New Delhi: Several organisations came together on Wednesday to stage a protest against the 2020-21 budget calling it ‘anti-people’ at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi. They said that the budget failed to recognise and address the problems being faced by the poor and the underprivileged and, in fact, took steps in the opposite direction by reducing allocations for key welfare schemes. Over 50 organisations, which work for the rights of farmers, labourers and on issues of food security, health, education and employment, came together for the protest.
The protesters criticised the government for not addressing the twin problems of stagnant incomes and the more recent, high rates of inflation. “Taking the rate of inflation into account, there is barely any increase in the funds for the anganwadi, maternity benefits and the mid-day meal programmes,” a press statement released by the organisations said.
The protesters also said that the government ought to have increased spending in order to drive consumption demand to revive the stumbling economy. Unemployment which was at a 45 year high according to a leaked NSSO report last year was also highlighted. The organisations said that the government has done little to address the problem of joblessness in the country.
In fact, in this budget, the government has allocated less money than it expects to spend this year under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) – the key scheme which provides a period of minimum assured employment in rural India.
According to the revised estimated for 2019-20, the government has apportioned Rs 71,000 crore to be spent under MGNREGA till March 2020. But, has only allocated Rs 61,500 crore for 2020-21, effectively reducing the allocation.
The organisations also expressed resentment against the massive cut in food subsidy by Rs 70,000 crore arguing that it puts at risk two things – availability of food at affordable prices for all and remunerative prices for crops.
Arguing that the allocations under health have been readjusted to allocate more money for Ayushman scheme in order to ‘benefit private insurers’. The protesters argued that the government is ignoring its obligations towards primary health care.
Congress MP Rajeev Gowda who was present at the protest said, “Only four Gujaratis are enjoying this government and the budget. Two are in Parliament and the other two are called Ambani. For everyone else, the budget and the coffers are empty.”
“We need an economic policy that addresses people’s needs: raises the minimum wage, raises the minimum support price and increases and expand expenditure on food security, employment guarantee, universal access to healthcare, universal high quality public education, an old age pension and a strong and robust public sector,” the press statement of the organisations said.