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A non-reformist Budget

This government is high on rhetoric, short on facts.

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This government has finally accepted that demonetisation is going to bring down GDP to 6.75 per cent. This roughly translates into a loss of 1.5 lakh crore in the interim to an already sluggish economy. The ill effects of demonetisation have become visible while the so-called benefits elude us.

The finance minister said that spring is a season of hope. He should have confessed that politicians are essentially dealers in hope. The Budget clearly demonstrates that the finance minister is far removed from the prevailing economic situation. This budget is presented with an eye on politics. Empty promises, with no roadmap, like doubling farmer incomes in five years sound like poll promises.

This government is high on rhetoric, short on facts. The Prime Minister in campaign mode promised one crore jobs annually. In 2016, 1.35 lakh jobs were created as per Labour Bureau data. At the end of every month there are almost 10 lakh youngsters looking for a job who are being let down. This challenge is not been addressed in the budget.

The finance minister has not convinced us on revenue projections that will finance the budget’s populist schemes. On the revenue side, earnings may not turn out to be as expected. The Government may have to provide a clearer picture of how it intends to finance budgeted programmes. The Budget proposes increase in spending on infrastructure but this is largely restricted to railways, roads and the rural and allied sectors. Without revenue earnings based on reasonable projections, such increased allocations will remain on paper.

With reference to allocations to agriculture and allied sectors, the Budget fails to address the impact of demonetisation on farmers. Though agricultural credit is fixed at ₹10 lakh crore, there is no realisation that farm loans are already declared as NPA’s and therefore, farmers will not be able to take advantage of the credit facility. The government, instead, should have waived farmers’ loan so that credit could be accessed.

The road to recovery should have been possible by incentivising private investment and generating consumer demand by putting more money in the pockets of ordinary folk. Indirect taxes should have been lowered, which in turn would have increased consumer spending.

Skill development is a long-term measure and will not give immediate dividends. Labour reforms require State governments to come on board. Digitisation requires investment in digital infrastructure, which is not seen in the budget numbers. The fibre-optic network connecting 2.5 lakh gram panchayats is not likely to be completed even till 2019. Without last mile connectivity, the benefits of digitisation cannot be realised. There are other manufacturing issues connected with digitisation, which too, have to be put in place. The budget papers do not reflect any attempt to address these issues. The Budget ignores the manufacturing sector. The textile, leather, hosiery and diamond industries needed incentives to kick start manufacturing and create jobs. The informal sector needs incentivisation, being the hardest hit on account of demonetisation.

Exports are in decline. There should have been some indication in the budget about how the finance minister will be addressing this issue. There should have been some financial incentives for export growth, especially since international developments will make some of our industries non-competitive. The IT sector in particular will be facing hard times. The minister did not address this concern as well.

The revenue numbers will only be available by March 31 of this year. Before that, all revenue projections are only speculative. Consequently, it is not understood how allocations of this magnitude could be made without ascertainable numbers for revenue collection. This is a non-reformist budget. Difficult times require the Government to stand up and guide the economy with a firm hand. Both the Prime Minister and the finance minister have failed to rise to the challenge.

(The writer is a Senior Congress leader and former union minister)
(Article Source: This article was first published on BusinessLine, dated February 1, 2017)

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Super Destinations to bring in 2018!

