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INDIA’S Hindu chauvinist Prime Minister Narendra Modi drew widespread criticism today after budgeting 2 billion rupees (£20 million) for a statue in his home state.
The 600-ft iron-and-bronze statue — more than twice the size of the Statue of Liberty or the Motherland memorial to Stalingrad — will be erected to Indian independence leader Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat.
Women’s campaigners pointed out that the price of the monument — the Statue of Unity — dwarfed the 1.5 billion rupees assigned to women’s safety nationwide or the 1 billion rupees devoted to girls’ education.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who introduced the budget, noted: “India’s performance continues to be below global average in most of the human development index indicators like life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling and even the per capita income.”
Despite the large sum set aside for the project, Mr Jaitley said that his budget would be a departure from the “mere populism and wasteful expenditure” that had dragged down India’s economy.
He added that he would cut back on expensive subsidies for food, fuel and fertiliser, making them “more targeted.”
However, he recognised that spending cuts alone would not reduce the budget deficit, saying that he would work to spur economic growth back to 7-8 per cent a year, which would result in higher tax revenues.
Overseas penetration of the defence and insurance industries would be facilitated by raising the cap on foreign ownership to 49 per cent from 26 per cent.
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