The Union Budget 2022-23 provisions and allocations for health, education, and labour are too little to initiate ease of life in the next fiscal. Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman has claimed that the budget has laid foundation for economic growth for the next 25 years which is according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi is Amrit Kal, but people needed immediate help to protect their lives, education of their children, and secured livelihoods for themselves, provisions for which is surprisingly absent from the budget provisions. Whatever there is only cosmetic.
The total budgetary provisions for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for the year 2022-23 is only Rs. 86200.65 crore out of which Rs. 80568.08 crore for revenue expenditure and Rs. 5632.57 for capital expenditure. It is a too low a budget allocation to cater to the needs of the people. The department of Health and Family Welfare is allocated Rs. 83000.00 crore out of which Rs. 77367.43 crore is allocated as revenue expenditure and Rs. 5632.57 crore as capital expenditure. The department of Health Research is allocated a meager Rs. 3200.65 crore.
Budget estimates of the Ministry of Education is Rs. 104277.72 crore out of which Rs. 104259.71 is allocated as revenue expenditure and only Rs. 18.01 crore as capital expenditure. The Department of School Education and Literacy has got Rs. 63449.37 crore which is entirely in the heat of revenue expenditure. Surprisingly, there is not capital expenditure for school education. The Department of Higher Education is allocated Rs. 40828.35 crore out of which Rs. 40810.34 crore is intended as revenue expenditure while only Rs. 18.01 crore is allocated for capital expenditure.
Obviously, the allocations in the health and education sector are too low, which cannot cater to the actual healthcare needs of the people and educational needs of the students. Access to healthcare would thus remain difficult and problematic. Students cannot hope for equitable access to physical and online education because they are not getting enough financial resources from their parents or guardians due to joblessness and poverty on the one hand and from the government on the other. The digital divide among the students is to continue, and they are not likely to take advantage of the digital initiatives of the government.
Despite India being in the middle of the third wave of COVID-19, Union Budget 2022-23 has expected the economy of the country to grow at 9.27 per cent of the GDP, little more than in the range of 8-8.5 per cent as estimated by the Economic Survey 2021-22. It means improvement in the market conditions in general and labour market in general is over estimated. Even if India achieves that, it would be only little above than the 9.2 per cent growth rate estimated for the current fiscal. It is therefore obvious that the livelihood conditions in the next fiscal will not substantially improve and many downside risks remain.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman claimed that the budget focuses on youth women, farmers and the backward classes. Increase in public investment and capital expenditure may push the economic growth, but it would not be sufficient to drive private investment and expenditure. Therefore, the future of the economic recovery would be weak resulting in bleak prospects for the labour market.
However, the budget tries to initiate people into dreaming of great future in the next 25 years, not now, that it calls Amrit Kal, whatsoever their present predicaments are or the hardship they are likely to face in the next financial year 2022-23, since there is not enough room in the budget to accommodate the large number of job seekers. Unemployment rate is thus likely to remain high in the next fiscal along. If there are no or little jobs in the market, the claim of focusing on youth, women, and backward classes is meaningless.
Production Linked Incentive Schemes, as it has been claimed would create 60 lakh new jobs in next 5 years, but it is too little. It is only a small scheme under Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Unemployment in the rural are cannot be effectively dealt with merely setting up of a proposed fund to finance agriculture and rural startups. The worse urban unemployment conditions can also not be effectively tackled with without quick economic recovery of industries and urban market, over which uncertainties looms large.
As for health, vaccination campaign has greatly helped the country to deal with the present Omicron wave. However, we need to be prepared for present and future heath crises. We needed large investment in health infrastructure, drugs, doctors, and healthcare personnel so that their physical availability would have been possible. As against the physical availability, the budget has announce an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem to be rolled out in the next financial year. It would consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities. Such a system will have its own benefit but it can never increase the number of health providers and health facilities in which the country badly needed public expenditure to be increased substantially. As for the National Tele Mental Health programme, it would also not work effectively in the areas where people don’t have physical access to even healthcare personnel, drug stores, or even a health centres.
Education sector needed to address the digital divide first before announcing one class one TV channel to counter loss of learning due to the pandemic. PM eVidya Scheme is to be expanded from 12 channels to 200 channels to facilitate supplementary learning for all classes from 1 to 12 in regional languages. Our experience upto now is very bad in this regard. There are issues with this mode of learning because every household does not have TV and if they have electricity supply conditions are very bad. This problem is more pronounced in the rural areas.
Budget has announced to develop digital university with an aim to provide access to world class quality education to the students. It is also not going to work unless the issues of digital divide between the rich and the poor, the rural and the urban students are removed. The quality e-content are to be made, and teacher to be trained as per the budget, but all these would fail until digital divide persists due to numerous reasons ranging from non-availability of smartphones to internet and electricity connectivity.
Students needed education, not gaming, and hence promotion of animation and gaming only to take benefit of the so called immense potential to employ youth is not a wise move and is against student’s interest. (IPA Service)