Congress slams Union Budget, terms mega healthcare scheme a ‘jumla’

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New Delhi, Feb 1 : The Congress on Thursday slammed the Union Budget, terming the promise of Rs 5 lakh for health care for poor families as “a big jumla”, and said there was “tokenism” on creating jobs and nothing to indicate rise in farmers income.

Congress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters here that the Budget had no tax relief to the average tax payer and no measures to boost exports. He also expressed his deep disappointment about some major schemes having reduced outlays. 

Referring to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget speech in which he said the government will launch a flagship national health protection scheme to cover 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, Chidambaram said it will entail huge expenditure but no money has been provided for it by the government. 

“The promise of Rs 5 lakh per family for secondary and tertiary healthcare is a big jumla. The target group is 10 crore families. Assuming each family will avail of Rs 50,000 – one tenth of Rs 5 lakh – the amount required per year will be Rs 5 lakh crore,” he said. 

He said if the insurance companies will foot the bill, the estimated premium at Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 per family will require an outgo from Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 1.5 lakh crore per year. “Is the Finance Minister serious?” he asked. 

“Where is money provided? Money has not been provided even for paying the premium,” Chidambaram said, adding that Jaitley and the NDA government had touted it as the world’s biggest healthcare scheme.

The Congress leader said he did not hear any measures to boost exports in the Budget speech. “Because the government has run out of ideas to boost exports, the Finance Minister has imposed additional customs duties. The Prime Minister’s speech and the spirit of Davos has been forgotten within a few days,” he said. 

Chidambaram said there is a promise to increase the minimum support price (MSP) 1.5 times but there were no details. 

“The Swaminathan committee has been remembered in the last year of government’s tenure. Besides, Rs 2,000 crore for e-markets and Rs 500 crore for operation Green, whenever the cabinet will approves the schemes, amounts to a pittance. There is nothing to indicate that farmers real income will rise,” he said. 

The Congress leader said that agriculture distress will continue and deepen, “putting in peril lives of majority of people primarily dependent on agriculture”.

Referring to jobs on which the Congress has frequently attacked the government, Chidambaram said that Jaitley had no new ideas and “has fallen back on tried and failed Mudra scheme”.

“The average size of Mudra loan is Rs 43,000. This is tokenism and will not create even one job. More Mudra loans will mean more tokenism but no additional jobs.”

He said there was nothing in the Budget to boost private investment or to encourage banks to lend and investors to borrow for new investment. “The FM seems to have given up on private investment altogether,” he said. 

Chidambaram said there is no tax relief to the average tax payer. 

“Only corporates with income up to Rs 250 crore get tax relief of five percent. For individuals, standard deduction is back but long term capital gains tax is also back,” he said. 

“For the middle class earner and saver, one cancels the other. Actually, by way of long term capital gains tax and four per cent cess, the tax payers will pay the government Rs 31,000 crore more whereas the gain through standard deduction will only be Rs 8,000 crore,” he added.

Chidambaram said some major schemes that will get constant or reduced outlays were Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, National Drinking Water Mission, Swachh Bharat mission, National Health Mission, Mid-Day meal scheme, interest subsidy for short-term farm credit, north eastern investment promotion, price stabilisation fund and Gram Jyoti Yojana. 

“The most disappointing part of the Budget is cut in the outlays of major schemes for 2018-19,” he said, adding that Jaitley “will have much to explain” during debate on the Budget in Parliament.