Fine balancing act by AAP
The exercise of presenting a budget (the word is derived from ‘bougette’, a French word denoting a wallet) was first done in the context of an economic and credibility problem. The first ever budget was aimed solely at restoring the confidence of the public in the government’s fiscal operations: expenditures and income. It was a <g data-gr-id="30">crowd pleasing</g> budget, as most budgets are intended to bring relief to the average citizen. By 1764, it had become a regular feature of British parliamentary discussions after Lord Grenville presented the aforementioned first budget in order to let people know that the government was making a serious effort to bring back the surpluses. Thus began the tradition known as the annual budget.
This practice first came to the Subcontinent in 1869 when James Wilson, the member of the finance committee to the Viceroy, presented the first budget statement that year. Since then budgets have been a regular feature of the Indian democratic and political firmament. Inconvenient water shortages during peak summertime, an overburdened public transport system, lack of safety for its female population, a poor government schooling system. It is safe to say that Delhi’s problems are manifold, but the solutions to them have either not been envisaged till date or not been implemented with any degree of efficacy. This is probably one of the reasons why the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) was voted into power with a landslide mandate of 67 seats.
On <g data-gr-id="53">Thursday</g> the AAP presented a blueprint to fulfill the sky-high expectations it had set in the run-up to the elections. Dressed in a military green shirt Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia sauntered into the Delhi Assembly. The budget he presented shortly after that will probably silence the AAP’s worst critics, that is if they are willing to see the light of the day and acknowledge the tremendously slender tightrope that the AAP’s policy team must have walked to pull this budget off. Calling this India’s first ‘Swaraj Budget’, the deputy CM unveiled the AAP’s vision for the city of Delhi. Presenting a coherent roadmap on how it can fulfill its poll promises the AAP asserted ways and means on how it could solve the city’s numerous problems and make it a <g data-gr-id="38">world class</g> city.
This is easier said than done, be that as it may, this budget is a positive step forward in the right direction. True to his word on empowering common citizens to take meaningful grassroots action the budget announced creation of a new fund, Swaraj Nidhi (Rs 253 crore), which will be kept at the disposal of the <g data-gr-id="40">aam</g> <g data-gr-id="39">aadmi</g>. It’s a fund earmarked for residents to implement <g data-gr-id="41">small scale</g> schemes and projects within their colonies. Each constituency will be allotted Rs 20 crore. The money will be allotted to 11 of the 70 constituencies to start with to empirically calibrate future cash flows. The budget admirably gives top priority to the social sector and social spending – education gets the highest allocation with a healthy Rs 9,836 crore, an increase of a remarkable 106 <g data-gr-id="42">per cent</g> over the previous budget, and health gets Rs 4,787 crores. Delhi is a microcosm of India, a melting pot of different cultures and influences. As a national capital, Delhi is also the prism through which India is seen by the world. An efficient administration, holistic development and a feeling of safety and security are absolutely necessary for Delhi and India to hold a pride of place in the world.