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Budget’s big miss

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Photo: iStock

Retaining the scheme’s allocation at this year’s level would have assured a stronger safety net to people for whom a revival of our urban-centric economy means little. For all the positive trends we’ve seen, our overall employment scenario remains bleak

The Union budget has struck the right note on most outlay proposals, but its lack of social-sector support is a cause for concern. Take, for instance, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme. Its allocation for 2021-22 has been slashed to 73,000 crore, down 35% from this fiscal year’s revised estimate of 1.11 trillion. This is unfortunate, indeed. While we expect our economy to stage a V-shaped recovery from its covid crisis, we also have reason to worry about a K-shaped divergence in how India’s haves and have-nots will fare.

Ground reports suggest that rural distress is far from over. Reverse migration after India went into lockdown had swelled worker numbers in our villages, with many relying on that job programme for wages. Some of those workers did return to urban jobs as the country was unlocked by and by, but a significant proportion stayed back. Retaining the scheme’s allocation at this year’s level would have assured a stronger safety net to people for whom a revival of our urban-centric economy means little. For all the positive trends we’ve seen, our overall employment scenario remains bleak.

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