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Rajya Sabha: Opposition targets govt over inflation, unemployment, GST dues to states

New Delhi: Opposition parties Tuesday targeted the government on several issues, including inflation, unemployment, non-payment of GST dues to the state governments and the plight of farmers, while discussing the Appropriation Bills in the Upper House.

Congress and Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) MPs in the Rajya Sabha slammed the government for “gross miscalculation of expenditure” in the Budget and sought to know whether there was any “misplaced focus” when the funds were allocated.

During the discussion on the Supplementary Demands for Grants, which Lok Sabha passed last week authorising the government to spend an additional Rs 3.25 lakh crore in the current financial year, Amee Yajnik of the Congress said it was a big amount for which Parliament’s approval is being sought.

“The moot question that arises is how come there is so much error in planning? I would like to know from the honourable finance minister was it devoid of any priorities or was there any misplaced focus when the monies were allocated?” she asked.

“Whatever it is or whatever it may be, it definitely indicates a gross miscalculation of expenditure,” Yajnik added.

K Keshava Rao of the BRS said this could be due to a “lack of control in preparing the Budget”.

Welcoming the additional demand, stating it deals with subsidies, Rao, however, said there were about 75 supplementaries and six appropriations. In a Rs 400 lakh crore Budget “10 per cent is coming as supplementaries”, he said.

“I want the minister to revisit the figures. Ten per cent coming as supplementary demand is something which is not palatable,” Rao said.

Taking part in the discussion, Trinamool Congress’ Dola Sen lamented that India’s “AER (agriculture expenditure ratio) of crop husbandry has dropped from 4.2 per cent to 2.8 per cent in the last few years”.

She also asked the Centre not to discriminate against non-BJP-ruled states in fertiliser allocation.

Defending the additional demands, BJP MP Arun Singh said it has been made to benefit farmers and poor people.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several steps have been taken such as increasing the minimum support price to enhance farmers’ income while keeping prices of fertilisers under check despite a rise in global gas prices, he said.

Participating in the debate, RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha demanded special category status for Bihar, saying Goa is like southern Europe and Bihar is like Sub-Saharan Africa.

CPI(M) member John Brittas brought the attention of the House towards high inflation in the country and stated it was “loot in broad daylight”. He also pointed towards the rise in the currency to Rs 29.17 lakh crore at present from 17.74 lakh crore in 2016.

Congress’ G C Chandrashekhar said the central government had promised to double the farmers’ income by 2022 but “unfortunately the problem of farmers has doubled”.

Mentioning the Crop Insurance scheme, he said the government has several schemes but many of them are not benefitting half of the farmers.

Jose K Mani of Kerala Congress(M) raised concerns over the fall in the price of rubber that has been hurting the farmers in the state.

“In 2022, the global price of one kg of natural rubber was Rs 129. The rubber and tyre industry imported natural rubber with a 25 per cent import duty at Rs 161,” he said.

Though the Kerala government has put a minimum support price of Rs 170 per kg, that is not enough to meet the farmer’s expenses. This should be at least Rs 250 per kg, Mani said and suggested the government pass on the import duty collected from rubber to the domestic rubber farmers.

Anil Sukhdeorao Bonde of the BJP supported the Appropriation Bills, saying the supplementary demand has been sought for spending on the welfare of the farmer and poor people.

Bonde, in his maiden speech in the House, alleged the previous governments ignored farmers of western Vidarbha. The region witnessed higher numbers of farmers’ suicide because of the fewer means of irrigation, he said.

He also suggested the government get approved the detailed project report for connecting the rivers of eastern Vidarbha, a water surplus area, with western Vidarbha, a water-deficit region.

K Ravindra Kumar of TDP supported the bill and highlighted the “pathetic financial condition” of Andhra Pradesh. As on September 30, the total debt of Andhra Pradesh was Rs 9.53 lakh crore, out of which the present government’s debt is Rs 6.21 lakh crore, he claimed.

“It is becoming a debt-ridden state and development works are not moving forward. There is no maintenance of infrastructures like roads, drainage and drinking water,” he said.

G K Vasan of Tamil Maanila Congress(M) said a major part of the supplementary demand, Rs 4.36 lakh crore goes towards providing subsidies on food and fertilisers. He requested the finance minister to complete pending projects in Tamil Nadu, especially those related to infrastructure.

DMK’s R Girirajan said non-payment of GST dues in time to states can be crippling for the administration. “It tantamount to penalising the states for performing well. I came to know that GST dues of more than Rs 10,000 crore is pending for our state,” he said.

Ram Gopal Yadav from Samajwadi Party said the budget for health, education and agriculture are lesser than required. He expressed concern over expenditure incurred by people on healthcare and suggested the Centre meet the entire expenses as is being done in many countries.

Satish Chandra Dubey, Anil Agrawal, Kanta Kardam, Ajay Pratap Singh, Anil Jain and Ghanshyam Tiwari from BJP, Abdul Wahab of IUML, Kumar Ketkar of the Congress, and Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena also participated in the debate.

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