Congress on Wednesday said that the Union Budget has “betrayed” the hopes of a vast majority of Indians and shown how far removed the government is from the people and their concerns about life — livelihood, and the growing inequality between the rich and the poor.
Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters here, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said, “Let me begin by pointing out, with regret, that the FM has not mentioned the words unemployment, poverty, inequality or equity anywhere in her speech. Mercifully, she mentioned the word poor twice in her speech. I am sure the people of India will take note of who is in the concerns of the government and who is not.”
Targeting the government over the Budget, the former Finance Minister said, “No indirect taxes have been reduced. There is no cut in the cruel and irrational GST rates. There is no reduction in the prices of petrol, diesel, cement, fertilizers, etc. There is no cut in the numerous surcharges and cesses which are, anyway, not shared with the state governments.”
“Who has benefited from this Budget? Certainly, not the poor. Not the youth looking desperately for jobs. Not those who have been laid off. Not the bulk of the taxpayers. Not the homemaker. Not the thinking Indians who are shocked by the growing inequality, the rise of the number of billionaires, and the wealth being accumulated in the hands of the 1 percent of the population. Certainly, not you,” the Congress Rajya Sabha MP said.
He also alleged that the government is determined to push the fortunes of the “gift city”, Ahmedabad, at the cost of other commercial and financial centers.
“The government is also determined to push the new tax regime for which there are few takers for a variety of reasons.
Besides, making the new tax regime the default option is grossly unfair and will rob the ordinary taxpayer of the meager social security that he may get under the old tax regime,” Chidambaram pointed out.
He further said that the Economic Survey listed all the headwinds that the world — and India — will face, but did not offer any solutions to face these. “The Budget speech did not even acknowledge the headwinds. The government is living in its imaginary world,” Chidambaram said.
This is a “callous” Budget that has betrayed the hopes of the vast majority of the people, he claimed.
On the issue of direct taxes, Chidambaram said: “What proportion of taxpayers have moved to the new tax regime? The Income Tax Department is expected to release basic data every year. The last data that is being released is only for the assessment year, 2019-20.”
Firing salvos, he said, “Why has the data not been released? How many people have switched over to the new tax regime? How many views of the switch over to the new tax regime? What about those who have not switched over to the new tax regime? Has it been Rs. 1 benefit for them?”
To a question on the government announcing no income tax up to Rs 7 lakh income, Chidambaram said, “First, the government must tell us how many of the middle-class taxpayers have switched over to the new tax regime. The minor relief that has been given is only for those who have switched over to the new tax regime. For those who are in the old tax regime, there is no concession at all.”
To another question on GDP, the Congress leader said that the GDP growth is falling. “It was 13.5 percent in the first quarter, 6.3 percent in the second quarter and according to their number, the whole year will be 7 percent, arithmetically, it works out only to another 8.2 percent in two quarters, so I have divided it in the 4.2 and 4. You can divide it into 4.1 and 4.1.”
To another question on capital expenditure of Rs 2.41 lakh crore to railways, Chidambaram said that allocating more money for capital expenditure is good.
“Allocating more money for capital expenditure in railways is good, but, look at the records of this government. It allocates the money for capital expenditure, but, spends 22,000 crores less. Will they be able to spend the additional allocation, that is the question? And how many jobs in the railways are vacant? How many exams of railways have been canceled? So, allocating money is not equal to spending the money, nor is allocating money equal to creating jobs. It is only when you spend the money and fill the vacancies; your objectives will be achieved,” he added.