Promise and delivery: on Union Budget 2018
Arun Jaitley’s Budget will be judged by whether it can bridge the gap
If the Union Budget is construed as an annual tug-of-war between populism and fiscal prudence (बुद्धिमान), arguably it is the latter that prevailed in the past four budgets tabled by the NDA. However, populism seems to have gained an upper hand in Arun Jaitley’s latest effort. Despite exceptional buoyancy (हलकापन) in direct tax revenues (18.7% growth in FY18) and record disinvestment proceeds (₹1 lakh crore), shortfalls in GST mop-ups and dividend receipts have forced the Finance Minister to ease off on fiscal consolidation as mandated by the FRBM Act. The Budget has reported a fiscal deficit of 3.5% (of GDP) for FY18 and pegged it at a high 3.3% for next year. The Economic Survey prepared the ground for a deviation, yet the actual numbers surprised the markets. Armed with a war chest of ₹24.4 lakh crore in budgeted receipts for FY19, Mr. Jaitley has homed in unerringly on the root causes of distress — unremunerative farm incomes, unemployment, lack of social security nets and the squeeze (निचोड़कर निकालना) on the middle-class taxpayer.
With this in mind, Mr. Jaitley has announced a laundry list of ameliorative (सुधारक) measures. While his intent is clearly welfarist, resource constraints (कृत्रिमता) have forced him to rely significantly on extra-budgetary resources and external agencies to give life to many proposals. If they fail to materialise, it can lead to a gap between promise and delivery. Consider agriculture. After asserting that minimum support prices (MSPs) should cover all crops and assure farmers 1.5 times their production cost, food subsidy allocations for FY19 have been upped by a relatively modest ₹29,041 crore. A ‘fool-proof’ mechanism has been mooted (विचार करना) to avoid market prices falling below MSPs, but it is left to the Niti Aayog to work out the modalities (तौर-तरीका). Setting up farmers’ markets is similarly a great idea to free small farmers from the tyranny of Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), but the project gets a mere ₹2,000-crore allocation.
The ambitious rural package in this Budget brings in free gas connections to three crore new households, free electricity connections to four crore homes, two crore new toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission, higher micro-irrigation coverage, and so on. But of the massive outlay of ₹14.34 lakh crore required to bankroll these grandiose (आडंबरपूर्ण) plans, as much as ₹11.98 lakh crore is expected to be met from extra-budgetary resources. A similar template has been used in social sector schemes. The National Health Protection Scheme, to provide a ₹5 lakh health cover to 10 crore households, is a much-needed social security intervention to benefit poor households that rely overwhelmingly (ज़बर्दस्त ढंग से) on private health care. But there is little clarity on modalities. The entire clutch (शिकंजा) of proposals on improving learning outcomes, providing universal health coverage and alleviating the lot of minorities and girl children is expected to be funded through a mere ₹16,000-crore increase in allocations to ₹1.38 lakh crore. Infrastructure appears to be one of the few sectors where the funding problem has been addressed, with PSUs bankrolling a significant proportion of the ₹5.97-lakh crore outlay for FY19.
While being liberal in its announcements for rural India, the Budget has been frugal (अल्पव्ययी) in its giveaways to the middle class and the corporate sector. Expectations of an increase in the basic exemption limit on income tax have been belied (झुठलाना); instead, a standard deduction of ₹40,000 is back for salaried taxpayers. While it is only fair that the salaried pay income tax on their net income (after expenses) as the self-employed do, this deduction (which also replaces transport and medical reimbursements) is too small to establish real parity. The clamour (कोलाहल) for an across-the-board cut in the basic corporate tax rate from 30 to 25% has also been ignored, with the cut limited to mid-size companies (up to ₹250-crore turnover). Though this will benefit the overwhelming majority of corporate tax filers, how this impacts the competitive edge of India’s largest companies in the global context will be debated. Especially so, since the U.S. recently slashed its corporate tax rate to 21% and European nations average 20%. For the salariat and the corporate sector, the increase in education cess will offset some of the gains from these tax cuts. Senior citizens have benefited, particularly from the tax relief on interest from bank deposits and post office schemes, which has been hiked from ₹10,000 to ₹50,000 a year. These interest payouts are also exempt from the vexatious (अफ़सोसनाक) TDS provisions. This relief renders senior citizens far less vulnerable (आघात योग्य) to steadily dwindling (घटाना) interest rates on bank deposits and small savings schemes; it also helps them to continue relying on fixed-income instruments to cover living expenses. This relief may reverse the unhealthy trend of risk averse (अनिच्छुक) savers shifting wholesale from bank deposits to market-linked options such as equity mutual funds, in search of higher returns.
