Telangana leaders criticise ‘anti-farmer, pro-corporate’ budget

State Finance Minister Harish Rao expressed concern over the injustice done to Telangana this year as well, as the budget offered nothing.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Feb 01, 2023 | 11:27 PMUpdatedFeb 01, 2023 | 11:28 PM

President Murmu and Nirmala Sitharaman with the Union budget. (Nirmala Sitharaman/Twitter)

In a sharp reaction to the budget that Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented on Wednesday, 1 February, Telangana Finance Minister T Harish Rao described it as “anti-farmer and pro-corporate”, and “certain to push the country deep into a quagmire of debt”.

This sentiment was echoed by Congress MP and former Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president N Uttam Kumar Reddy.

BRS leader and MLC Kalvakuntla Kavitha described the budget as a “mathematical confirmation” of the
failure of the Narendra Modi-led Central government.

Kavitha, on behalf of Telangana and other Opposition-ruled states, said, “The budget lacks direction. There is no concrete plan for the future. The budget has made one wonder whether the BJP realised it would be going away in one year. The budget does not make any sense.”

Not Telangana-forward

T Harish Rao

Telangana minister T Harish Rao. (Supplied)

Harish Rao said that the budget drew a blank in regard to sanctioning any projects or funds to Telangana. He expressed concern over the alleged injustice done to Telangana this year as well, as the budget had nothing to offer to the state.

“It was beautifully worded, but hollow inside. It made no allocation to Telangana,” he said, pointing out that the budget threw a wet blanket on farmers and other growing states.

While welcoming the allocation of ₹5,300 crore for the Upper Bhadra project in poll-bound Karnataka, Kavitha said that the same liberal attitude should be adopted towards other states also.

“It is not proper to adopt the pick-and-choose method in benefitting the states,” she said, finding fault with Sitharaman for not speaking about allocations for the Kaleshwaram Project or Mission Bhagiratha.

“Though we have spent ₹80,000 crore on Kaleshwaram, the Centre has not released even 1 percent of the investment,” she added.

She said no major relief was given to any state except in poll-bound ones. “Is this a national budget or the budget of a few states?” she asked.

Kavitha pointed out that Sitharaman announced that tax incentives to Gujarat’s GIFT City would continue till 2025, without any mention of NIMZ in Telangana and SEZs in other states. “There is no equitable distribution of resources among the states,” she noted.

Also read: Kerala decries ‘step-motherly’ attitude in Union Budget

Fake promises and vague allocations

The Congress’ Uttam Kumar noted, “In her 58-page budget speech, the finance minister mentioned Telangana only once by promising to support the Indian Institute of Millet Research in Hyderabad as a Centre of Excellence. But no fund was promised. We have seen several such fake promises by the Modi government in the past.”

BRS MLC K Kavitha.

BRS MLC K Kavitha. (Supplied)

Kavitha said that the budget was very vague as to where ₹10 lakh crore outlay for infrastructure would be spent.

“Is this allocation finally going to find its way to your corporate friends?” she asked.

Kavitha also noted that the budget announced 197 nursing colleges in the country, but pointed out that they would be coming up only where medical colleges had been sanctioned.

This meant that Telangana would not get any nursing college as no medical college had been sanctioned for the state, he noted.

Sectors short-changed?

“The budget is against the agriculture labourers covered under MGNREGA. Apart from this, it has sought to cripple the states financially, besides neglecting the education, medical, and health sectors,” charged Harish Rao.

He contended that there was a steep cut in allocation for the agricultural sector, including a reduction in the subsidy on fertilisers, a cut in MGNREGS funds, and food subsidies. “The budget is an illusion,” he retorted.

Bolstering his argument with statistics, the finance minister noted that the MGNREGS allocation, which was ₹89,400 crore earlier, had been slashed to ₹60,000 crore.

Both Rao and Uttam Reddy were unhappy over the budget being silent on the railway coach factory that the state had been asking for.

They added that the allocation made for the tribal university was a pittance, and that there was no word about implementing the assurances made to Telangana in the AP State Reorganisation Act of 2014.

Harish Rao stated that though the state has been asking for recognition of at least one project in Telangana as a national project, there was no mention of it.

The budget did not touch on the demand for the withdrawal of GST on the textile sector, he noted, adding that it did not extend any incentives to weavers.

Kavitha felt sorry that the budget had not made any allocation for MSMEs, which she called the backbone of the country.

“They happen to generate the highest employment. The Centre had promised a ₹20 lakh crore package for the MSMEs after the decline of Covid-19, but in reality, not even ₹1 lakh crore was allocated,” she said.

