New Delhi, 1 February 2018

Budget 2018, like the previous budgets of Arun Jaitley is high on big announcements without concrete allocation or measures of implementation. The budget does not address the raging agrarian crisis that has devastated the rural economy while repeating the empty promise of doubling farm income by 2022. It says nothing about the demand for freedom from debt raised by peasant organisations across the country and its claim of implementing the Swaminathan Commission recommendation on MSP is patently misleading. The input cost calculation formula of the government takes only running costs into account without factoring in the fixed costs incurred by farmers. Likewise, the budget is completely silent about the basic demands of trade unions and scheme workers regarding minimum wages, job and social security, worker recognition and equal pay for equal work. Allocation for MNREGA continues to stagnate at last year’s level even as wages in many states remain less than the legally stipulated minimum wage and average employment for households getting any work under the Act remains only 49 days per year.

The budget also refuses to tackle the two other major economic concerns of the Indian people – unemployment and mounting inequality. There are no tax proposals for the super-rich even as we know the top 1% claimed 73% of the wealth added in 2017. The budget talks big about healthcare, but instead of strengthening the public healthcare system it only proposes to increase the health insurance cover for the poor which will only benefit private hospitals and insurance companies at the cost of the public exchequer. While the country is still grappling with the economic disruption and devastation caused by the ill-advised demonetisation, Arun Jaitley has once again mocked at the sufferings of the people and the damage caused to the economy by calling it a ‘festival of honesty’.

CPI(ML) calls upon opposition MPs to hold the government accountable both for its silences in the budget as well as the lip-service paid in the name of the farmers and the poor. The party resolves to intensify the struggles of peasants, workers, women scheme workers, unemployed youth and students for fulfilment of their long-standing demands.

– Dipankar Bhattacharya

General Secretary, CPI(ML)(Liberation)