Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee confined himself to jugglery with statistics and allowed the golden opportunity to usher in basic reforms in the economy, charged Lok Satta Party president Jayaprakash Narayan on Monday.
Addressing media on the Union budget, Dr Narayan said the budget was eloquently silent on strengthening the rural economy through making farming remunerative, providing livelihood opportunities to the youth, improving urban infrastructure, empowering local governments, providing better health care and education facilities and attaining fuel security.
“Since Government revenues are satisfactory and there are no impending electoral compulsions, the Finance Minister ought to have reviewed the economic reforms initiated two decades ago, and introspected why farmers continued to end their lives and people opposed location of industries like a thermal power plant in Srikakulam district,” the LSP chief said.
Party working president DVVS Varma and leaders Katari Srinivasa Rao, N Sarojadevi and Prof D Vishnu Murthy took part in the media conference.
Dr Narayan said that although the Finance Minister dwelt at length on farming, he did not outline any measures to improve farmers’ incomes, which continue to be one-seventh of their urban counterparts. The Government viewed farmers as raw material producing machines and not as human beings in flesh and blood entitled to decent living. It has failed to liberate the farm sector from the license-permit raj 20 years after it initiated economic reforms,
The move to set apart Rs 500 crore towards enhancement of skills of youth translates into an allocation of Rs 50 or Rs 60 per head in a country with millions of unemployed youth, the former IAS officer said. He added that the Union Government could have earmarked one-third of Rs 3,50,000 crore it proposes to devolve on States, to local governments and helped them address local problems. The Government, which spent Rs 40,000 crore on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, could have allocated Rs 100 crore to each of the 180 backward districts in the country, Dr Narayan stated.
The LSP chief accused the Government of trying to ruin agriculture further by promising food security to all even as it concedes corruption and leakages in the public distribution system. The Government did not outline any measures to promote production and use of bio fuels to reduce dependence on oil imports, he bemoaned.
Dr Narayan demanded the publication of a white paper on the Government policy on thermal power plants. Allowing thermal power plants to sprout like mushrooms without reference to the State’s requirements is unwarranted and harmful, the former bureaucrat warned. He also demanded reforms in the land acquisition policy to ensure justice to the dispossessed.