ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M DOES the budget matter any more? Articles 112 to 117 of the Constitution are still there on paper, and the convention continues of presenting, first, the railway budget, and, following a gap of a couple of days, the general budget in the final week of February. But the convention, ever since Shrimati Gandhi returned to power three years ago, has been denuded of its content and significance. The budget is supposed to be the deus ex machina for fulfilling the Constitutional requirement of obtaining prior Parliamentary approval for government's income and expenditure. Shrimati Gandhi has dispensed with this requirement, Two months ago, immediately after the Asiad had ended, auxiliary import duties, as well as the rates of excise duty on cigarettes, were adjusted upwards to net for the government something like Rs 500 crore on an annual basis. Last week, on the eve of the budget session of Parliament, diesel and kerosene prices were increased with the object of swelling government revenue to the tune of Rs 800 crore annually. Such revenue- raising without the leave of Parliament has now become habit-forming; more than Rs 5,000 crore have been raised in this manner in the past three years. While such exercises are grossly in breach of etiquette, Shrimati Gandhi's spokesmen would still assert that what is being practised cannot, in the strictest sense, be dubbed as unconstitutional. Enabling legislation exists which permits the government to adjust import and excise duties within given limits. Raising administered prices of petroleum products

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