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7 LUXURY TRAVEL TRENDS FOR 2017
New Year’s Eve is right around the corner, and this is the time of the year when all we care about is bidding farewell to the year with a bang. Well then, why not opt for some amazingly beautiful, yet largely undiscovered, locations that are just a short travel from Mumbai!
Starting off with a charming hill station, Kanatal, situated in the picturesque Garhwal Himalayas, is the perfect place to spend a couple of days in unimaginable peace and solitude. Surrounded by lush forests and beautiful views of mist-shrouded mountains and steeped in warmth, this is your one chance of experiencing true Pahadi hospitality.
While in Kanatal, you can choose to explore the tiny hamlet, set off on a hike, trek or nature walk across any of the surrounding hills and valleys, set up camp in any one of the numerous camping locations or add some thrill to your vacation by going rappelling or rock climbing. Amongst the sights that this charming hill station has to offer, some of the more unique ones are the Surkhanda Devi Temple, with Kanatal’s own little legend and Tehri Dam, the highest dam in the country.
But ifa simple, peaceful vacation doesn’t seem like the best way of bringing in 2018, then Manali is great for some exciting adventure activities and peaceful exploration at the same time. Set on the Beas River, you can spend your time skiing across the Solang Valley or trekking up to the famed Tibetan monasteries. You can also opt for paragliding, rafting and mountaineering in the Pir Panjal Mountains. Once you’ve had your fill of adventures, you can relax those tired muscles in the famous hot-water springs of Vashist village, and then start exploring the villages nearby, including Manikaran, Kasol and Kothi. While this destination is perfect around the year, it’s especially popular in the winter months, making it a perfect place to bring in the New Year.
If hill stations aren’t your cup of tea though, then Jaisalmer should be the ideal destination for you. Also known as the ‘Golden City’, Jaisalmer promises an extremely unique experience, with the massive Fort, rising up from the unending desert sands, the magnificent havelis, colourful bazaars and deep-rooted cultural history.
In Jaisalmer, you can choose to explore the city’s historical heritage, starting with havelis like Patwon-Ki-Haveli, Nathmal-Ki-Haveli or Salim Singh Ki Haveli, each with its own unique story and regal architecture, and going on to explore the thrilling Kuldhara Ghost Town, the Vyas Chhatri, dedicated to Ved Vyasa, and the Thar Heritage Museum. After the dose of history, you can stop by the stunning Bada Bagh or the breathtaking Gadisar Lake and roam the deserts with a camel safari.
“All these destinations are absolutely perfect for this time of the year”, says Viren Batra, co-founder of Nirvana Travel. “Some of the most popularvacation places; they are all unique in terms of what they have to offer, making it easy for travelers to choose the perfect place to bring in the New Year!”
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Gujarat assembly elections:Modi showcases seaplane as development, Rahul expects ‘zabardast’ results

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Rahul Gandhi

Hectic campaigning in Gujarat assembly elections has witnessed a direct  fight between PM Modi and Congress President elect Rahul Gandhi.This is the first time when top leaders of both the parties have addressed maximum number of rallies in the assembly  elections. During the entire campaigning, Modi have been constantly shifting the narratives from Vikas (development) to Pakistan to Congress and them to himself but Congress has been raising the issue of 22 years of misrule by BJP where farmers,Patidars, Dalits have been marginalized and have taken to streets for fulfillment of their demands.

Congress claimed that only 10 industrialists have benefitted from Modi’s policies and 90% of colleges have been privatised burdening the middle class people with costly education and health care.

Gujarat assembly elections have become a referendum for Rahul Gandhi emerging as a challenger to Modi where as for PM it has become a prestige battle on his home turf.

 

The manner in which Rahul Gandhi gave  a detailed briefing to media on the last day of campian trial,he has registered himself  as a prime ministerial material as he said his priorities as Congress president would be “to strengthen the Congress  party as an Organisation and move forward to change the political discourse that has become ugly and nasty.”

 

 

While PM Modi always projected himself as the sole leader relegating his party to backseat.

On the last day of campaigning ,Modi showcased development of Gujarat by taking a ride  on the

seaplane from the Sabarmati River to Dharoi Dam in Mehsana district and then travelled by road to Banaskantha district to offer prayers at the famous Ambaji Temple .But, would Modi explain how a seaplane  can become a testimony for development of the state.

BJP has been saying that  their core agenda is development but building roads, flyovers and dams are part of infrastructure  while development implies providing more jobs, introduce innovative ideas for new generation to compete in the world.Rahul Gandhi questioned the BJP’s Gujarat Model saying there is one sided development in Gujarat and asserted that his party will seize the state from the BJP  which has been in power for the last 22 years.

