Chandigarh: Rejecting the Union Budget for 2021-22 as reflective of the BJP-led Central government’s total apathy, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said even the vital sector of defence had not been adequately addressed despite the growing border threat from China and Pakistan.
Even the health allocation was actually down amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Trashing the Centre’s claim that the health sector allotment had been increased by 35 per cent, the Chief Minister said in a statement that the “fact was that numbers had been effectively fudged to project a hike by including Rs 35,000 crore Covid vaccine allotment and the amount set aside for sanitation and cleanliness under the health head”.
Actually, the budget for Health was down 10 per cent, he added.
The Chief Minister also slammed the Centre for the step-motherly treatment meted out to Punjab and other northern states in the budget, which was designed to cater to the poll-bound state of West Bengal, as well as south India, with a massive infrastructure development allocation for these regions.
“The budget also manifests the Central government’s persistent efforts to sideline non-BJP states like ours, as well as its anti-federal mindset,” said the Chief Minister, pointing to the gap between the fiscal deficit targets fixed for the Union and states for short and medium term.
Aimed at promoting the interests of a few corporate houses at the cost of the aspirations of the remaining 1.3 plus billion population, the budget failed to address the growing problem of unemployment, which the Covid-19 pandemic had exacerbated, said the Chief Minster.
“And did the Finance Minister not find it necessary to even mention constitutional guarantee for MSP, one of the key demands of the farmers battling cold and ‘lathis’ at the doorstep of New Delhi for over two months now?” asked Singh, lamenting the measly two per cent hike for agriculture sector, which had been the only well-performing sector for the country amid the lockdown.
The Chief Minister also flayed the Centre’s minimal focus on education, which has seen a massive setback for lakhs of children hit by the digital divide amid the pandemic.
“It seems that this government has no care or concern for our soldiers fighting to protect us at the borders, or our frontline healthcare workers and also the teachers who have been pushed to the limits to ensure seamless service in the midst of Covid,” he added.
With no tax relief, the middle class has also got nothing in this budget, he pointed out, adding that as against 25 per cent for the corporate sector, the middle class will continue to pay 35 per cent plus cess, along with 100 per cent indirect tax on petrol and diesel.
The Chief Minister expressed shock over the Centre’s decision to go in for a virtual wholesale divestment of public sector undertakings and government assets at a time when the economy was in the dumps.
This was inexplicable, considering that the RSS had always vehemently opposed such divestment, and also given the Centre’s self-proclaimed thrust on ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, he added.
The entire budget was a big let-down for every section of society, except the big corporates whom the BJP-led Central government is out to appease at the cost of the interests of the rest, added the Chief Minister.
The only somewhat positive note was the increase in the revenue grant for deficit states from Rs 75,000 crore to Rs 1,85,000 crore, he said, hoping the Centre does not get out of giving Punjab its substantial share on this count.
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