197 4^7 5 Budget: Pauperising the Poor
IN presenting the Economic Survey, the Finance Minister looked back and found the economic situation during 1973-74 'far from satisfactory'; he also forecast 'strain and stress' for the year ahead. The most pressing problem facing the country, said the Minister, is control of the inflationary spiral and creation of an atmosphere conducive to greater investment. The survey boasted of an increase of food production by 10 per cent and the national income by 6 per cent in 1973-74: how empty this claim is evident in view of the unprecedented low level of production in the previous year with which comparisons were made. All the 'achievements' are far short of the plan targets. It is obvious that the Finance Minister^ references to 'economic growth' have nothing to do with the welfare and prosperity of the masses. What is really happening today is that the prosperity of a small percentage of the population is being ensured and enhanced at the expense to new heights of the vast majority.
Introducing the budget last year the Finance ]Minister declared the aims of the budgetary policies as widening employment opportunity and curbing the inflationary spiral. The Economic Survey concedes non-attainment of both goals, a failure never before admitted by the government. Prices have risen by 26 per cent over the year and the trend shows no sign of a turn down. It is interesting to note that even with food production stepped up from 100 million tonnes in 1972-73 to 110 million tonnes in 1973-74, food grain prices are soaring.
Feeding the people was the government's problem of the year 1973-74. The policy they adopted was nationalization of wholesale trade in wheat and the result was most upsetting to the entire distribution system. Finally it led up to increase in the market and procurement prices of wheat and rice. The procurement target of 8 million tonnes of wheat remained on paper. The price was hiked up by Rs 20 per quintal and even then only 4.5 million tonnes of wheat were procured during 1973-74. The government policy of nationalization of wholesale trade thus helped the surplus farmers to reap a rich harvest of profits. As for rice procurement, the target fixed was 5 million tonnes, but till the end of January 1974 only 1.65 million tonnes could be collected. In coarse grains, out of a