The Congress and the Janata Dal (S) have come down heavily on the Union Budget 2021-22, especially the imposition of the new Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess (AIDC).
Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah said that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while claiming to have not imposed any new tax, has tried to mobilise resources through the AIDC. “Cess has been levied on even agricultural products such as fertilizers and fuel, that will in turn affect farmers also,” he said. He said the cess levied on fuel would lead to an all-round inflation and price rise, pinching everyone. This, he alleged, can incite people against farmers since the blame will be pinned on AIDC.
JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy also said that while the government has branded the protesting farmers as “anti-nationals”, it seems to be leaning on the farm sector to mobilise resources. “There is no clarity if the resources generated will be used to improve that sector,” he added.
Both leaders said there was a lack of transparency on the estimated revenue from the cess and how it would be spent to create agricultural infrastructure. “In the entire Budget speech and its annexure, there is no mention of either the estimated revenue mobilisation from the cess or how it will be spent for farmers’ welfare,” Mr. Siddaramaiah said.
Farmers’ leader Kurubur Shanthakumar also condemned the lack of clarity on the cess and said its imposition on agricultural products such as fertilizers and fuel would increase the input cost for farmers. “The best the government can do for the farmers is to withdraw the three anti-farmer laws it has enacted,” he added.
Countering the “atma nirbhar” branding of the Budget, Mr. Siddaramaiah said the Budget, instead of putting more money in people’s hands during this time of economic contraction and a pandemic, was snatching more money from them. He condemned the push for 74% private investment in the insurance sector and for privatisation of airports and ports.
Mr. Kumaraswamy said the government has to come clean and announce that every individual would get free vaccination for COVID-19. “There has been no such announcement and that is a big drawback,” he said.