National

Activists demand transparency

Activists feel cuts in social sector budgets will increase unrest as it is an attack on democracy. File Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

Activists feel cuts in social sector budgets will increase unrest as it is an attack on democracy. File Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy  

Ministry claims previous allocations have not been spent

Leading economists and social activists on Saturday criticised the government for possible cuts in budget allocations in social sector programmes while avoiding both parliamentary discussion and public debate on the issue.

Citing The Hindu’s report on November 27 that the central government was proposing to cut expenditure on education by Rs. 11,000 crore and the budgets for the departments of Panchayati Raj, Rural Development and Sanitation by about 25 per cent, the activists demanded the government be more transparent regarding its proposals.

“The social sector allocations between 2004-05 and 2013-14 have remained stagnant if one considers economic growth over the same period. The Ministry of Finance’s argument is that there were unspent funds in social sector programmes. But our research has shown that by improving decentralized planning, funds flow from the Centre, and institutional capacity in States, this can be addressed. The government’s focus on Swachch Bharat, Skill India, Ganga rejuvenation, etc., should not mean it slashes funds from education, health, and rural development,” said Subrat Das of the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability.

Economist and Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Jayati Ghosh cited the instance of MGNREGA allocations, pointing out that while the government had allocated Rs. 34,000 crore for the programme in 2014-15, up from Rs. 33,000 crore the previous year, it would prove inadequate as the government had not taken Rs. 9,000 crore pending to States as wages in the previous year.

Economist Prabhat Patnaik said with growth not projected to pick up, it was important to stimulate demand through more public spending. “Exports are reducing, manufacturing is stagnant, and budget cuts in social sector programmes at such a time will increase recessionary tendencies in the economy,” he said.

“The government has adopted a subterfuge process of carrying out cuts to the social sector budgets. This is an attack on democracy and will increase social unrest. They need to make this information public and let the public and the parliament debate this,” said Nikhil Dey, a social activist with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, adding that people’s movements from across the country had planned a People’s Assembly on December 2 to raise the government’s attack on social programmes.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 10:28:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/activists-demand-transparency/article6646841.ece

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