If you were granted three wishes as the finance minister, what would those be?
First of all the persistent poverty should be eradicated. Majority of our population earns Rs500-600 a month. Today it is not possible for a family to survive on it. The government must have an intensive poverty alleviation programme.
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Secondly, the quality of education provided should be improved and it should employment oriented in the context of globalization.
My third wish is that the poorest, the scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, minorities and other excluded groups should be prioritized.
If you could end something that currently exists within the system what would that be?
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If I could end something I would like to end manual scavenging done by scheduled caste women all over the country. This is very heinous and inhuman and we must be ashamed of it. The Madras high court recently ordered this to be ended, but both the public and private sector are violating it. In fact corporations and municipalities are the biggest violators of the law. There is also no dearth of money for the rehabilitation of these workers.
If you were the finance minister, name one thing outside your industry that you would want.
I shall increase the allocation for women’s security and empowerment and bring it at par with the country’s defence budget. If I were the FM I would ensure that a special fund is made available for women contesting elections. Many countries in Europe give money to parties for election expenditure.
If you look carefully at the budget allocated to the ministry of women and child development, expenditure on women and children is clubbed together.75% of it goes towards the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) programme, leaving only about 15-20% of the total allocation on women. This, I think is wrong.
Name one measure that currently exists within the system that you wouldn’t change.
I wouldn’t touch income tax and property tax. I think it’s your duty to pay taxes if you earn.
What is your idea of inclusive growth?
Inclusive growth implies social justice and empowerment for needy with special attention to scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities and excluded groups. Inclusive growth includes ensuring that inequality that widened due to globalization is addressed. Inclusive growth is not just building flyovers and 6-lane roads but also ensuring that there are footpaths to walk on, bijli (electricity), sadak (roads), food, and work for all. ‘India shining’ not for few, but for all.
As told to Poornima Mohandas