March 09, 2007

life in general: india's budget 2007 - pulling wool over our eyes

This is what I, as an Indian citizen, think of our country's budget 2007 and the media's coverage of it:

This year's budget is more or less a continuing deception from previous ones. The media is portraying it as Chidambaram's succumbing to Sonia Gandhi's or Left parties' diktats. Notwithstanding the fact that those diktats were unwarranted and unnecessary, it is my sense that those diktats were anyway not anti-rich or anti-development as many in the media tend to portray. Last three years has seen the economy grow at a fast pace but the same steep rate of growth is not reflected in the revenue collection figures disclosed in the budget.

Many commentators in the media crib about subsidies to rural sector without highlighting the fact most of these subsidies end up accruing to chemical-based fertiliser and pesticide companies whose products have significantly polluted the fertile lands of rural India, or end up being eaten by government IAS-ICS agents.

The media also chooses to suppress the fact that vast subsidies are given to the affluent or already better-off sections in the form of: tax exemptions to large-sized IT (technology) companies making superlative profits (the 12% minimum alternate tax on IT companies introduced in this budget is a welcome measure but not enough as it is still a lot lower than the 33% tax paid by other companies); tax exemptions to SEZs; heavily-subsidised diesel that today is consumed more by private SUVs and swanky cars running on diesel engines than transportation of goods by trucks across the country; heavy slashing of customs-&-excise duty rates on non-essential products like jewellery, plastics, processed food, aerated beverage drinks like colas; and so on.

Huge and unprecedented increase of Rs 40,000 crore for defense expenditure outlay (taking the total to Rs 96,000 crore) without transparently laying down before the nation a detailed rationale behind it, is another glaring point that the media has chosen not to question adequately. The Tehelka expose of corruption among our defence forces and the ministry of defence is not forgotten by some of us.

I pray that it is not too late before our country, its ecology and its majority non-affluent population get completely devastated by corporate entities and their sophisticated political goons like Chidambarams, Montek Singh Ahluwalias, Manmohan Singhs, Mulayam Yadavs, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjees, Bal Thackerays and Arun Jaitleys, aided and abetted by a 'deliberately-looking-the-other-way' media and a 'consumption-obsessed' urban citizenry.

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