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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley just gave away his fifth and final Budget speech at the parliament this Thursday. This budget, for the country and the BJP, led NDA government, has remained to act a crucial one. A couple of factors determines this - Firstly, its the first budget that the country is witnessing after having one of its major economic move getting rolled out - the change of taxation to the Goods and Service Tax(GST) system. Even though the change to GST, albeit the need to wait for further improvements and clarifications, has given an uncertainty on tax mobilizations, providing it with that of the practice of a year of demonetization had made the FY17-18 become a complete economic disaster. We have already witnessed a steep decline in the GDP count after the third quarter of last financial year to a nearly 2%. Thus, the two policy moves have its own stake in forming the budget policy whether it be on the allocation side or on the understanding of the revenues to be generated. So it becomes an important factor in the planning of the fiscal policy as well as the fiscal deficit expectations accordingly for the upcoming financial year.

Secondly, due to the harsh repercussion that the government had to face on grounds of the aforesaid reasons and the elections to the lower house is getting geared, the BJP government had to wrap the scene up and come up with an election-friendly budget that is ‘seemingly’ more to the welfare side.

As for a simple read, one might find, provided with the eloquent rhetoric skills of the finance minister, the budget presentation a better one that has gone through and addressed all the sectors, but it is the nuances that give you the facts and whereabouts of how much it is and will have effect on our daily lives.

The government has started presenting the budget with programs that are not just impossible to get implement with the available resources, but also will have an adverse effect on the budget deficit targets even if it gets implemented in one go. It is very much visible in this budget that, by hurting the funding for the common people’s welfare, the government hasn’t forgotten to discharge its duties on fulfilling the needs of the rich and corporates through formulating the budget accordingly. But, this assault has, however, came up taking the form of a populist budget, giving them an inclusive face, whereas there is nothing much to ponder about in actual terms of effect, other than it being negative.Despite the fact that the total expenditure has come down to a 13.04% share of the GDP compared to the former year, the term contractionary budget has itself become a cliche in analyzing the budgets of India in the recent years.

This year, the government has come up with a desolating budget that doesn’t take care of certain sectors of the economy. The government further boasts of making the rural sectors and farmers well off with the budget. But the actual facts just tells you the contrary. For the rural sector, the budget states that more efforts will be given in building infrastructure rather than addressing their critical concerns. This need not be what the people are wishing for, given their present condition of socio-economic disparity. As for the farmers, only minimal efforts have been taken to address their issues. Till the past years, as all the past economic surveys have always warned, the condition of the farmers has always kept on deteriorating and has seen no increase in their development, except the development of the numbers in farmer suicides.

However, suddenly, as the last year of the ruling term, the budget is trying to project the proposals for the upliftment of the farmers and the aged. For that, the budget put forward the idea of Minimum Support Price(MSP) in terms of cost of production. In this light, it is also to be noted that the government has not yet made any clarifications as to which cost they are going to take in account, provided that the term cost in economics is very broad, which again puts a concern as to if the farmers are actually entitled to any benefits. The same case goes with the youth population and in the education sector. There is nothing in the budget on how new jobs are to be created except stating that it will.

The funding for education has also been reduced from the percentage share of the GDP with respect to school as well as higher education, not to mention the drop in UGC funding. It is also depressing to see the government initiating the move to replace blackboard to digital board across schools in the name of digital technology while there are thousands of children in the country who are still failing to get access to schools, of which even the schools doesn’t have the basic facilities to occupy them. The budget is also trying to portray with statistics of having certain fundings kept stagnantly or increased with that of the former budget, whereas they haven't exhibited that it's not in real terms.

It is practically impossible to have all these goals in the budget achieved with the fiscal deficit target, which even now is itself higher than the expected target, making the policy announcements a mere promise to be faked. ie, the schemes proposed in the annual budget will only make the GDP look more unfeasible with the 3.3% projected fiscal deficit. Also, as asserted by the finance minister in his speech, the target to attain a hike in economic growth of 7.5% in GDP by the next fiscal also becomes impossible to achieve.

Since the economy is yet to recover from the disastrous effects of demonetisation, the budget should have had proposals about investing in the needed sectors, thus creating demand in the economy and to solve those issues that came as a byproduct of demonetisation like revival of those in the informal sector and providing people with more employment opportunities. But none of this has happened except that they have come up with proposals for drastic cuts in the payments that were to be spent on education, social welfare and development of youth, women, and children. So, as aforesaid, if the government fails to create demand for goods and services in the economy, like what has always happened in the past, the move can even drive the Reserve Bank of India in cutting down the interest rates which will become difficult to catch up.

