Indian Union Budget 2021-22: Chidambaram said that the increase in cess on petrol and diesel were a cruel act on poor and farmers. He said it was a vengeful act against the thousands of farmers who took out the largest tractor rally in history. "It is also a cruel blow to federalism because states do not get a share in the revenue from cesses," he said.
Union Budget 2021: Hours after Sitharaman presented Budget 2021, the Congress said that the budget was a let-down like never before. Sitharaman had earlier said that this year’s budget would be like never before. However, the Congress party said that her budget failed on 9 of 10 points suggested by it on January 28. Addressing a press conference, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that the increase in cess on petrol and diesel were a cruel act on poor and farmers. He said it was a vengeful act against the thousands of farmers who took out the largest tractor rally in history. “It is also a cruel blow to federalism because states do not get a share in the revenue from cesses,” he said.
Chidambaram further said that Sitharaman did not mention Defence at all “as if Chinese had vacated Indian territory”. “She did not mention that defence expenditure in 2021-22 will see no rise. It is flat at Rs 3,47,088 crore, almost the same as Rs 3, 43, 822 crore in the current year,” he said. On healthcare, he said, the finance minister gave out a mind boggling figure of Rs 2, 23, 846 crore for health. “It was a conjuring trick. She added the one time cost of vaccination Rs 35,000 crore and the Finance Commission grants amounting to Rs 19, 214 crore. She also included allocations to the department of water and sanitation. Shorn of these add ons, the allocation for health was Rs 72,934 crore in 2020-21, and Rs 79, 602 crore in 2021-22,” he said, adding that given inflation, the increase is practically nil. “What kind of additional healthcare infrastructure can be built with this parsimonious allocation,” he asked.
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The former finance minister further said that on two non-negotiables that the Congress had mentioned, namely healthcare and defence, the government has failed miserably. He said fiscal numbers show that the fiscal situation was in a mess. He also said that the revenue deficit 7.5 per cent and fiscal deficit 9.5 per cent in current year have exceeded every prediction including the government’s. “In 2021-22, the government estimates it will borrow about Rs 3.42 lakh crore less but nobody is willing to believe the government. The borrowing number has been understated by assuming that there will be disinvestment revenue of Rs 1.75 lakh crore. The record of this government on disinvestment is poor,” Chidambaram said. The senior congress leader further said that revenue deficit 5.1 per cent and fiscal deficit 6.8 per cent numbers for 2021-22 will send alarm signals to the rest of the world, especially the investors and international lenders.
On allocation to the agri sector, Chidambaram said that the farm sector had been short changed. “The budget allocation for agriculture and allied activities has been reduced from Rs 1,55, 775 crore in the BE (Budget Estimate) of current year to Rs 1,48, 301 crore in the BE of next year. Budget allocation for PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi has been reduced from Rs 75,000 crore to Rs 65,000 crore,” he said. The former union minister also said that the MSME sector was dismissed in one sentence with allocation of Rs 15,700 crore. He said nothing was mentioned about low interest loans, working capital or moratorium and nothing will be done to revive closed units or to recover millions of jobs that were lost. “The budget was a let down like never before – it is not a budget like never before but it is let down like never before,” Chidambaram said.