Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram today said the Union budget had "nothing" on job creation and insisted that the recent pro-Jallikattu protest at the Marina beach here had more to do with the concern for employment and overall "angst" against issues including "intolerance."
Analysing the budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday, Chidambaram said while the "cry" everywhere was about jobs, the annual exercise did "nothing" to address the concerns of young people and their parents.
"If you think that the thousands of men and women who gathered at the Marina had come to protest the ban on jallikattu, you are only looking at the surface. Deep down there is angst, there is anger, there is anxiety about the future," he said at the Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA) here.
"There is concern about divisiveness, there is concern about polarisation, there is concern about religious conflict, there is concern about intolerance-- you can eat this, you can't eat that, you can wear this you can't wear that, you can love somebody, you cannot love somebody, you can marry somebody, you cannot marry somebody.
"Ban books, ban authors, ban beef, ban jazz, ban jeans. Young people are very concerned about these issues. Among the most important concern is jobs. Where are the jobs?" he said.
Chidambaram said while Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier promised to create two crore jobs annually if his party was voted to power in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, "the best achievement of this government is in 2015-16 when they created 1.5 lakh jobs."
Citing Labour Bureau statistics, he said, in the three months of July, August and September last year year, 77,000 jobs were created, with only 50,000 of them being in the government sector. As many as 12,000 jobs were lost in software, communication and IT sectors, he added.
"One can sense that there is a great concern for jobs. What has this budget done for jobs. Nothing. There is no strategy to create jobs, no policy measures to create jobs," he said.
The budget did not address the key issues of economic growth and job creation and did not have any 'triggers' for key components like government and public investment besides consumption, he said.
Chidambaram said though he had urged the Centre to cut
indirect taxes and not direct taxes in the budget, "the Finance Minister did the exact opposite."
When indirect taxes are cut, cost of production falls sharply, prices stabilise and that stimulates demand, he said.
"Cutting direct taxes will not trigger demand. If you had cut indirect taxes across the board you would have found a very different situation, very different mood in the country. I think the government made a terrible mistake, a cardinal mistake in not cutting indirect taxes but cutting direct taxes," he said.
Even the cut in direct taxes was "pitiful" as only about 1.98 crore of taxpayers will get a relief of an average of Rs 5000, he said.
Even credit growth had declined to 5.1 per cent and though banks were 'flush' with money, there was nobody to borrow, he said.
On demonetisation, Chidambaram said it had been "looming large" over the budget and the impact of note ban could extend till 2018-19.
Farmers, farm labourers, MSMEs and artisans were the worst affected due to the note ban as they deal in cash, Chidambaram said, adding, demonetisation was a "hopelessly wrong" move by the NDA government.
No major economy had imposed a note ban in the last many years, he added.
On the government proposing to put a cap on cash donations from a single source at Rs 2000 for political parties, Chidambaram welcomed it but said there was no restriction on the number of such donations.
Faulting the Narendra Modi government for India's relations with Pakistan, Chidambaram said last year's surgical strikes had led to "more tense borders, with more of our jawans dying and more people migrating from the areas".