This budget has high complications with respect to fiscal consolidation. The government has allowed for fiscal slippage and this failure will have huge effects on the economy. The deficit for FY17-18 was kept higher to 3.5% than the target of 3.2% and this year also it fails in keeping it to the target of 3%, raising it to 3.3%. Also, the move of the government to increase Rs 50,000 crore worth further market borrowings of dated government securities will also lead to elevated fiscal slippage which will hinder economic growth recovery by conserving higher yields and getting the lending of rate cuts delayed.

There are several consequences if the targeted fiscal deficit gets failed. For instance, the investors who buy bonds will yield higher rates if there is an increased amount of borrowing.This in turn, in all respects, will affect the interest rates. Another such problem relating to this is the emergence of credibility risk. As of raising capital receipts in the present form is concerned, the government’s assurance need not be taken seriously by the investors, which for them can be costly, and in turn, effects planned investments.

Having a high fiscal deficit also means that the government is not able to generate more than that of what it is spending. Therefore, this propels the government to increase the taxes in many ways that best suits them, so its debts can be payed-off in the future. This process can, however, not just be concerned with higher taxes, but can also be with higher inflation. And if the expenditure increases up from the present target, as in cases of the rise in international oil prices, it again will lead to further widening of the fiscal deficit.

Perhaps, there is even a bigger issue with having a high deficit. It minimizes the possibilities of retrieval of the economy if we are to face any kind of unanticipated economic changes in the future that can happen rapidly, even if such event occurs in the global economic scenario.

Anyways, whatever it be, those who always get affected are the common working people of the country. This budget is a clear gesture of reconciliation shown by the ruling class towards the rich neglecting the actual problems of the commons and the working class. The retortion made by the worker's wing of the ruling BJP, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, stating that the budget is disappointing and has totally neglected the workers, speaks volumes on how anti-people the present budget is. Keeping in mind the factors stated above, yet again, the government, through its regressive budget, has shown its apathy towards the people of the country.

- Yadul Krishna (SFI activist, Delhi University)

 KALADY

In a country, where gender binaries between the male and female are already so concretized, the transgender and queer community are further marginalized when it comes to being part of the collective and further having access to livelihood opportunities. The social, economic, cultural barriers, all add to the factors which push transgenders to a life characterized by violence and discrimination in the society. The stigmas and stereotypes attached make them more vulnerable to naming and shaming in public spaces. It is at this junction, that the significance of the bill lies in both the recognizing their rights as citizens of this country who are equally to abide by the fundamental rights and duties of the constitution and to intervene in the larger set of perceptions about them as social beings in the social order.

Census of India, assessed the number of transgender people for the first time in 2011 which amounted to a population of 4.88 lakh. It is hard to overlook the fact that the transgender community in the country is one of the most marginalized with very few avenues for employment available to them. As a society, we need to immediately move to a state where the transgender people in this country are given the space to live a life of dignity and the role of the state is crucial in providing the same.

A writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court with National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) to claim rights of equality and justice. The judgment in April 2014 was welcoming as it recognized the right to self-identify one’s own gender, granted legal recognition and legal as well as constitutional rights, directed the Government to ensure reservations in education and public appointments and identified as the social and educationally backward class. In December 2014, Rajya Sabha passed the bill affirming NALSA provisions. But in 2015, the bill brought in the Lok Sabha by Ministry of Social Justice, Government of India proposed points in opposition to the NALSA verdict. In 2016 again, the said ministry modified the bill making it more regressive in nature. A standing committee was formed in 2017 by Central Government of India which has made valid suggestions for the bill as scheduled to be tabled in the soon approaching winter session of the Parliament beginning from 15 December.

Problems with the Bill in its current form:

The first problem lies in the definition of a transgendered person which says, a person who is “neither wholly female nor wholly female, a combination of female and male and neither female nor male” and “whose sense of gender does not match with the gender assigned to the person at the time of the birth”. To this, Standing Committee recommends a transgender to be defined as, "a person whose gender does not match with the gender assigned at birth, and includes trans-men and trans-women (whether or not they have undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy or laser therapy etc), gender-queers, and a number of sociocultural identities such as kinnars."

