Story of Modi's development model so far: Cutting health and education expenditure, forcing land acquisition, buying expensive jets and unsafe nuclear power, benefitting Big Business, diluting employment guarantee, fanning communal fires, exploiting Ganga, curbing dissent and shielding governance from public scrutiny.
If we separate Modi government's actions from mere words and assess its priorities from the former, there is now enough evidence to form a clear picture. The picture that emerges is one of grossly skewed priorities.
Whatever Prime Minister Modi might say about working in the interest of farmers, transparency, cleanliness, environment and make-in-India, the concrete actions show otherwise. Let us look at some of the major policy actions initiated in the past one year that are signatures of this government. They indicate a disregard for people's needs of livelihood, education, health and sanitation, a legitimisation of usurp of India's natural resources and environment by big commercial interests, and a reinforcement of this exploitative process by curbing dissent and diluting mechanisms of transparency and accountability in governance.
Fund cuts in health, education, drinking water and sanitation, and women and child development
Four important Ministries and sectors that constitute bulk of the social infrastructure -- Health and Family Welfare, Women and Child Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation, and Human Resource Development (including education) -- face a total cut in funds of INR 40,205 crore in 2015-16 as compared to 2014-15 budget. This includes both Central Plan fund and Centre's assistance to State and UT Plan fund.
We compare this year's budget with previous year's budget estimate rather than actual expenditure as the budget estimate indicates government's intent. The government first reduced the 2014-15 budget allocation for Ministry of Health and Family Welfare by 20% (i.e. by about INR 6,500 crore) in a revision in December 2014, and later maintained that reduced allocation in the 2015-16 budget. The budget for Ministry of Women and Child Development has been reduced by 52% or INR 10,818 crore, and that for Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation by 59% or INR 9,026 crore. It must be noted that the entire Swaccha Bharat Abhiyaan is included in Drinking Water and Sanitation sector. In other words, in spite of Modi's rhetoric of Swaccha Bharat the total fund allocation in 2015-16 for all governmental programmes of cleanliness, drinking water and sanitation improvement has actually gone down by 59% from budgeted allocation of 2014-15. Finally, the budget for Ministry of Human Resource Development, that includes school education, literacy and higher education, has been cut by 20% or INR 13,853 crore. Majority of this cut is in programmes of school education including setting up model schools at Block level. There is no cut in higher education fund.
While on the one hand the government has reduced these four social infrastructure sectors' budget by INR 40,205 crore, on the other hand in FY 2014-15 it willingly lost INR 75,592 crore of revenue due to incentives and waivers on customs duty for gold, diamond and jewellery, and another INR 62,399 crore of revenue on account of exemptions on corporate income tax. The Statement of Revenue Impact of Tax Incentives describes these incentives and exemptions as indirect 'subsidy' to preferred tax payers. There are several other categories of exemptions as well, but here we mention only these two as they go mainly to the cash-rich companies and wealthy individuals.
Buying expensive Rafale fighter jets and unsafe nuclear power: will they provide security?