Modi’s budget will bring `achhe din,’ argues Canada-India Business Council deputy Kam Rathee

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TORONTO: The hallmark of a great leader is that he has his hand on the pulse of the people, can read the wind, and with his ear to the ground, changes with the times. This could be at the cost of being labelled a chameleon. Unlike the previous regimes of Bharat, Modi is such a leader. It could be said, like a cat, he has nine lives.

Day in and day out, PM Modi has been called anti-poor, anti-farmer, anti-dalit, and pro-rich, pro-business, pro-middle class (which now is a bad word), is under the influence of “fat cats” and a practitioner of “crony capitalism”. How wrong they are. In one fell swoop, he has demolished their chant, turned the tables on them by bringing in a budget that ensures “Acche din”, and likely paves the way for a second stint in office a la 1919.

Having sensed the drift and feeling that the false propaganda of the opposition that his regime is a “suit-boot ki Sarkar”, just might take hold, he had the vision and the temerity of bringing in a “Robin Hood budget”, which literally takes away from the rich and gives to the poor.

As a foundational action, the agenda for the next fiscal year is to undertake transformative measures based on nine pillars which include, agriculture and farmer welfare, the rural sector, the social sector, educational skills and job creation, infrastructure investment, and others. All this will be done as the fiscal deficit is being whittled down to 3.5% of the GDP, which is likely to be above 7.5% during 2016-2017.

In consonance with the above macro action, just under one of the several schemes, the poor, numbering 50 million households below the poverty line, will be provided free LPG gas connections to replace the traditional wood-burning “chullah”. In addition, there will be a direct transfer of subsidies to the bank accounts opened for them that include free life insurance and now a new scheme for crop insurance for the farmers.

The funds of the schemes for the lowly placed will come from the rich and ultra-rich, who will pay an additional income tax surcharge of three percent, an additional tax of 10% on dividends over ten lakhs Rupees, not to mention extra levies on car purchases, jewellery buying and conspicuous consumption. In that corporate India got nothing in this budget is explained by the fact that as India improves its economic health through an “operations boot straps” policy of empowering the poor, the overall heft in the economy will help India Inc., increase its wealth as rising water lifts all boats.

The question that is posed is how come this government has been able to bring about a poor man’s budget when long-standing opposition governments of yore have failed to do so? The answer is perhaps quite simple; good generals win wars, bad generals lose wars! The fact remains that the current leadership was borne out of the trenches, knew the lay of the land, and learnt the hard way by getting its hands dirty. Likely the preceding one was not of the same ilk. We will let 2019 decide that.

(Kam Rathee is Vice-Chairman of the Toronto based Canada-India Business Council. These are purely his personal opinions)