Second, the 2016 version of the bill suggests that “a transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for issuing a certificate of identity as a transgender person”. The application will be forwarded by the district magistrate to the district screening committee which will be constituted by the Government “for the purpose of recognition of transgender persons”. It will add to the humiliation and problems in the issuance of identity cards especially in the remote areas where factors such as bribe, corruption, and power nexus delay the bureaucratic functioning of the government offices. The multilayered procedures do not make any sense, the provision of district screening committees shall be removed. It also violates transgender person’s rights under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

Third is the criminalization of enticement to beg. Given the unequal state of employment opportunities and education access, the standing committee recommends “gender-based internal reservation for transgender people and a strong anti-discrimination provision with penalties, for educational and employment access”. The state should without any delay provide for employment opportunities to individuals belonging to the transgender community.

Fourth is low penalty for violence against transgender people. Given the fact, that transgender people face various forms of harassment or violence, the standing committee recommends penalties for sexual violence equivalent to penalties for sexual violence with women and proper definition of specific atrocities faced by transgender and intersex people.

Fifth, the placement of a transgender person in a rehabilitation center if the immediate family gives away the care of the person is problematic as it violates the constitutional right to freedom of residence of the transgender person. The bill does not consider the violence with the transgender person inside a familial structure or by the family members. The standing committee recommends expanding the definition of family as well to a family of “choice, adoption, partnership, marriage, friendship etc.”

Sixth, National and State Trans Rights Commission instead of National Council for Transgender persons.

The demand of the civil society and the concerned groups is to accept the recommendations of the Standing Committee. The citizenship rights along with Universal Human Rights stands violated if the bill as proposed now gets passed in the parliament which will reflect the collective failure of us, as a society along with the regressive step in the history of the nation.

 

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Education is considered a tool to inculcate the independent thinking among students. The basis of the education is the conveying real facts and established principles to the students through their curriculum, equipping them to analyze these facts and evolve their independent thinking. This will lead to a rational society but education is used as a means for ideological indoctrination by the RSS and BJP, for communalizing the entire society to implement their strategy of establishing a Hindu Rashta.

Present BJP Government is not only using education institutions to communalize education through the presentation of wrong facts, fabricated history, wrong interpretations but also using these institutions as a tool for opinion building and defending their economic policies. This is a very dangerous trend where the communal government is using educational institutions to justify their failed and anti-people policies and religion is used to justify government’s unjustified actions.


One such case is an attempt of saffronization of higher education in Banaras Hindu University. It is a reflection of the agenda of the RSS and BJP when questions like “Manu is the first Indian thinker of Globalization; Discuss” appears in the examination of Masters of Arts in Political Science.
In Banaras Hindu University which has recently witnessed determined struggle of girl students against University administration and the Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath on the question of their security, MA 1st semester students were shocked when they saw question paper for subject ‘Social and Political Thoughts of Ancient India’. They were asked to write an essay on nature of GST in Kautilya Arthshastra or Manu is the first Indian thinker of Globalization. Discuss’.
This is not a simple case of questions from out of syllabus but reflects the kind of conspiracy working to ruin the Higher education of India. In the above example, students are forced to think and write in a certain way or they have to lose marks. This is the whole idea to compel students to think in a certain way. According to media reports (quoted anonymous student) says “These ridiculous and unpalatable questions in question paper are really disheartening. Students are being taught these fictitious concepts just to validate the policies of the present government. Even last year, students were taught the benefits of demonetization and that characters in Ramayana had used surgical strikes to defeat enemies. However, we were not tested on them after we objected,” complained a student.” (The Indian Express, 7 December, 2017).


It is well-established fact that demonetization which was considered master stroke of Prime Minister Narender Modi has severely hit the economy and poor public has to bear the tragic pain by giving their lives standing in the long queues in front of ATM’s and banks. Millions of people lost their employment which affected their families. There are various assessment regarding individuals losing their jobs and lives but number of affected people increase many folds as demonetization ruined their families also. While people were coming out of this disaster of demonetization, then came GST hitting hard on the business. BJP and RSS have realized that history will not forgive them for these anti people policies so they are trying their old established theory. They don’t want people to assess these policies but are forcing people to think only benefits. They are discussing these policies in the class room to have their real analysis but trying to portray them as noble and useful policies by linking their false roots to our ancient fabricated history e.i. GST with Kautilya and demonitisation with Ramayana.


