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Budget 2022: Does the public opinion matter?

Check out the Open Forum Inviting Ideas and Suggestions for Union Budget 2022 – 2023, where the Union finance ministry has received 3,124 submissions or suggestions from the public through myGov.in website

January 30, 2022 / 09:05 AM IST
Under the Open Forum Inviting Ideas and Suggestions for Union Budget 2022 – 2023, the Union finance ministry has received 3,124 submissions. 
(Photo by Polina Kovaleva from Pexels)

Under the Open Forum Inviting Ideas and Suggestions for Union Budget 2022 – 2023, the Union finance ministry has received 3,124 submissions. (Photo by Polina Kovaleva from Pexels)


The Union Budget is for the people, but just where are they?


Check out the Open Forum Inviting Ideas and Suggestions for Union Budget 2022 – 2023, where the Union finance ministry has received 3,124 submissions or suggestions from the public through myGov.in website, now among the most popularly viewed in the country. The quality of proposals is mediocre at best.


Sample an archetypal public proposal. "Rental deduction and deduction towards own housing for self-occupation should be clubbed and given a higher limit and House Rent Income and interest expense to be treated separately in the existing section," asserts a certain N Venkateshwaran.


Another writer Aswin R Raj, believes, "In the coming decades, the World, especially in India, might face the biggest problem there is: UNEMPLOYMENT, that too in the highly educated youth population. Only possible solution for the same would be: TO PROMOTE TOURISM, mostly from the rural areas of India."


One Sharif Sheikh, in more than one post, believes that education and health are the responsibilities of the government and should be made free for all.

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These are not merely random thoughts–they are, literally, members of the public airing their vastly divergent-and views on what needs to be done in the Union Budget, due for February 1.


Submissions were made between December 17, 2021, and January 7, 2022.


Ramesh Chand, Member NITI Aayog, an agricultural economist in the rank and status of a union minister of state, told Moneycontrol: ``We religiously look at all the public proposals. Some of these ideas are very interesting. The ideas, which we like, we sent to the PMO and to the various concerned ministries. We look at how best to fit in the schemes, like several programmes under the Atal Behari welfare programmes. We are consulted by the likes of the CII, FICCI, and other industry bodies. We take this portal very seriously. Afterall, the Budget is meant for the people.”


Letters addressed to the Prime Minister are staggering in their ambition: From increasing the GDP on home science, innovative ideas for the youth, equitable distribution of wealth, more funds to infrastructure, decentralization of industries, unpaid salaries to teachers, putting petrol and diesel under GST, radical changes in the educational system, aggressive promotion of digitization, to the hottest topic of them all - the investment deduction limit under section 80C should be increased for high salary income group.


These are just a very few examples, of course.


One Veluswamy suggests, among others, "Attempts should be made to censor print media and digital media", while Praveen proposes far-reaching reforms for the IAS.


Another reader suggests, "If salaries need to be increased for central government employees it should be limited only to the lowest grade."


The portal can be an eye opener, but not everyone is impressed. Former Union Minister in the UPA government and economist, YC Alagh, is convinced no one looks at the public portal. ``It is very doubtful if anyone reads these inputs. Maybe some section officer collects them and forwards them to related departments. Inputs that are taken seriously are received from the Niti Aayog and RBI. Since India does not have a capital budget anymore, all development plans have been included in various Prime Minister yojanas (programmes) announced round the year.”


In Alagh’s view, there is very little expenditure in the Union budgets and there are no new schemes. If that is not bad enough, the government is comparing Revised Estimates of the previous year with the current Budget during the speech itself. ``To my mind, it is a very unhealthy practice and dangerous,” he told Moneycontrol.

Post the finance minister’s Budget speech, it would be interesting to see if any of the thousands of ideas put forward by the public have actually been incorporated.



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Ranjit Bhushan is an independent journalist and former Nehru Fellow at Jamia Millia University. In a career spanning more than three decades, he has worked with Outlook, The Times of India, The Indian Express, the Press Trust of India, Associated Press, Financial Chronicle, and DNA.
first published: Jan 28, 2022 06:43 pm
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