India has unveiled a fire-fighting budget to win back support among rural voters for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and sustain growth against a grim global backdrop. But as Graham MacKay reports not everyone is convinced by its measures to help the poor.
Hundreds of millions dependent on farming - reeling from a two year drought. The rural poor a focal point of India's budget this week - as the government tries to claw back support from the countryside. Sixteen billion dollars has been set aside for new farming jobs. But as New Delhi bureau chief Doug Busvine reports, the way it's handed out isn't guaranteed to solve the problem. SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS NEW DELHI, BUREAU CHIEF, DOUG BUSVINE, SAYING: "There's more money in this budget for rural job schemes, for farmers' welfare, but critics say it looks a bit like a budget that might have been presented by and old congress government, of the kind that reinforce a cycle of rural poverty and dependency." The jobs push is an extension of a scheme from a previous government, and largely goes towards menial tasks like digging ditches. That's enough to help poor families get by, but rarely offers any real economic opportunity. Another big budget issue raising questions for the poor - subsidies. Thirteen percent of the budget will go towards cut priced food, fuel and fertilizers and there are other freebies like cheap power. That may look good on paper, but in many cases means nothing to those most in need. SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS NEW DELHI, BUREAU CHIEF, DOUG BUSVINE, SAYING: "The government spends over 4 percent of GDP on subsidies. These are typically benefits in kind such as electricity or cooking gas. They're also mainly consumed by the better of. There are hundreds of millions of people in India who have no access to power or who cook using biomass." Prime Minister Narendra Modi rose to power off the back of promises to help India's poor. But as more and more critics are noting - throwing money at the problem doesn't guarantee results.