Congress leader P Chidambaram addresses a press conference during the Congress party's 'Nav Sankalp Shivir', in Udaipur, Saturday, May 14, 2022 | Photo: PTI
New Delhi: Veteran Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday called the Union Budget 'callous', saying it has betrayed the hopes of the vast majority of the people.
He said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman demonstrated how far removed the government is from the people and their concerns about life, livelihood and the growing inequality between the rich and the poor.
"Let me begin by pointing out, with regret, that the FM has not mentioned the words unemployment, poverty, inequality or equity anywhere in her speech. Mercifully, she mentioned the word poor twice in her speech. I am sure the people of India will take note of who is concerned about the government and who is not," said Chidambaram.
He further mentioned that both the Capital Expenditure and the Effective Capital Expenditure of the central government is lower than the Budget estimates.
"Both the Capital Expenditure and the Effective Capital Expenditure of the central government is lower than the Budget estimates. So, what drove growth in 2022-23? We know that private investment is down, exports are down and private consumption is stagnant. So, how does the government explain the 7 per cent growth in the current year?" he questioned.
He added that no taxes have been reduced except for the small number who have opted for the new tax regime.
"No taxes have been reduced except for the small number who have opted for the new tax regime. No indirect taxes have been reduced. There is no cut in the cruel and irrational GST rates. There is no reduction in the prices of petrol, diesel, cement, fertilizers etc. There is no cut in the numerous surcharges and cesses which are, anyway, not shared with the State governments," he said.
He added, "Who has benefited from this Budget? Certainly, not the poor. Not the youth looking desperately for jobs. Not those who have been laid off. Not the bulk of the taxpayers. Not the homemaker. Not the thinking Indians who are shocked by the growing inequality, the rise of the number of billionaires and the wealth being accumulated in the hands of the 1 per cent of the population. Certainly, not you."
He alleged that the government is determined to push the 'new' tax regime for which there are few takers for a variety of reasons.
"This much is clear: The government is determined to push the fortunes of GIFT city, Ahmedabad, at the cost of other commercial and financial centres. The government is also determined to push the 'new' tax regime for which there are few takers for a variety of reasons. Besides, making the new tax regime the default option is grossly unfair and will rob the ordinary taxpayer of the meagre social security that he may get under the old tax regime," he said.
He said the government is living in its own imaginary world.
"The Economic Survey listed all the headwinds that the world -- and India -- will face, but did not offer any solutions to face these headwinds. The Budget speech did not even acknowledge the headwinds. The government is living in its own imaginary world," Chidambaram said.