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Budget wishlist: What should the FM do

Last updated on: January 10, 2013 09:27 IST

Budget wishlist: What should the FM do

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Sandeep Pandey

What will Budget 2013 hold in store for Indians? While the nation hopes to see a populist Budget, here are some pre-Budget suggestions to Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

1. Malnourishment is a serious problem. Half the children facing malnourishment are probably the ones which either don't go to school at all or drop out before reaching class VIII stage.

The government programmes which could have taken care of malnourishment, the ICDS, MDM or PDS severely lack in quality and are marred by corruption.

If good quality balanced diet doesn't reach deserving people how are we ever going to grow out of situation of widespread malnourishment?

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Image: Rinku, 20 months, who weighs 4 kg and suffers from severe malnutrition, lies in his mother's lap in Naingarh village of Sheopur district in Madhya Pradesh.
Photographs: Reinhard Krause/Reuters.
Tags: ICDS , VIII , MDM , PDS

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2. Hunger is a result of poverty in general. Poverty has perpetuated because of government policies and corruption. In the last twenty years when the salaries of service sector have risen by about fifteen times, the minimum wages of daily wage worker have risen by only thrice.

Prices rose because of increas in salaries but they affected the daily wagers the most. Insensitivity towards poor, e.g., in the form of continued use of faulty BPL lists to reach the benefits to poor, make things complicated. Hence demand for universalisation of PDS is an important one.

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Image: Four-year-old Kiran, who is suffering from malnutrition, stands next to her mother Sheil Rani in Balabehat village in Lalitpur district, in Uttar Pradesh.
Photographs: Reinhard Krause/Reuters.
Tags: BPL , PDS

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3. There is a demand for Rs 440 per day as daily wages for unorganised workers in consonance with the demand by trade unions of Rs 11,000 as minimum monthly salary for contract employees.

There is an urgent need to raise the wages significantly to tackle poverty. This will have to be done by a political decision just like sixth pay commission was implemented.

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Image: A woman labourer holds her child at a coal yard on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters.
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4. Extortion from and corruption in schemes meant for poor ensure that severe levels of poverty remain in this country.

Political will to stamp out corruption in all schemes meant for poor and a determined no to extortion from daily wage earners, e.g., road side vendors, etc., will help the situation a little bit.

Poverty alleviation is directly linked to elimination of financing politics by corruption money. Clean politics will result in healthier (literally) India. Mechanisms to eliminate corruption need to be put in place.

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Image: child has his breakfast at a flood relief camp in Purniya district town of Bihar.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters.
Tags: , India

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5. Farmers do not get their minimum support price because middlemen force them to sell at a lower price.

The minimum support price itself should be set at about one and a half times the cost of production by a Farmers' Commission and it must be ensured that no middlemen are allowed to sabotage this. Need for a rational basis for setting the MSP is long overdue.

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Photographs: Reuters.

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6. The cash transfer if implemented in PDS will kill the entire system of procurement at minimum support price leaving the farmers to the mercy of cruel market forces.

Farming should be given the status of national service. All farm labour should be paid for by MNREGS. This will ensure that increase in wages of unorganised workers doesn't create a burden on farmers.

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Photographs: Reuters.
Tags: MNREGS , PDS

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7. Hence proper policy correction coupled with a political will to end all extortion from and corruption in schemes meant for labourers and farmers are key to ending the misery of vast majority of population of this country.

Otherwise annoucement of new schemes for distribuion of benefits in cash or kind and making laws meant for the poor will be meaningless.

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Photographs: Reuters.
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8. The Private Public Partnership model of development is turning out to be a farce. The assumption is that government will be able to get things done in public interest by getting the private sector to invest.

However, examples will show that the private sector doesn't enter into an agreement without ensuring guaranteed high profits using and often looting public resources in an unethical manner. A farmer, artisan, trader or entrepreneur doesn't have this kind of guarantee in their work.

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Photographs: Reuters.

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9. The government seems to be more worried about subsidy going to common people and poor but chooses to ignore the loss caused by private sector.

It is ironical that in the name of reforms the government gives various kinds of concession to private companies who are out to take the government and the people for a ride and this loss is attempted to be recovered from common people for whom life has become difficult because of price rise.

Whatever benefits people are getting is seen as a burden on the economy and these subsidies are being withdrawn one after another. This is further creating a gap between the rich and the poor.

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Image: A child of a slum dweller eats food outside her house at a slum area in Jammu.
Photographs: Amit Gupta/Reuters.
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10. The terms used in the process of reform are misleading. The process of helping a debt ridden company is called 'financial restructuring' and the withdrawl of subsidy from an essential item for common people like LPG or raise in diesel prices is called 'rationalisation'. In fact, the word 'reform' itself is a betrayal of people.

These policies have helped the already well-off and private corporations and have burdened the common citizen. The poor have been the hardest hit.

There is a need to roll back the economic policies of Privatisation, Globalisation and Liberalisation in public interest.





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