Mainstream Weekly

Home > 2022 > Letter to the readers, Mainstream, Feb 5, 2022

Mainstream, VOL LX No 7, New Delhi, February 5, 2022

Letter to the readers, Mainstream, Feb 5, 2022

Friday 4 February 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, February 5, 2022

The Budget for 2022-23 has just been presented by the Modi government, there is a divergence of opinion on the takeaways, depending on which side you stand in society. The government is projecting an economic growth of 11.1 per cent for the next year while continuing its neo-liberal economic strategy favouring privatisation, disinvestment, and the sops for big business instead of pumping resources for social spending. Difficult to believe such a high growth target, given that inflation remains high, and the crude oil prices are rising. The backdrop of this budget for a second year running is an economy and society deeply affected by an economic slowdown triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The economy contracted in size, shedding millions of jobs, impacting public health, education, and food security. Just days before the budget announcement there were protests in Bihar and UP by job seekers. Inequality has continued to widen in India as documented by a recent report produced by Oxfam. India already ranks low on globally recognised indices — Human Development Index (rank 131 out of 189 countries) and the Global Hunger Index (rank 101 out of 116 countries). In such a social setting any government is expected to expand social protection and but that is clearly not the case despite all the sloganeering about ‘development for all’. Believe it or not, the government has cut social spending in the 2022-23 budget reducing funds on food security and the public distribution system by 25% (This 25 per cent reduction in the food subsidy bill can only happen if the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana —the free food scheme that was extended till March 31, 2022 in view of Covid-19) is not extended further), and slashing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Act (MNREGA) by 25% (reduction in its allocations at Rs 73,000 crore for 2022-23, compared to Rs 98,000 crore in 2021-22). The allocation for agriculture and allied activities has gone down from 4.26 per cent to 3.84 per cent. No assurance has been given on Minimum Support Price(MSP) which was one of key demands of the farmers agitation last year. Subsidy on fertiliser is supposed to go down by over 26 per cent. While we are still in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (the Peoples Health Campaign), the share of health in the total budget has declined from 2.35 per cent in budget 2021-22 to 2.26 per cent in the current budget. The coronavirus vaccine budget had been slashed from Rs.39,000 crores to Rs. 5,000 crores. [1] The budget clearly fails us on the social front.

Tributes:

Prof Bandukwala a nuclear physicist who taught at the M S University in Vadodara, Gujarat passed away on Jan 29, 2022. He was a courageous voice against communal forces. He was ostracised by his own Shia Muslim Bohra community, but also by the Hindu communalists for his refusal to compromise on secular principles.

Monica Vitti, the iconic Italian film actress much remembered for her role in films directed by Michelangelo Antonioni during the early-to-mid 1960s, passed away on February 2, 2022

Ramesh Deo, a veteran film and TV actor passed away on February 2, 2022. He had acted in Anand, Mere Apne, popular films of Hindi cinema in the 1970s

Maya Buzinova, the director and animator who was behind the Soviet animation film character Cheburashka passed away on Jan 30, 2022.

We pay tributes to all of the above people

February 5, 2022 – HK

Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.