Meanwhile, TPCC president A Revanth Reddy said: “Huge injustice has been done to Telangana in the budget. Promises like the Bayyaram steel factory, Kazipet railway factory, and national status for any irrigation project mentioned in the bifurcation act have been ignored in the budget.”

Also read: Union Budget: AP FM expresses satisfaction, YSRCP MPs sulk

What about the poor?

As far as food security for the poor was concerned, the allocation this time was only ₹1.97 lakh crore against ₹2.87 lakh crore last year, noted Harish Rao.

He said that there was no assurance that the Centre would release the ₹1,350 crore due to Telangana for backward areas development, as assured by the AP State Reorganisation Act for the last three years.

He lashed out at Sitharaman for stating that the FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility & Budget Management) ceiling would be raised by 0.5 percentage points if the states implemented power-sector reforms.

“The Centre, by saying so, was trying to force the states to fix meters to the agriculture wells. Telangana has made it clear that it would not fix meters to the borewells. As the state would not implement reforms, it would not be able to borrow about ₹6,000 crore,” Harish Rao stated.

‘Not enough for the masses’ 

Uttam Kumar noted that there was nothing for the masses in the budget.

“The problems of rising inflation and unemployment were not addressed. No solution was offered to provide relief to the common people from the rising prices of essential commodities. Nothing was done to reduce the prices of cooking gas, petrol, and diesel. The Union budget only addressed the needs of big industrialists. The tax rebate up to ₹7 lakh is completely insignificant, considering the rising inflation,” he said.

He further said that nothing had been offered to address rural poverty.

There was nothing in the budget for unemployed youth, farmers, women, and students, said Uttam Kumar, adding that the Union finance minister did not mention anything about stopping the Pre-Matric Scholarships for students of Classes 1-8.

He ridiculed Sitharaman’s claim that since 2014, the per capita income had more than doubled to ₹1.97 lakh.

“If Nirmala Sitharaman’s claims are true, then who are the 80 crore people standing in queues every month to get just 5 kg of rice and 1 kg of pulses under the PMGKY scheme?” he asked.

What of taxes?

Referring to central transfers, Harish Rao noted that the Centre was returning only 30.4 percent of the taxes — as Central devolutions — from the divisible pool even though the 15th Finance Commission recommended that 41 percent of the taxes should be sent back to the states.

As the Centre was imposing cess and surcharges, the states were getting less from the divisible pool of taxes, he said.

On the other hand, on the pretext that 41 percent of taxes collected from states were being sent back to them, the Centre had increased the share of the states in Centrally-sponsored schemes and reduced their number. “This is a double whammy,” he alleged.

Also read: Amrit kaal not tenable without Amrit Arogya: Expert

Centre not the only one to blame?

Uttam Kumar said that the BRS government in Telangana, headed by Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, was equally responsible for the utter neglect of Telangana in the Union budget.

“KCR failed to build pressure on the BJP government to get adequate funds for Telangana. In the initial years, KCR acted as a devoted ‘Modi Bhakt’, and now, he is enacting a drama of rivalry with the BJP. He initially supported and strengthened Modi, but now he is focused on building his image as a ‘national leader’. He never cared for Telangana and did nothing to get the new state its due share in the Union budget,” alleged the Congress leader.

He also slammed the BJP leaders of Telangana for not making any efforts to get funds or big projects for the state.

“Union Minister G Kishan Reddy, Telangana BJP president Bandi Sanjay, and two other MPs miserably failed in convincing their party’s government to allocate sufficient funds for the state. They only enjoy playing the blame game through the media, but have no courage to fight for the interests of Telangana in Delhi,” he said.

Looking from the other side

Meanwhile, Telangana BJP president Bandi Sanjay Kumar found fault with politicians who described the budget as an election budget.

At a time when the Central government was according priority to the overall development and welfare of all people, some politicians were making unnecessary remarks against the budget, he said. “It’s not proper on their part,” he said.

“The Union Finance Ministry prepared the budget in such a manner that it would benefit every citizen of the country. The ultimate objective of the Centre was to ensure the development of sections in the country,” Sanjay said.

“Since Karnataka is a drought-prone area, the government in that state submitted proposals and accordingly the Centre announced a package to Karnataka,” he said.

“Did the Telangana government forward any proposal to the Centre? What happened to funds sanctioned by the Centre under Prime Minister Awas Yojana Yojana?” Sanjay asked KCR.