First, the preferred path of fiscal consolidation. We know that the Budget achieved the fiscal deficit target of 3.9 per cent for the current year and would stick to a target of 3.5 per cent for the coming year. This is consistent with the path of fiscal consolidation stipulated in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act of 2003 (FRBM Act). It has done this notwithstanding expenditure pressures of Rs.1.02 lakh crore from the Pay Commission and Rs.7,500 crore from the One Rank, One Pension scheme. Added to these are global headwinds, rural economy in stress, with two successive years of drought with subdued private investment.
Second, after years of prevarication, the government has introduced the far-reaching legislation, The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Service) Bill, 2016, enabling the Aadhaar platform to be effectively used for direct benefit transfers (DBT) for multiple beneficiary programmes. These go beyond LPG to cover fertilizers, health, education and the now rationalised centrally sponsored schemes (CSSs). Concerns have been raised on whether it should have been a Money Bill. Article 110 of the Constitution stipulates that a Bill shall be deemed to be a Money Bill if “it contains only provisions dealing with the matters specified, more importantly, appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated Fund of India”. This revised Bill ensures this by deleting all non-money aspects. In any case, the Bill meets the satisfaction of the Speaker since Article 110 (3) stipulates that “if any question arises whether a Money Bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision of the Speaker of the House of the People thereon shall be final”. Beyond the Bill, it must be recognised that the obstinacy of the Opposition to block legislation earlier sponsored wholly by them places the government in an unenviable position. Governments in office are enjoined to deliver. Can they be faulted to seek innovative ways, legal engineering if you like, for ensuring passage of important economic legislation? Betterment of the lives of the people cannot suffer the palpably irrational action of a limited group. The other concern about privacy has been overcome by provision of clauses 28 to 47. Issues of security are no doubt paramount and any possible misuse by political parties in office to secure information using the security ruse must be jealously safeguarded.