Union Budget 2017: FM Arun Jaitley today presented the Union Budget after the Opposition failed to convince the PM Narendra Modi led NDA government to delay the same in the wake of the death of Indian Union Muslim Lague (IUML) MP E Ahamed demise. However, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan brooked no delay and announced that the presentation will continue. The opposition initially tried to drown FM Jaitley’s speech, they soon gave way and allowed him to speak freely. With note ban being on top of the agenda for the government, early in his speech, FM Jaitley said, “I am reminded of what our father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi said a right cause never fails. Demonetisation is a bold and decisive measure, for many decades tax evasion was a way of life for many.” The note ban exercise was carried out by the Modi government to fight black money in the Indian economy as well as move it to a less cash and more digital payments-oriented status. It caused a lot of hardships for the public, but the government had justified it as being ‘worth it’. Today, FM Jaitley used the name of the Mahatma to justify it in his Budget speech.
Not just FM Jaitley, a day earlier, the Economic Survey had also invoked the Mahatma for another proposal that is on the government’s agenda. This has to do with the introduction of universal basic income in the country. Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of “wiping every tear from every eye”, the Survey made a strong pitch for implementing Universal Basic Income (UBI) that stipulates a certain income for the poor. Invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of ‘wiping every tear from every eye’, it made a pitch for implementing Universal Basic Income (UBI) to entitle the poor with at least some income and thus eliminate poverty. The Survey estimated that a UBI that reduces poverty to 0.5 pct would cost 4-5 per cent of GDP, assuming that those in the top 25 pct income bracket are not part of it.
Stating that the Mahatma would have anxieties about UBI as being just another add-on government programme, but on balance may have given the go-ahead, the Survey pointed out that the two pre-requisites for its success are functional JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile) system and Centre-state negotiations on cost sharing for the programme. “On the other hand, the existing middle-class subsidies and food, petroleum and fertilizer subsidies cost about 3 pct of GDP,” it noted.