As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the Union Budget 2014-15 in Parliament, the change in the management could be felt even in the naming of popular schemes. Jaitley proposed Rs.500 crore for Deen Dayal Upadhyay rural electrification programme. Upadhyay was one of the most important leaders of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the forerunner of the present-day Bharatiya Janata Party. The Gujarat government’s much-talked Statue of Unity project also got a Rs.200 crore boost from the Union government. The statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on Narmada River was launched by then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in the middle of Lok Sabha poll campaign. There was also a mention of Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly called JP. In the budget, Jaitley proposed to set up a Centre of Excellence in MP named after JP. The budget also made mention of the Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya Teaching Programme to be started soon. Malaviya, a Congress president and founder of Banaras Hindu University, was an important figure in India’s freedom struggle, known also for his espousal of Hindu nationalism. The budget also named one of the schemes after Jana Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee.
As a part of his maiden budget, Jaitley has proposed Rs 200 crore aid towards the construction of the structure building of Sardar Patel’s “Statue of Unity. The Gujarat state government has already made a provision of Rs. 100 crore for the Statue of Unity in the budget for 2012-13. It must be noted, however, that during the first budget session, Jaitley in his speech in the Lok Sabha pointed at India’s poor performance in the Human Development Index Survey. Seven months after the then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi flagged off a thousand trucks to seek farmers’ donations for scraps of iron for his proposed Statue of Unity, envisaged as the world’s tallest statue, the collection of iron for the gigantic statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel has slowed to a crawl, especially since the formation of the Modi government. During the election period, the entire BJP machinery was engaged in collecting iron and funds for this statue. Now, the GOI is funding for a BJP agenda. The only purpose of building Sardar Patel statue is to counter the numerous schemes which have been named after the Nehru family. BJP wants to rewrite history by trying to undermine Nehru and elevate Patel. Why we need Sardar Patel’s statue by spending Rs. 200 crores, whereas we already have many great leaders’ statues where crows are shitting and know one look after them. FM should think about food to poor and development of the country rather than wasting taxpayers’ money in erecting the statues.
Having laid the foundation stone for the statue in October last year, Modi flagged off about 1,000 trucks in December, carrying thousands of empty kits including cartons and canisters for village soil. Seven months later, records at the SSNNL office in Vadodara reportedly showed that as many as 16 states have contributed nothing, including BJP-ruled Rajasthan, the entire north-east, as well as Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala and Maharashtra. Uttar Pradesh has contributed the largest number of kits — 40,000 — beating Modi’s Home State Gujarat to second place with 33,000 kits. Tamil Nadu sent 12,000; Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Chandigarh 10,000 each.
Right from the very beginning of his campaign for the prime ministerial seat, Modi has pushed the Statue of Unity project, costs for which have been estimated at Rs 2,500 crore, proposed to be developed on a public private partnership model. The statue will be placed at Sadhu Bet, an island located 3 km from Sardar Sarovar dam. The statue would be nearly twice the iconic Statue of Liberty, which stands at 93 metre tall. Supporters and citizens have been urged to pool in resources, right from iron and wood to financial donations, to turn this mammoth project into reality. However, what difference will it make by erecting a statue? The country has other priorities also. FM should have focused on them instead of appeasing the PM by funding his pet project on taxpayers’ money.
Anyways, Arun Jaitley’s budget was more of appeasing the prime minister than doing something for the welfare of the people. There are many unanswered questions such as, what about allocation of Viability Gap Funding for Vizhinjam Deep water Container Port project in Thiruvananthapuram? This is a mega project of national importance. Again, there is a disappointment in case of Andhra Pradesh. Modi didn’t mention about his word that he promised for Andhra Pradesh. Then why they supported the bifurcation of the state? How the Andhra people are going to build their new Capital? Very few people remember the letter written on August 7, 2013 by Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In this letter, available on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s website, Modi criticised the National Food Security Act (more precisely, the Ordinance) for providing too little. I wish the budget is not hacked by reckless market sentiments. Inflation is at its worst, growth less than the previous government. There is nothing in the budget but selling India for commission. Nothing has been done to generate employment for common man. Anyways, Modi government’s budget has failed to live up to common people’s expectations. One can say, it is an over dose of Achche Din.