Right to Food campaign calls Union Budget a ‘betrayal to the people of India’
The Right to Food campaign has raised concerns over the reduction of spending by the government for various social sector provisions
The Right to Food campaign on Thursday expressed its dismay over the Union Budget 2023 and called it a ‘Betrayal to the people of India’. While raising concerns over the reduction of spending by the government for various social sector provisions, the body has urged the Opposition parties to raise these issues during the discussions on the Budget in Parliament and speak up for the poor and informal sector workers.
The campaign has also demanded the government to reconsider the allocations made in a bid to ‘meet the basic constitutional obligations of any democratically elected government, as well as towards a more equitable growth path.’
“India is facing serious inequality where only 5 percent of Indians own more than 60 percent of the country’s wealth while 50 percent of India’s population possesses only three percent of the wealth according to Oxfam India’s report. In this context, spending on social protection schemes such as the PDS, anganwadis, pensions and MGNREGA became especially important. But the Government of India has betrayed the hardworking people of this country by showing no sense of accountability in this year’s Union Budget. The Right to Food Campaign condemns the sheer insensitivity of the Central Government’s policy decision which will result in reducing the ration entitlement of 81 crore people by 50%,” the Right to Food campaign said in a statement
“MGNREGA which directly provides employment and also helps create rural assets has been immensely decreased in this year’s budget reflecting a direct attack on the millions of NREGA workers. Despite over 216,000 crores of pending wages, the allocation in this year’s budget under MGNREGA is only 60,000 crore rupees, therefore the pending liabilities would likely go up to 25,000 crores. The People’s Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) and NREGA Sangharsh Morcha in their position demanded that the budget of NREGA for the year 2023-2024 should be 2,73,000 crores rupees with more work days. NREGA continues to be underfunded which will lead to massive delays in wage payments,” the statement said.
The body explained how ration cardholders after the discontinuation of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) from January 1, 2023, were given only 5 kg ration per person instead of the 10 kg ration per person that they were getting earlier and how the Budget was ‘barely enough’ to meet the requirements for the regular entitlements under the National Food Security Act. “The requirement, therefore, was to continue the additional food grains under PMGKAY and expand the PDS to include non-ration card holders and distribute pulses and oils. However, the budget has reduced the food subsidy allocation by over 780,000 crores,” it added.
“The allocations for samarthya (including maternity entitlements), and PM POSHAN (mid-day meals) have reduced considerably this year as well. Social security pensions for the aged, single women, and disabled under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) have been reduced significantly creating a major impact on the lives of the most marginalised section of society. Maternity entitlements that come under Samarthya (including PMMVY and other schemes) saw a decline in this year’s budget allocation,” the campaign noted.
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget 2023-24 on Wednesday and announced an allocation of ₹1,97,350 crore against the ₹2,06,831 crore allocated during the financial year 2022-23, a drop of over 32 percent or ₹89,000 crore compared to the previous year for the food subsidy to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the subsidy for Decentralised Procurement of Foodgrains scheme under NFSA.
Sitharaman, however, announced that the food distribution scheme would continue despite the drop in fund allocation.