February 1, 2021 8:52:51 pm
The Union Budget 2021-22 reflects the Centre’s “persistent efforts to sideline” non-BJP ruled states, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh Monday said. His Cabinet colleague and state Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal on claimed that the “entire north India” was ignored in the Budget, which was also silent on agricultural unrest, unemployment and problems of the middle class.
“The Budget is reflective of the BJP-led central government’s total apathy towards the common man, the middle class and farmers. It also manifests the central government’s persistent efforts to sideline non-BJP states like ours, as well as its anti-federal mindset,” said Amarinder, pointing to the gap between the fiscal deficit targets fixed for the Union government and states.
He criticised the Centre for the “stepmotherly” treatment meted out to Punjab and other northern states, claiming that it was “designed” to cater to the poll-bound states of West Bengal and south India with a massive infrastructure development allocation for these regions.
Aimed at promoting the interests of a few corporates at the cost of the needs and aspirations of the remaining population, the Budget has failed to address the growing problem of unemployment, which the Covid pandemic had exacerbated, he said.
The Punjab CM claimed the vital sector of defence has not been adequately addressed despite the growing border threat from China and Pakistan while the allocation for the health sector was down amid the Covid-19 crisis.
“And did the Finance Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) not find it necessary to even mention constitutional guarantee for the MSP, one of the key demands of the farmers battling cold and lathis on the doorstep of New Delhi for over two months now,” Amarinder asked, while lamenting the two per cent hike for the agriculture sector, which had been the only well performing sector for the country amid the coronavirus lockdown.
The CM 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 beleaguered middle class has also got nothing in this Budget, he said, 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.
He also expressed shock over the Centre’s decision to go in for a “wholesale divestment of PSUs and government assets”.
The only somewhat positive note was the increase in the revenue grant for deficit states from Rs 75,000 cr to Rs 1,85,000 cr, he said, hoping that the Centre does not get out of giving Punjab its substantial share on this count.
Manpreet, meanwhile, claimed that instead of doubling income from agriculture, the Union Bud get will reduce the earnings by half.
“The Budget is silent on agricultural unrest. It buries its head in the sand, and rather than help solve the crisis that the NDA created. What about MSP,” he said in a tweet.
He further said that the Budget was “silent” on unemployment. “Unemployment figures are skyrocketing due to NDA’s pandemic mismanagement,” he alleged adding, “But the Budget is silent on this issue, leave alone to tide over the crisis.”
“Middle classes get nothing except increased costs of petrol and diesel. Hopes of the middle classes of relief after suffering from a once-in-a-century pandemic have been shattered,” he said in another tweet.
“Entire north India has been ignored. Why? Because it is not going to the polls! States that are going to polls are given sops. Just like the maximum Padma awardees came from five states going to polls,” Manpreet claimed.
The Punjab FM said the Budget was also “silent” on revenue generation. “How will the NDA raise revenue? Should the people expect another surreptitious and clandestine attempt to raise revenue on the sly,” he asked.
He further alleged, “The Budget seeks to sell India’s precious assets. One thing is clear. The Union Government wants to sell more and more of government assets.”
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