Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram trashed the Union budget unveiled today, saying it had nothing for the poor or the unemployed and questioned if the capital investment outlay will be used. His party, the Congress, has alleged that a chunk of the capital outlay in the current financial year remains unused.
Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who presented the budget in parliament today, did not mention the unemployed at all and only mentioned the poor twice, Mr Chidambaram said.
"In the 90-minute speech, the Finance Minister did not think it necessary to utter even once the words 'unemployment, poverty, inequality'. She said the word 'poor' twice," Mr Chidambaram told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
"Now what is there in this budget for the poor? Have indirect taxes been cut? Has GST been cut? Have the prices of petrol, diesel, fertiliser, cement, which poor middle classes use, been cut?" he added.
In this context he quoted a research by the Azim Premji University, which says that as many as 5.6 crore people fell below the poverty line in the last three years, mainly because of the pandemic. "Now what have you done to lift them above the poverty line?" he said.
When the question of oil prices came up at a post-budget press conference with Ms Sitharaman, an official of the ministry said, "There is no budget that has crude price as an input in any spreadsheet. Oil prices don't affect a budget. No assumption has been made".
The budget announced today -- the last full budget ahead of next year's general election -- has included huge capital outlay in infrastructure and agri sectors and reworked tax slabs in a massive relief to the middle class. It has been hailed a dream budget by many.
In his remarks after the budget was presented, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it focuses on technology and new economy and will "fulfill the dreams of the poor, villagers, farmers, middle class".
"In comparison with 2014, there has been a 400 per cent increase in infra investment. There is 10 lakh crore on infra investment. This will get jobs for youth and earn livelihood for a big population. Credit support and reforms have been taken forward. 2 lakh crore credit guarantee will be given to MSMEs," he said.
Quoting figures, Mr Chidambaram said the government has failed to spend the allotments made last year in the sectors of education, health and social welfare. "I can go down the list there are 10-12 items where they did not spend the money allocated," he added.