The imposition of 10% long-term capital gains tax on profits from shares and equity mutual funds could dampen (निरुत्साह करना) market sentiment in the near term, but is unlikely to have any structural impact on domestic equity flows. Equities are favoured by the relatively affluent (धनाढ्य) savers and alternative financial instruments such as bonds and fixed deposits invite far higher tax incidence. Moreover, the bulk of new allocations flowing into Indian equities in the last two years have come from retail investors, most of them saving for the long term. It is unlikely that they will beat a hasty retreat from shares or mutual funds just because of a modest levy. Overall, the Budget has a sense of direction that is difficult to find fault with. If some of the proposals seem half-hearted or are not taken to their logical end, it may be the result of revenue constraints. It is to be hoped that as the revenue base improves and GST collections stabilise, future budgets can put the finishing touches on the welfare proposals.
1. Prudence: The quality of being prudent; cautiousness.
Synonyms: wisdom, judgement, good judgement, judiciousness, sagacity, shrewdness, advisability, common sense, sense, caution, cautiousness, care, carefulness, canniness, chariness, wariness, circumspection, thrift, thriftiness, providence, good management, careful budgeting, economy, canniness, frugality, abstemiousness
Antonyms: brashness, carelessness, heedlessness, incaution, incautiousness, recklessness, unwariness, abruptness, hastiness, impetuousness, precipitousness, rashness, suddenness
2. Buoyancy: cheerful and optimistic attitude or disposition.
Synonyms: cheerfulness, cheeriness, happiness, light-heartedness, carefreeness, brightness, gladness, merriment, joy, bounce, effervescence, blitheness, sunniness, breeziness, jollity, joviality, animation, liveliness, life, sprightliness, jauntiness, ebullience, high spirits, vivacity, vitality, verve, sparkle, zest
3. Squeeze: to apply external pressure on so as to force out the juice or contents of
Synonyms: crush, express, mash, press
Antonyms: decompress, expand, open, outspread, outstretch
4. Ameliorate: Make (something bad or unsatisfactory) better.
Synonyms: make better, better, upgrade, refine, enhance, boost, build on, help, raise, revamp, brush up, polish up, perk up, tweak, improve, make better, better, make improvements to, enhance, help, benefit, boost, raise, amend, refine, reform
Antonyms: damage, endamage, harm, hurt, impair, injure, spoil, tarnish, vitiate, blemish, blight, deface, disfigure, flaw, mar
5. Constraints: A limitation or restriction.
Synonyms: restriction, limitation, curb, check, restraint, control, curtailment, damper, rein
Antonyms: disinhibition, incontinence, unconstraint, gratification, indulgence, overindulgence, self-indulgence
6. Mooted: open to question or dispute
Synonyms: arguable, controvertible, disputable, doubtable, doubtful, issuable, debatable, negotiable, questionable
Antonyms: accomplished, certain, hands-down, inarguable, incontestable, incontrovertible, indisputable, indubitable, irrefragable, positive, questionless, settled, sure, unanswerable, unarguable, unchallengeable, undebatable, undeniable, unquestionable
