Parliament Completes First Stage of Budgetary Exercise

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New Delhi: Parliament on Wednesday completed the first stage of the budgetary exercise as Rajya Sabha returned the relevant bills which Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha termed as the budget for upliftment of India.

Winding up the debate on the Budget in the Upper House, Sinha countered opposition charge about inflation, saying the government has done a “good job” in managing inflation and the prices of most of the commodities with the exception of pulses has either come down or has remain stable.

The Appropriation Bill and Vote on Account Bills were passed on the last day of first part of the Budget session after a discussion during which the opposition said the Budget lacks “direction and purpose”.

Sinha insisted that the government policies were dedicated to the poor and uplifting the last man in the row. “Ye desh ki udaan ka Budget hai (this Budget is for the upliftment of the country),” he said, adding the proposals have focused on poor and he farm sector.

The Minister further said that the decision to keep the fiscal deficit under check at 3.5% of the GDP for 2016-17 was highly appreciated by the Economist magazine and has also evoked good response from the bond market.

Brushing aside the opposition criticism that the government has curtailed allocations for social sector schemes, Sinha said “we have earmarked substantial funds for healthcare and irrigation and plans for SC and ST.

Earlier, the opposition contended that the budget lacks “direction and purpose” and that it caters to corporate rather than the poor and farmers.

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh dared the government to come out with any names of Congress members for possessing blackmoney and said the opposition party does not fear from such threats.

“We do not have any fears. No one fears from such threats of naming us for black money. You give the names of those having black money and stop threatening us,” he said. The Congress leader also said the hallmark of this government has been to rebrand the schemes brought by UPA and said 22 such schemes have been rebranded. “No one is bigger than them in the art of lying,” he said.

Singh asked the government to concentrate on health, education, agriculture and livelihood instead and things will move forward of their own.

Pawan Verma of the JD (U) said that there should be some sanctity attached to the promises made in the Budget. “The poor are not satisfied and the youth, farmers and middle class are unhappy with it. In this budget, despite the Finance Minister’s best efforts, no section of the society has felt it works for them,” he added. Referring to the government’s assurances given for bringing black money, he said not much has happened in that direction.

Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) said the budget talks of “Cooperative Federalism”, but in reality it is “Inoperative Federalism”. He added the Centre has tried to “claw” back the share of the states in taxes by increasing cesses and surcharges. Roy said the budget talks of increasing income of the farmers but it has not explained in detail how this can be achieved. The budget is not a “poor man’s” budget, but that of “crony capitalists”, he added.

T Rathinavel (AIADMK) said the budget has come out with many welfare schemes, but has belied the hopes of the Tamil people. He added that Tamil Nadu requires Rs 25,000 crore for rehabilitation work post the disastrous floods in the state.

Satish Chandra Misra (BSP) said this government (NDA) said “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas”, but in reality it looks like “Corporate Ka Saath Unka Vikas”. He attacked the budget for not allocating more funds for upgradation of schools.

Misra said the government’s schme for allocation of Rs 500 crore for scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and women entrepreneurs lacks substance. He added that by announcing such schemes the government cannot claim to have made contributions to Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar’s legacy.

Misra said the Budget is catering to the corporate and has failed to address issues such as women empowerment, ramping infrastructure in lower courts, healthcare etc.

D Raja of CPI also sought to know why concessions were given to corporates and big businesses. He termed disparity as the main problem being faced by the country. He also spoke of wilful default on loans by businesses and asked why it can’t be made a criminal offence.

KN Balagopal (CPI M) expressed concern over taxes that were forgone by the government while also talking about NPAs of Banks. He said PPP model has been a failure and resulted in NPAs. He also struck a note of caution regarding online retail companies, that he said are taking huge loans.

CM Ramesh (PDP) lauded the budget while emphasising that problems faced by Andhra Pradesh should be addressed. Ishwarlal Shankarlal Jain said that people were promised good days but later told that it was only an election time ‘jumla’.

Bhupinder Singh of BJD also told the government to work on its pre poll promises.

Rajeev Shukla (Congress) objected to some comments made by BJP leader Prabhat Jha, in which he had slammed the previous budgets presented by Congress regimes. Shukla questioned that if this was the case, why was the government opting for initiatives of Congress led UPA be it MGNREGA, Aadhar or policies on Insurance, FDI and others.