Renowned Tax Consultant and Prolific Writer
Article 126 of the Indian Constitution requires the President of India to cause the presentation of an annual receipts and payments account before the Parliament with proposal for vote on account for any drawings from the Consolidated Fund of India. The budget presented by Tmt. Nirmala Sitharaman, the second woman Finance Minister after Smt. Indira Gandhi and the third Finance Minister from Tamil Nadu after Thiru. R.K. Shanmugam Chetty and Thiru. P. Chidambaram has made a very impressive presentation of her budget proposals in the Parliament on 5th July, 2019.
The budget is not limited merely to accounts as it reports on the current economic situation accompanied by a Finance Bill with marginal amendments as regards exemptions and rate of tax relating to income-tax with concessions littered over the statute. This pattern is followed in this budget, but without any significant proposal for the development of the economy. What is regrettable is that the long-term objectives are totally overlooked. Some of the matters on which one would have expected a reform and if not a reform, at least a statement of policy for future action by the Government.
While there is repeated expression of concern for the poor, there has been no significant proposal for their benefit. There is no reference to the Food Security Bill, which was introduced by the previous Congress Government, which has now been forgotten by the Congress party itself. The damage that is being caused by tobacco and liquor does not appear to have been even noticed apparently blinded by the revenue derived from the abominable practice, which makes the maximum damage to the poor.
The long term objective of resolving the permanent problem of periodical water shortage by linking of rivers has not received notice, though there has been even a full-fledged proposal for linking South Indian rivers and formation of a National Water Grid with a long term proposal of linking all national rivers on the lines of linking of Rhine and Rhone in Germany or the rivers under the Tennessee Valley Authority in US. Desilting is badly in arrears. Evaporation loss which can be prevented by use of technology has not received attention. Storage of water in tank is yet to be enforced. Pesticide and chemical contamination of ground water continue to cause damage. It is unfortunate even this major problem has received scant attention except for a casual reference to desalination.
Power generation with the National Power Grid with great potential for solar power for which India now has adequate technology is yet to take its first step.
Protection for senior citizens and disabled, a long term objective, does not find even a reference in the budget proposals.
There is no proposal for expected liberalisation of economy with serious complaint in vogue against the regulators like Security Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and stock exchanges etc. of abuse of their powers do not also find even a mention.
Urgency of tax reform is probably a matter left to the new Code on the anvil. Late N.A. Palkivala, had said that “our laws are bad enough, but it is worse administered”. Corruption is not tackled at all, while much is made of marching orders of some tax officers with questions immediately raised by Thiru. S. Gurumurthy as regards the bona fides in the choice of persons chosen for exit.
There is no reference to the alarming forecast of our environmental scientists now requiring urgent space research and safeguards to prevent calamities in future also do not find a mention, much less any suggested attempt for a solution.
Current discussion on Genetically Modified (GM) Foods which has great potential, if only one gets over the superstitious stories of land getting spoiled permanently is a matter on which there is no reference either way. Genetic change is a natural process like evolution of monkey to man and with Salem mangoes and “appose mangoes” from Bombay being examples of naturally modified genetic crops resulting in significant improvement of quality and quantity. Genetic research is on-going in France and even in countries like Hong Kong and Ivory Coast in Africa. Business Times of Singapore reports from a website World Wide Carbon Credits (WWCC) that one tonne of algae produced absorb five tonnes of carbon dioxide, so that it stands as a block buster of an environmental friendly discovery indicating enormous scope of possible benefits of genetic research. There is not a word in this budget apparently in deference to the existing superstition to genetic research consistent with the generally superstitious approach in all matters as in our tall claims of existence of air transport, plastic surgery and atomic science from Vedic times.
It is true that there is something in favour of natural farming as was propagated by Late Nammalvar, but only can hardly ignore the massive genetic change which research can confer on significant growth of agriculture. Mere waiver of agricultural debts or pension schemes for the poorer agriculturists is hardly a solution without significant increase in productivity.
Digital revolution accompanied by vast development of technology is yet to be applied either for all matters including Government administration and for propagating them by harnessing them to all our activities.
One is sad that the beautiful speech by our colourful Finance Minister has no contents indicating application of mind to any of the outstanding problems especially those requiring long term solutions. There is much self-praise on women’s empowerment. But this again is a tall claim. Even the Tamil Nadu Government is able to bring about reservations for women in local Government. But reservations in the Parliament is a long standing goal yet to be realised. There is yet a long, long way to go even in this matter.
There is, however, self-satisfaction on the part of our Finance Minister that GDP has risen to 7%. Fiscal deficit said to be curtailed and there is satisfaction that food production is adequate. All these claims are poorly supported by proper statistics. Deficit is expected to be made good by sale of the public sector undertakings, a solution reminiscent of our failing businessmen liquidating his assets to avoid insolvency. It is not the time to be self-satisfied, but to be seriously concerned with what is required to be done and could be done, but failed to be done. What is more, there is hardly any realization of the need for action, while on the contrary, there is smug self-satisfaction!