Gandhi reiterated that the lopsided development has not touched lives of common people in the State.

 

Gandhi said, “There is a massive undercurrent against the BJP in the state and  the Gujarat verdict will be zabardast (stunning).”

Gandhi claimed “The Congress wants to take along all sections of Gujarat together as against the BJP which has worked for 10 to 15 industrialists.

He attacked Modi questioning Modi and  BJP to come clean on the Rafael deal, Jay Shah case and debt waiver of top corporates.

 

 During his campaigning, the Congress’ president-elect posed 14 questions to the BJP and Prime Minister Modi on Twitter with the tag line “22 saalon ka hisaab, Gujarat maange Jawaab (Gujarat demands answers and account of [BJP’s] 22-year-rule in the state.”

Rahul had asked PM Modi: “First question for PM Modi on the situation of Gujarat: It was promised in 2012 that 50 lakh new houses will be made. In five years, only 4.72 lakh have been built. PM must answer whether it will take 45 years to complete this promise?”

 Question 2: In 1995(before BJP came to power) the debt on Gujarat was Rs 9,183 crore. In 2017, the debt on Gujarat is Rs 2,41,000 crore.

“The third question to the PM: Between 2002-16, Why was electricity worth Rs 62,549 crore bought to fill the pockets of four private companies? The production capacity of government’s power-production plants was reduced by 62 per cent but why was electricity of Rs 3 per unit bought at Rs 24 per unit from private firms? Why was public money wasted?” Rahul questioned.

. Why is Gujarat ranked 26th in terms of government’s expenditure on education? What is the fault of the youth?”

No security, no education, no nourishment, the only thing women got was exploitation. Worers of Anganwadi of ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist), all got disappointment. Only promises were made to Gujarat’s women, but there was no intention to complete them.”

BJP’s double assault; on one hand the youth is unemployed and on the other lakhs of contractual and fixed-wage workers left unsatisfied. When the 7th central pay commission fixed a monthly pay of 18,000, why do fixed wagers get only Rs 5,500 and contractual workers only Rs 10,000? Rahul asked PM Modi in his sixth question.

 In his next attack, Rahul then asked the prime minister “whether the BJP is only a party for the rich?”

 “39 per cent children are suffering from malnourishment. The neonatal mortality rate in 33 out of every 1,000 newborns. The cost of medical care is increasing and there is a dearth of doctors. In Bhuj, a ‘friend’ was given government hospital for 99 years. Is this your medical arrangement,” Rahul asked.

 “Neither the loans were waived off, nor the right price paid for crops; the crop insurance sum was also not paid. Tubewells for irrigation were also not set up. Gabbar Singh’s assault on farming, land taken away, farmer left without work. Answer prime minister, why this behaviour with the farmer?”

In his 10th question, Rahul asked the PM: “The land of the tribals was snatched away from them, they were not even given any rights on the forests, Lakhs of land agreements are stuck, neither did the schools work, nor were hospitals provided. The homeless was not provided a house and no work for the unemployed. The tribals have been broken. Where is the Rs 55,000 crore from the vanbandhu yojana?”

 “80 per cent engineers are sitting jobless. Tata Nana was just talk, the car didn’t work. Those who ask for jobs are shot, you have gambled with the future of the youth. Education sold, examinations sold, schools and colleges made shops; Modiji why was the honour of education centres sold?

 “Small-mid sized merchants are stricken, big industrialists are revelling. Dual assault of GST and note ban; Whether it be Surat, Rajkot, Alang or Anjar, Gujarat’s trade was destroyed. Will your government take accountability?”

 “You said the government will be accountable, answer why was Lokpal bypassed? GSPC (Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation), electricity-metro scams, silence on Shah-Jada (jibe at Amit Shah) every time, desperate for fill the pockets of friends. The list in long. And the question is to the ‘silent sir’, for whose ‘achhe din’ (good days) was this government made?” he asked.

Rahul asked the PM: “No land, no employment, no health, no education, all that the dalits of Gujarat got was insecurity. Modiji is silent on the tragic incident of Una; then who will take accountability for the incident? There were many laws made in the name of dalits. But who will execute them properly?”

