New Delhi: The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) termed the 2019 interim budget presented by finance minister Piyush Goyal misleading and “a fraudulent exercise before elections”.
The statement by CITU came hours after Goyal announced a slew of populist measures in his budget speech, including tax rebates, a minimum income scheme for farmers and a monthly pension scheme for labourers above the age of 60 who are employed in the unorganised sector.
In his interim budget speech, Goyal announced the launch of Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan (PMSYM) scheme to provide unorganised workers an assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000 after 60 years of age.
The scheme will attract matching contribution of Rs 100 per month from the government as well as from the workers. He also announced hiking of tax-free gratuity to Rs 30 lakh from the existing Rs 20 lakh for employees with service of more than five years.
The scheme will provide assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000, with contribution of 100 rupees per month, for workers in unorganised sector after 60 years of age," Goyal said while presenting the Interim Budget for 2019-20.
The minister said the scheme was expected to benefit 10 crore workers in the next five years. “This may become the world's biggest pension scheme for unorganised sector in five years.” He also informed the Lok Sabha that the government was providing Rs 500 crore initially for the scheme in the budget.
CITU, however, has called the pension scheme an ‘exercise in deceit’. “The allocation of a meager Rs 500 crore itself is an indication of the lack of seriousness and honesty in covering the more than 40 crore unorganised workers in the country. And they will receive this pension only by contributing continuously up to the age of 60, which most of them cannot do,” CITU president Hemalata said in a statement.
“The real fraudulent intention behind announcement of this programme becomes clear when the cow-protection receives a bigger allocation of Rs 750 crore,” the statement said.
The strongly worded statement accused the Modi government of “feigning sleep” and said it forgot the workers and peasants who had created wealth for the country. CITU added that the government was “busy aggressively implementing the so called ‘reforms’ to serve their corporate master, domestic and foreign, and fill their kitty looting the people and national resources.”
The budget, which was expected to be a vote on account, or an interim one, saw the government come out with sops for farmers, labourers, middle class and even cows. Opposition parties have called the budget an attempt to woo voters ahead of Lok Sabha elections. Former finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram said, “Instead of being a vote on account, it’s an account for votes.”
CITU also called the budget a “desperate bid to attract votes when defeat in the ensuing Parliament elections is staring at its face.”
The statement noted that the budget did not address the topic of unemployment and sagging economy at all. A Business Standard report citing leaked National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data said on Thursday that unemployment had reached a 45-year high in India. According to the report, unemployment stood at 6.1 per cent in 2017-18. Hours later on Thursday evening, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar and CEO Amitabh Kant called a press conference and proceeded to defend the government over the jobs report by saying the leaked data was ‘not verified’.
“There is no concrete proposal except the rhetoric of ‘job seekers becoming job providers,” the CITU statement said, adding that the interim budget had done nothing to improve wages of workers and incomes of peasants and ignored the demand for loan waivers.
CITU also criticised the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme, which guarantees Rs 6,000 yearly payment to farmers with less than two hectares of land holding, by calling it ‘cruel’ towards farmers. “There is no intention to address the agrarian crisis in a meaningful way,” CITU said.