Monday, February 10, 2014

Perfunctory budget glosses over people’s real problems: Lok Satta

Lok Satta Party national President and legislator Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan dubbed the vote-on-account budget presented in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly on February 10 as perfunctory.

Addressing a media conference, Dr. JP said the budget does not take cognizance of people’s discontent triggered by growing unemployment, rising prices and decelerating industry. There is no change in its priorities or an attempt at evaluating the outcomes of its budget allocations.

Dr. JP said that although the State is facing a crisis in the wake of bifurcation, the Finance Minister has not given region and district-wise figures concerning revenue and expenditure to facilitate a meaningful debate and a resolution of knotty financial problems.

Dr. JP explained that the Government which claims to spend Rs.28000 crore on welfare schemes like subsidized rice supply, fee reimbursement, pensions for the disadvantaged and Arogyasri, is anticipating a revenue of Rs.20000 on sale of liquor. Apparently, it is not concerned about ruining people’s physical and financial health by unabashedly promoting liquor consumption.

The Government is not bothered about educational standards although it plans to spend Rs.27400 crore on education. It does not appreciate that poverty cannot be eradicated, caste and gender bias eliminated and wealth created unless every child has access to quality education.

The Government has allocated Rs.8400 crore to the electricity sector, most of it towards covering losses of power distribution companies. This is on top of the Rs.15000 crore additional tariff imposed on consumers. The Government has not focused on improving power supply by undertaking measures like energy auditing, distribution improvement and separation of transformers for domestic and agricultural consumption. If a mere Rs.3000 crore were to be spent per year for three to four years on such measures, the Government can save up to Rs.5000 crore a year.

The Government has allocated Rs.23312 crore towards execution of irrigation projects under jalayagnam during 2014-15. With this, the expenditure on Jalayagnam will touch one lakh crore. It is taking up projects merely to benefit contractors as also those in power. According to his information, thousands of crores were paid illegally in one project alone. In the process, it has not bothered to evaluate the feasibility and viability of projects like Pranahita and Chevella. The project is now estimated to cost Rs.46000 crore and require 3750 mw of power.

The Government spends Rs.5000 crore on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme every year. Yet it has not utilized the funds on tapping rainwater and improving the groundwater table in the upland areas of the State.

The Government, which introduced a Rs.183000-crore budget does not have funds to establish forensic labs at the rate of one in every district, women police stations and village courts. Although it has at its disposal Rs.1000 crore collected from builders, it has not taken up any schemes to benefit workers in the construction sector.

Dr. JP pointed out that no party other than the Lok Satta has focused on real issues facing the public, engaged as they are in slinging mud at each other. If people are interested in good education, quality healthcare, employment and law and order, they should support the Lok Satta in the coming elections. All other parties are interested in merely continuing the status quo. Absurd promises are made to people – like loan waivers – with an eye on vote banks. All that such schemes will accomplish is bankrupting the State, even as poverty is perpetuated.

Dr. JP disclosed he is in touch with the Finance Commission on allocation of one-third of Central funds to the State to local bodies. It works out to nearly Rs.16000 crore out of the Rs.48900 crore anticipated by the State. Such an allocation will enable local bodies to address people’s problems without their having to run after legislators and Ministers.

State Lok Satta Party Vice Presidents D. V. V. S. Varma and Bandaru Ramamohana Rao shared the dais with Dr. JP.

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