Two stories dominated the headlines in the Urdu Press through the last week: the Union Budget 2023-24 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the Adani Group’s meltdown following the release of the Hindenburg report. While decoding the Budget, the Urdu dailies flagged massive cuts in allocation of funds for a range of educational, scholarship, skill development and livelihood schemes for minorities. They also kept their focus trained on the raging Adani storm, which has convulsed the markets and rocked Parliament.
Commenting on the rout in the Adani Group’s stocks, the Bengaluru-based Salar, in its editorial on February 5, states that the Narendra Modi government has been in the line of the Opposition’s fire ever since a US-based investor research firm Hindenburg Research’s report came out a couple of weeks ago, which accused the Gautam Adani-led conglomerate of “brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme over the course of decades” and of “pulling the largest con in corporate history”. The daily notes that the Opposition while asking the government to come clean has also been stalling Parliament on the issue. The Opposition has sought a probe into allegations against Adani either by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) or one monitored by the Supreme Court. While the government is trying to dismiss the Opposition’s criticism and making light of the row, the RSS has also risen in defence of Adani, the editorial says.
Although the Adani Group has rejected Hindenburg’s allegations as baseless and motivated and has been attempting to salvage its image, the unrelenting sell-off in its stocks, which have lost half their market value, has led to the world’s third richest man Adani slipping to 22nd spot in the billionaires’ list in a week, the daily writes. “In the wake of the Adani rout, concerns are also being raised over its ramifications for the Indian economy. This is especially relevant in the case of common Indians who have deposited their money in various public sector banks and LIC, which have made significant investments, by extending loans or picking stakes, in the Adani Group,” it states, adding that “the Opposition has alleged that these public financial institutions have done so without following due process at the behest of the Modi government”. At the same time, there has also been a question mark over the role of the securities market regulator SEBI as to why it turned a blind eye to this entire affair, the edit says. “With the Adani affair engulfed in a cloud of speculation, suspicion and apprehensions, the government should make its intervention pro-actively and take action to restore the shaken confidence of depositors and investors.”
In its editorial on February 2, headlined “Minority Budget”, the Mumbai-based Urdu Times points out that in the last full-fledged Union Budget ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has sought to give some relief to the middle class by giving tax rebate on income up to Rs 7 lakh per annum while increasing the tax exemption limit from 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh. It notes that the Budget has allocated Rs 1.12 lakh crore for the education sector, which is 8 per cent higher than the outlay earmarked in the 2022-23 Budget.
“However, the Centre has done massive cuts in allocations for educational empowerment of minority communities, especially in funds for various scholarship schemes for minority students. The merit-cum-means scholarship for professional and technical courses (undergraduate and post-graduate levels) for minority students has been allocated a paltry sum of Rs 44 crore this year, whose allocation was Rs 365 crore last year,” the daily notes. “The pre-matric scholarship for minority students has also taken a big hit as it got a budgetary outlay of Rs 433 crore as compared to Rs 1,425 crore allocation made in the previous year,” it says, adding that the madrasa education scheme has been allocated just Rs 10 crore, which was Rs 160 crore in the previous Budget. “Only the post-matric scholarship scheme for minority students has seen a hike in this Budget, as it has been increased to Rs 1,065 crore from Rs 515 crore.”
The editorial highlights that the government has slashed the Budget for the Ministry of Minority Affairs by 38 per cent to Rs 3,097.60 crore from the previous fiscal’s allocation of Rs 5,020.50 crore. “The government may say that the revised estimate of the Minority Affairs Ministry’s outlay in 2022-23 was only Rs 2,612 crore, but the failure of not spending the allocated budget could be ascribed to its own bureaucratic machinery and red tape in matters relating to minorities,” it says.
Referring to the conclusion of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, which starting from Kanyakumari on September 7 last year ended in Srinagar on January 30 after covering 4,080 kms through 12 states and two union territories, the New Delhi edition of Inquilab, in its editorial on February 1 under the title “Yatra ke baad (after Yatra)”, writes that even Rahul’s detractors would concede that the Yatra has been a “success” that saw the participation of “large enthusiastic crowds throughout his historic long march”. The daily states that the question arising out of the Yatra’s completion is: “What next” for Rahul and the Congress? “Will the atmosphere built by the Yatra yield political and electoral dividends for the Congress? Will it lead to the strengthening of the party’s organisational machinery? Is Rahul Gandhi positioning himself as a prime ministerial candidate? Et cetera.”
On his part, Rahul has addressed some of these questions, making it clear that the completion of the Yatra was the first step in his mission which will continue, the editorial notes, adding that the Congress leader would outline it in the coming days. “The Congress has already kicked off its ‘Haath Se Haath Jodo’ campaign and indicated its plan to launch another leg of the Yatra from West India to North India,” it says. “The point remains that Rahul’s march has activated the Congress organisation and galvanised its rank and file across the country in the last five months…And now Rahul would be given credit for the party’s electoral successes.”
The daily underlines that the task before the Congress and its leaders and workers is cut out. “Taking advantage of the atmosphere generated by the Yatra, they must reach out to the people in every state and make efforts to bring the party’s estranged support base back into its fold,” the edit says. They will have to convince people that the grand old party while returning to its fundamental ideology has reinvented itself and has plans and policies for the welfare and progress of all communities and that it has a roadmap to steer India to greater heights, it adds.