RSS is trying to control the whole structure of education institutions by deploying their persons or pracharaks who are justifying these attempts by their blatant lies. In this case also the person responsible for setting of question paper is Professor Kaushal Kishore Mishra, from BHU’s Faculty of Social Sciences who openly admits in media that he is a member of RSS. Professor Mishra gives a list of ridiculous justification for teaching these biased concepts in class room and in support of these questions which carries 15marks each.


It is important to note that education is being targeted by central government and RSS right from the first day. In the name of Indianisation, they are trying to communalize it and trying to propagate their ideas. Pseudoscience and false history is being taught to students in various BJP ruling states which are polluting the young minds with venom of communalization. There were attacks on the institutions of Higher education. But now they are directly interfering with the content of Higher education also. Indian education system doesn’t stand for these values. Universities especially are known to promote rational and logical thinking. It is a clear indicator of RSS’s slow but deliberate attempt of “saffronising” the education system of the country and in the process, feeding large number of young brains with their core ideology of Hindutva.

By Vikram Singh ( National General Secretary, SFI)

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Report from Haryana Central University

The assault on institutions of higher learning and curbing their autonomy is not new under the present government. Successive governments, irrespective of its political affiliation have time and again have reduced government funding in higher education. What is significant in this present NDA-2 government is the blatant intervention of government in the internal functioning of the universities. Whether it is the issue of dissolving GS-CASH in JNU, providing scholarship to research scholars or, controversial appointments made in research funding agencies like ICSSR or ICHR, there has been an increasing interference and bureaucratic control on our institutes of higher learning.


In this background recently Central University of Haryana has introduced a novel concept of Academic Consultants/Advisors. The issue was discussed in the Academic Council meeting of the University. The terms and conditions of this position of Academic Consultants/Advisors raise certain serious issues pertaining to the future of higher education in our country. On anonymity, one of the officials at MHRD confided that the ministry is also planning to come up with similar notification for which a committee has already been constituted and the Vice chancellor of Haryana Central University is a member of that committee. So, it can be assumed that whatever is being done in this regard at Central University of Haryana may be implemented in other Central Universities in future. Let us focus on some of the issues highlighted in the minutes:


1) It clearly states that the University can appoint any retired teachers of the level of Professors below the age of 70 years as Academic Consultants/Advisors, which can be made against the vacant positions of Professors or Associate Professors or supernumerary posts created by the Executive Council of the University.
2) Academic Consultants/Advisors are expected to devote full time in University and shall not be assigned any administrative positions. Interestingly, residential accommodations may be provided to the Academic Consultants/Advisors.
3) Apart from teaching they can interact with research students but, they cannot supervise any research scholar.
4) Importantly, they can actively participate in service-related activities such as departmental committees and other forums in the name of enhancing proficiency of academics.


These points indicate a gloomy picture of future of higher education in India. With a young and vibrant population, India is among few countries in the world with such a huge human resource. To block the job opportunities by appointing retired teachers as consultants is a bad idea. It is akin to the concept of siksha mitra to impart education in primary sector and we have witnessed how this has ruined the primary education in favour of private schools. Secondly, such appointments can be politically motivated as the committee under the chairmanship of the Vice Chancellor is the sole authority to appoint them. When unfortunately some of the Vice chancellors of our Universities are political appointees then a free hand given to them is a problem.


Further, these positions are positions with power but, without any responsibilities. Academic Consultants can be part of any committees as consultants, but they cannot be assigned any administrative position. They can interact and counsel any research scholar, but cannot act as their supervisor. This suggests they can meddle with each and every academic issue without any responsibility. This also alarms us to understand how certain stains of political ideologies can enter our academic system from backdoor, where academic councilors can act as eyes and ears of ruling establishment and promote their views.


Academic activities of University are internal affairs of the University. There are already certain institutionalized checks like Board of Studies, School Board and Academic Council to govern the academic activities of any Universities. What can be then the reason for the need of consultants to enhance the effectiveness of academics is questionable.


In the longer run, such positions are bound to affect the promotions and developmental opportunities of the younger faculty members. At one end the government is curbing funding provided to Universities, Research institutes and to research scholars, on the other hand the logic of appointing Academic councilors at exorbitant pay of Rs 80,000/- per month along with residential facilities within the University premises is questionable. It is a contradiction in itself as the new Central Universities with poor infrastructure is unable to provide residential quarters to all of its permanent faculties. It’s nothing but a planned procedure for making the existing public Universities defunct leading to its privatization. The privatization of health sector and primary education further illustrates the point.

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