal: to create opportunities for our youth to acquire education and skills that will get them decent jobs or self-employment that will bring them adequate incomes that will enable them to live with their families in a safe and secure environment.”
Brushing off the dust from its old pro-poor image, the Government has extended Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to rickshaw-pullers, auto and taxi drivers.
If we summarise the whole Budget, we can say that the Government has tried to cement its pro aam aadmi image before the 2014 general election. Rather than making tall promises, Government should have announced something more substantial and put money in the right places.
A very short-sighted approach has been followed in the budget and good opportunity has been frittered away.
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Mukul Mishra is a journalist working with Niti Digital currently. He has previously worked in NewsX and Doordarshan News.