| Rural job scheme fund slashed from Rs 4,590 cr to Rs 3,600 cr
No provision to fund foodgrain
Rural job demand for grant
Rs 9,000 cr, not Rs 11,000 cr
Capital expenditure pruned from Rs 1,19,722 cr to Rs 67,832 cr
Loan component removed from resource transfer to states and UTs
Total aid to states and Union territory plans reduced from Rs 54,858 cr to Rs 33,112 cr
Calcutta, March 1: Finance minister P. Chidambaram announced a slew of measures to ensure 'growth with equity' in his budget proposals yesterday. But a closer look at some of the budget figures highlights the divergence between the claims and the reality, according to economists associated with the Left.
Although the Left parties were quick to compliment the reformer's commitment to the ruling coalition's common minimum programme by giving a 'new direction' to the budget exercise, Left economists have already started pointing out the anomalies.
At the centre of suspicion is the United Progressive Alliance government's much-hyped national rural employment guarantee scheme for which the Left wanted the government to allocate Rs 20,000 crore.
'For 2005-06, a provision of Rs 5,400 crore for the cash component and 50 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrain have been made and, in overall terms, the allocation will increase to Rs 11,000 crore,' Chidambaram said in his budget speech.
Although the rural development ministry's demand for grants includes the Rs 5,400-crore component, it remains silent on how to foot the foodgrain bill.
'This will jeopardise the food for work programme as the expenses for procurement of foodgrain have not been accounted for besides creating pressure on Food Corporation of India's finances,' explained a Left economist.
Besides, the reduction in allocation for the Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana ' introduced by the National Democratic Alliance government ' from Rs 4,590 crore in 2004-05 to Rs 3,600 crore has also been pointed out to question the Congress-led government's commitment to the cause of the poor.
'From the rural development department, the total demand for grants is just Rs 9,000 crore under the rural employment head, and not Rs 11,000 crore as mentioned in the speech,' added the economist.
He also questioned the hype over the government's rural development initiatives by pointing out that though the allocation for rural development has increased in comparison to 2004-05, the amount falls short of what the NDA government had actually spent in 2002-03.
Besides questioning the veracity of the proposed spending for rural India, the government's resolve to meet the growth objective has also come under the scanner.
'The budget estimate of total capital expenditure (that is the expenditure made to create long-term assets), including both plan and non-plan expenditure, is around Rs 50,000 crore less than that of 2004-05. This is a drastic reduction and it will have its impact on the economy,' said the economist.
Lowering the availability of resources for state governments is another area of concern. In Budget 2005-06, Chidambaram has wiped out the loan component from resources transferred to states and Union territories. The budget proposes that state governments raise loans to the tune of Rs 29,003 crore to finance their annual plans.
'Given the condition of finances of the state governments, their credit rating is very low. It has to be seen how and at what rate the states mobilise resources from the market,' the economist observed.