Interim Budget 2019-20: For the BJP its Cows versus Working People

The Interim-Budget 2019-20 (IB) spells one thing out very clearly – for the BJP government, with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, nothing matters more than Hindutva, the RSS’s version of majoritarian Hinduism. The IB proposes to spend more on protecting cows (Rs. 750 crore) through the Rashtriya Gokul Mission than on pensions for all 40 crore informal sector workers of the country. The BJP government has allocated Rs. 500 crore a year under the just announced Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan that they assure us will, with a matching contribution from workers, give all workers a monthly pension of Rs. 3000 per month. The BJP government has also set aside a more generous Rs. 75,000 crore for a Rs. 6,000 per year cash transfer to all farmers who own two hectares or less of land. This cash benefit would amount to Rs. 167 per farmer family per month! With this the BJP hopes that it will win the support of the country’s workers and small farmers.

Knowing of course that things are extremely bad and the support of workers and small farmers may not quite materialise, the BJP government has abolished income tax for all those with incomes below Rs. five lakhs hoping to retain the overwhelming support of the middle class who apart from its numbers is key to creating opinion especially in urban areas.

The averments of the IB speech confirm the ideological direction of the BJP and the manner it has sought to shape the economy and the country over the last five years. For the BJP increasing formalisation of the economy can happen only with both income and asset transfers from the poor to the rich. Both the Note Ban and the manner of introduction and implementation of the Goods and Service Tax were aimed at just that. All governments paper over bad statistics but a far right government lies blatantly and concocts statistics. The country is in the depths of an unparalleled jobs crisis. There is robust data to show that 1.1 crore jobs were lost in the past year (CMIE) and we are faced with the highest rate of unemployment since the 1970s (NSSO) yet the IB speech claims that the BJP government has delivered: ‘High growth and formalistation of the economy has led to the expansion of employment opportunities as shown in EPFO membership’ despite the fact that the Head of the EPF has confirmed that this data does not reflect job creation and involves double counting.

Alongside this the BJP government has forced the deepest agrarian crisis in the last quarter of a century. The BJP government has done so in the name of fighting inflation – it has supressed farm prices and thereby pushing farmers to immiserisation. The concomitant loss of jobs in rural areas has been further accentuated by the destruction of the MGNREGA that this government has presided over. The BJP government over the last five years has – in real terms – run down expenditure on all social protection and social security programmes. As a result there has been a deceleration of mass consumption and both the money wage and the social wage have declined. This has pushed the economy into a low wage, low consumption, low saving, low investment and hence low job creation vicious cycle that benefits the few at the cost of the many.

Even on the eve of the election the BJP is making one thing clear: the BJP reserves its rhetoric for the many and guarantees profits for the few. Defeating this is the only choice before the militant democratic working class so that we may create conditions for defending and advancing our rights.

Gautam Mody

General Secretary