7. Modalities: A particular mode in which something exists or is experienced or expressed.
8. Grandiose: large and impressive in size, grandeur, extent, or conception
Synonyms: august, baronial, epic, gallant, glorious, grand, heroic (also heroical), Homeric, imperial, imposing, magnific, magnificent, majestic, massive, monumental, noble, proud, regal, royal, splendid, stately
Antonyms: humble, unheroic, unimposing, unimpressive, average, common, mediocre, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, second-rate, insignificant, measly, paltry, petty, puny, trifling, trivial
9. Overwhelmingly: to subject to incapacitating emotional or mental stress
Synonyms: crush, devastate, floor, grind (down), oppress, overcome, overmaster, overpower, prostrate, snow under, swamp, whelm
Antonyms: dehydrate, dry, parch, drain
10. Clutch: a number of things considered as a unit
Synonyms: array, assemblage, band, bank, batch, battery, block, bunch, clot, clump, cluster, clutch, collection, constellation, grouping, huddle, knot, lot, muster, package, parcel, passel, set, suite
Antonyms: individual, single, entity, item, single, unit
11. Frugal: careful in the management of money or resources
Synonyms: economical, economizing, provident, scrimping, sparing, thrifty
Antonyms: prodigal, profligate, spendthrift, squandering, thriftless, unthrifty, wasteful
12. Belied: to give a misleading impression of
Synonyms: contradict, be at odds with, call into question, give the lie to, prove to be false, show to be false
Antonyms: betray, represent
13. Clamour: A loud and confused noise, especially that of people shouting.
Synonyms: din, racket, loud noise, uproar, tumult, babel, shouting, yelling, screaming, baying, roaring, blaring, clangour
14. Vexatious: causing annoyance
Synonyms: abrasive, aggravating, bothersome, carking, chafing, disturbing, exasperating, frustrating, galling, irksome, irritating, maddening, nettlesome, nettling, peeving, pesky, pestiferous, pestilent, pestilential, pesty, plaguey (also plaguy), rankling, rebarbative, riling, annoying, vexing
Antonyms: delightful, pleasing
15. Vulnerable: being in a situation where one is likely to meet with harm
Synonyms: endangered, exposed, open, sensitive, subject (to), susceptible, liable
Antonyms: insusceptible, invulnerable, unexposed, unsusceptible
16. Dwindling: to make smaller in amount, volume, or extent
Synonyms: abate, de-escalate, dent, deplete, diminish, downscale, downsize, drop, decrease, ease, knock down, lessen, lower, reduce
Antonyms: aggrandize, amplify, augment, boost, enlarge, escalate, expand, increase, raise
17. Averse: having a natural dislike for something
Synonyms: allergic, antipathetic
Antonyms: friendly, sympathetic, tolerant, understanding, admiring, appreciative, charmed, delighted, fond, pleased, tickled
18. Dampen: to make or become slightly or moderately wet
Synonyms: bedew, damp, moisten
Antonyms: dehumidify, dehydrate, desiccate, parch, scorch, sear
19. Affluent: having goods, property, or money in abundance
Synonyms: rich, deep-pocketed, fat, fat-cat, flush, loaded, moneyed (also monied), opulent, silk-stocking, wealthy, well-endowed, well-fixed, well-heeled, well-off, well-to-do
Antonyms: destitute, impecunious, impoverished, indigent, needy, penniless, penurious, poor, poverty-stricken
For a clean judiciary: the importance of in-house mechanisms
The process to remove Justice Shukla shows the importance of in-house mechanisms
With an in-house committee concluding that a judge of the Allahabad High Court had committed judicial impropriety (अनुपयुक्तता) serious enough to warrant his removal, the subject of corruption in the higher judiciary is in the news. Justice Shri Narayan Shukla had come under adverse (प्रतिकूल) notice before a Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra last year. The Bench had found he had violated a restraining (निरोधक) order from the apex court by allowing the GCRG Memorial Trust, Lucknow, to admit students. The Supreme Court observed that the Bench headed by Justice Shukla had violated judicial propriety. The CJI formed a three-member committee, comprising Chief Justices Indira Banerjee of the Madras High Court and S.K. Agnihotri of the Sikkim High Court and Justice P.K. Jaiswal of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, to examine his conduct. The committee has now found substance in the allegations and that the judge had deviated from the “values of judicial life”. It is unfortunate that Justice Shukla has not tendered (नजर देना) his resignation or sought retirement, the options available to him to avoid the ignominy (अपकीर्ति) of impeachment in Parliament. His position has paved the way for the CJI to recommend his removal.
