Budget 2017: Adding Insult to the Injury Caused by Demonetization

Coming close on the heels of the disastrous blow of demonetization, the 2017-18 budget has gone on to further backstab the disaster-hit people who were looking for some relief. The budget has refused to acknowledge and compensate for the massive loss of income and livelihood caused by demonetization.

The debt-ridden peasants badly needed a waiver, but there is no relief for the peasantry and the farm sector. The Economic Survey talked about the introduction of a Universal Basic Income, but the budget makes no move in this direction. It is ironic that after rubbishing the rural employment guarantee act, the government now seeks to take credit for a marginal increase in MNREGA budget.

The lowering of the undeclared cash donation limit from 20,000 to 2,000 rupees will hardly clean up the corrupt process of corporate political funding and money-laundering. What is needed is transparency in the entire process of political funding and exemplary action on the disclosures made in Sahara-Birla diaries and Panama Papers, but the government continues to reject and obstruct these demands.

The budget has also refused to address the burning question of growing inequality in India. While Modi waxes eloquent against black money and the corrupt rich, the wealth of the top 1% super rich in India has jumped from 49% of total national wealth in 2014 to 53% in 2015 and 58% in 2016. Instead of introducing wealth and inheritance taxes and ending corporate tax exemptions, Arun Jaitley has granted greater tax concessions to the super rich.

In the name of presenting an integrated budget by amalgamating the railway budget with the general budget, the government has further devalued the railways and sabotaged the pressing agenda of passenger amenities and safety and security. The token announcement of a future safety fund and bio-toilets does little to reassure the harassed and overburdened millions of common passengers for whom railway travel is becoming unaffordably expensive and insecure.

For the common people of India, Budget 2017 has come as an insult added to the injury caused by demonetization. We appeal to the common people and organisations representing various sections of workers, peasants, women and youth to rise in protest against the disastrous course of Modinomics. Voters in the poll-bound states of Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur must use the vote as an opportunity to give a strong rebuff to the assault of demonetization and the betrayal of the budget.

Dipankar Bhattacharya

General Secretary,

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)