It sounds interesting that Mr. Chidambaram allocated 60% more for minorities compared to its Revised Estimates 2012-13; but would he feel the responsibility to explain when, why and how last year’s budget estimate for minorities has been sliced by 1/3rd. Now, how can Indian minorities be assured that the allotted budget for 2013-14 would not be sliced to half before next budget day?
Moreover, if we compare the allotted budget for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) with that of minorities; this is not easy for anyone to believe that minorities got fair share in union budget 2013-14. SCs (as 19.7% of national population) have been allotted Rs. 41,561 crores; whereas STs (with 8.5% share) received Rs. 24,598 crores. The SCs and STs collectively got 14.9% of their population share (28.20%) in national population, but all minority communities with Rs. 3,511 got mere 1.08% of their population share (19.54%) of national population.
To justify the minorities in this union budget (according to their share in national population), Mr. Chidambaram should have allotted Rs. 45,851.35 cores (as 14.09% of their actual share in national population) because SCs and STs have collectively fetched 14.09% of union budget compared to their share in national population.
Mr. Chidambaran should have realized that if women, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are important; minorities are also important because every fifth Indian is a minority. If women can be presented an exclusive Public Sector bank, Muslims’ appeal for financial inclusion should have been noticed as well. If farmers can be supported through matching equity grants for registered Farmer’s Producer organization; demand for Participatory Finance should have also been listened to. It seems that the UPA government speaks differently and works differently for minorities; otherwise any scheme would have been announced to support financial inclusion of Indian Muslims, allowing them to join India’s inclusive growth.
Considerably, an appeal was made to the Ministry of Finance for announcing constitution of a working group with an object to analyze the constraints for financial inclusion of Indian Muslims; and to suggest remedial measures so that Muslims could get opportunity to access faith based finance in secular manner. But that request was not so soft for the tough heart of Union Finance Minister to care about Indian Muslims.
Similarly, an appeal was made to the Ministry of Minority Affairs to propose any micro equity scheme to enable 84% Muslim workers engaged in the unorganized sector to access faith-based financial resources for being in line for economic growth. This huge working group is not availing finance from any formal sector institution. On follow up enquiry, it was told by the Ministry officials that the same request has been forwarded. Probably, the higher authority in the Government of India who might have received that forwarded request would have considered it worth to put in the dustbin only.
There were a few surprising announcements in this union budget as well. Do Indian women face problems while using existing banks? But there was a pressure to woo women after failure to protect them. On the other side, the announcement to extend the amount of credit to agriculture and to provide matching grant to Farmer Producers organizations (FPOs) seem hidden agendas to develop market for Walmart. Since it is difficult to help Walmart directly, it’s an attempt to show helping Indian farmers, but creating scope for walmart to purchase agricultural produces from registered Farmer Producers organizations.
Farmers would be provided more credits to grow produce and FPOs would be linked with Walmart to sell their produce. In this task, Walmart would have persuaded FICCI, and FICCI would have asked FSAC to recommend such scheme to the government so that on paper assistance should be reflected on account of Indian farmers and on field the advantage should go to Walmart. Similarly to protect the Government from criticism of corporate personalities like Azim Premji, 10% more taxes have been imposed on rich for just one year.
Could Mr. Chidambaram explain why he didn’t consider largest minority community’s appeal for financial inclusion to assure inclusive growth? Does any top class secular leader in Congress or other secular party ask such question to the Finance Minister, or is everybody satisfied with how Mr. Chidambaran is treating the minorities? If not, then this disappointment to minorities might cost the UPA 2014 elections.
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