The allegations against him appear to correspond to the claims in a first information report registered by the CBI against another medical college trust and alleged middlemen, including a retired judge of the Orissa High Court, that there was a plot to influence public servants to obtain favourable orders. The allegation had set off a storm in the judiciary, as some orders related to medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh were also passed by Supreme Court Benches headed by Chief Justice Misra himself. The climactic event was the unprecedented press conference at which four senior-most judges alleged the CJI had departed from convention while using his power to draw up the roster. It is important for the institution that the charges against Justice Shukla are properly investigated. It may have a sobering (संयत कर देने वाला) effect on those who desire that the institution be cleansed as well as those who feel there is an unwarranted onslaught (घातक आक्रमण) on it. The process of removing a judge is too elaborate and somewhat cumbersome (दुखदायक). However, an in-house finding may help hasten it in flagrant cases. The possibility of getting a motion passed in Parliament is brighter, and the charge of the process being misused for partisan ends is reduced. The removal of a serving judge is undoubtedly a sad development, but one that the institution should not fight shy of in appropriate cases. That internal mechanisms work with due regard for institutional integrity is something that should be welcomed.
1. Impropriety: the quality or state of not being socially proper
Synonyms: inappropriateness, incorrectness, indecency, indecorousness, indecorum, indelicateness, unbecomingness, unseemliness, untowardness
Antonyms: appropriateness, correctness, decency, decorousness, decorum, fitness, properness, propriety, rightness, seemliness, suitability, suitableness
2. Adverse: opposed to one’s interests
Synonyms: counter, disadvantageous, hostile, inimical, negative, prejudicial, unfavorable, unfriendly, unsympathetic, untoward
Antonyms: advantageous, favorable, friendly, positive, supportive, sympathetic, well-disposed
3. Restraining: to keep from exceeding a desirable degree or level (as of expression)
Synonyms: bridle, check, constrain, contain, curb, govern, hold, inhibit, keep, measure, pull in, regulate, rein (in), control, rule, tame
Antonyms: liberate, loose, loosen, unleash, air, express, take out, vent
4. Tendered: easily injured without careful handling
Synonyms: delicate, fragile, frail, sensitive
Antonyms: hardened, inured, strengthened, tempered, toughened
5. Ignominy: the state of having lost the esteem of others
Synonyms: discredit, disesteem, dishonor, disrepute, disgrace, infamy, obloquy, odium, opprobrium, reproach, shame
Antonyms: esteem, honor, respect, admiration, appreciation, estimation, regard
6. Sobering: Creating a more serious, sensible, or solemn mood
Synonyms: clearheaded, straight, abstemious, abstinent, dry, teetotal, temperate
Antonyms: drunken, fried, gassed, hammered [slang], high, inebriate, inebriated, intoxicated, juiced [slang], lit, lit up, loaded [slang], looped, oiled [slang], pickled, pie-eyed, plastered, potted [slang], ripped [slang], sloshed [slang], smashed [slang], sottish, soused, sozzled, squiffed (or squiffy), stewed, stiff, stinking [slang], stoned, tanked [slang], tight, tipsy, wasted [slang], wiped out [slang] 7. Onslaught: the act or action of setting upon with force or violence
Synonyms: aggression, assault, attempt, blitz, blitzkrieg, charge, coup de main, descent, offense (or offence), offensive, onset, attack, raid, rush, strike
Antonyms: defense, defensive, guard, shield, opposition, resistance, protection, security, shelter
8. Cumbersome: difficult to use or operate especially because of size, weight, or design
Synonyms: awkward, bunglesome, clumsy, clunky, cranky, cumbrous, ponderous, ungainly, unhandy, unwieldy
Antonyms: functional, practicable, practical, serviceable, useful