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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India has survived as a single political entity because of democracy

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democracy

Why, despite the differences and the almost continuous trouble in one or other part of India, has the country (India) survived as a single political entity?

The answer in one word is democracy. India’s experiment with democracy has been unique, not only due to the size of the electorate and the number of political parties, but because it has tamed and ‘Indianised’ it. The Westminster model of parliamentary democracy has been transformed into the Raisina model. Reforms to achieve social equality have taken place through the election process-vote banks rather than direct, unilateral executive action which has historically been more common-as for example when Kemal Atatürk reformed Turkey during his tenure as the President.

There is no evidence that democracy existed in ancient India. There were republics in parts of what are now Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. These were territories which had no kings but the rulers were an oligarchy. But these rulers were not elected by all the people. Indeed the idea of equal rights to elect rulers would be strange to a hierarchical social order.

These were oligarchies rather than monarchies, republics rather than democracies. Even in panchayats, whether for a caste or a village, it was very much the older, more powerful men (and exclusively men) who were the panch. We see that today in khap panchayats. Khap panchayats are committees of elders of a jati which lay down the conventions of good behaviour for members of that jati. Democracy is quite different from republicanism. Great Britain has been a democracy without being a republic.

The most radical act of the members of the Constituent Assembly was the decision to grant universal adult franchise. They themselves had been elected by an electorate which was highly restricted. There were several arguments which could have been advanced against universal adult franchise. Illiteracy, for example. Only 12 percent of Indians were literate at the time of Independence. (Now the rate is 75 per cent.) Moreover, across the world, few countries had given women the vote by 1947. The UK achieved full female suffrage only in 1928 and France in 1946. India granted women the vote immediately, without any previous experience of women voting. High or low caste, savarna and Dalits, tribals and mainlanders-all got to vote as long as they were adults. The orthodox theory of Ram Rajya would never have sanctioned such equality. It was a profound, egalitarian move.

The choice of democracy with full adult franchise was not an accident. In the official reforms, franchise had been kept restricted. But the Indian National Congress was converted from an elite gathering into a mass party by Gandhi once he became its leader in 1921. With him at the helm, the Congress gave every ordinary member a right to vote at the local level to elect their representatives in higher Congress bodies. Congress practised universal adult franchise for all its paid-up (4 annas/25 paise) members and then naturally extended it to all when it came to power.

There was also another factor which has been downplayed in the history of the independence movement. This was the experience political leaders acquired by participating in the official legislatures. They included leaders such as Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Sir Srinivas Shastri, Chittaranjan Das, Motilal Nehru, Tej Bahadur Sapru and Vithalbhai Patel, all of whom were seasoned parliamentarians. The electorates were small, the elected Indians had little power, the agenda was controlled by the executive (this still remains the case in independent India’s Parliament). But the participants learnt about procedure on how to frame and pass legislation, debate budgets and so on. The short-term split in the independence movement between the constitutional and the agitational sides took place in 1921, when Gandhi issued the call for non-cooperation, and ended in 1937, when Congress took part in the legislatures.

During that period, the Swaraj Party started by Congress leaders such as C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru participated in the elections. By the time of Independence, in fact, there were many leaders who had become seasoned parliamentarians. Some like Har Bilas Sarda achieved their goal of reforming society by having an Act passed. The Sarda Bill was introduced in 1927 in the Central Legislative Assembly and passed as the Sarda Act in 1929, prohibiting child marriage. India was ready for a parliamentary democracy, British style.

(Noted public intellectual, professor of Economics and an active member of the British Labour Party since 1971, Meghnad Desais latest book “The Raisina Model” (Penguin/Rs 499/208 pages) offers a critical and frequently uncomfortable mediation on Indias contemporary political culture. Presented here is an exclusive extract from the book:)

By : Meghnad Desai

(Extracted from “The Raisina Model” by Meghnad Desai, with permission from Penguin Random House India)

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