ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Budget 2016: Behind the Symbolism

The Modi government tries hard to signal a makeover but beyond the symbolic it does not change much.

Budget 2016 is not important for the proposals that it has made but for what it tries to signal about the proposed makeover, in a limited way, of the Narendra Modi government. The budget does try hard to claim that the Modi government is not a “suit-boot” administration, an image it has to shed given the beatings it has taken in recent state elections and apprehensive as it must be of the state elections that lie ahead. The Union Budget for 2016–17 is not a “pro-farmer” budget nor is it a “Robin Hood” document and it certainly is not “pro-poor.” Within a few days of its presentation, analyses of the budget have shown that while the announcements have been many for agriculture and the rural sector the allocations for 2016–17, shorn of statistical jugglery, do not constitute a major increase over 2015–16. The minor additional levy the budget applies on the super-rich and on recipients of dividends of over Rs 10 lakh a year will together not soak the wealthy in any fashion and there is no major hike in social sector spending.

In the ultimate analysis, whether or not Budget 2016 can claim to have some semblance of being people-friendly will depend on the implementation of two new schemes. One is the scheme to provide five crore households below the poverty line (BPL) with LPGs within five years and to support them with the initial cost of an LPG connection. The other is a new health insurance scheme to provide up to Rs 1.30 lakh of cover, again to BPL families. The first has an allocation of Rs 2,000 crore for 2016–17 and the second may well be handed over to private insurance and private hospital chains to implement.

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