Govt. ‘deceiving’ people on allocations to health, defence sectors, says Cong. leader
The Opposition targeted the Narendra Modi government in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday while debating the Budget proposals for 2021-22, with Congress leader Shashi Tharoor accusing the government of ‘deceiving’ the people about allocations to the health and defence sectors.
Initiating the discussion, Mr. Tharoor said that soon there would be a time when banks would have to offer fuel loans because of the high taxes and charged the government with showing no sensitivity.
“The aam aadmi has been let down totally in the last seven years … and the Budget has betrayed his most fundamental aspirations,” he said.
Using cricketing analogy, the Congress leader said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman neither played defensive nor hit the ball.
“She has just run out of ideas. You cannot cross the sea but just keep staring at it.” Mr. Tharoor said the Budget had reduced expenditure on defence and healthcare, and “delivered a blow to the economic system.”
The Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram said though the country went through a severe lockdown because of the corona pandemic, the government showed “no sensitivity’ to mitigate the sufferings of people.”Bharat should become aatmanirbhar [self-reliant] and not Bharatvasis,” he said.
Talking about the Budget not addressing the concerns of farmers with regard to minimum support prices (MSP) or ignoring defence allocation when there was a crisis with China on the border, the Congress leader said the Centre seemed to have overturned former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri’s slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” into “Na Jawan, Na Kisan.”
“Budget allocation for the defence this year is only 0.4% over last year. It is a matter of shame that we have a government that has proven consistently that it is unwilling to support our armed forces,” he added.
Mr. Tharoor urged the Centre not to create barriers on the path of the “anna datas” (food providers) who are protesting against three farm laws on the borders of Delhi.
Calling that the ‘tepid’ Budget had nothing for the middle class, he said, “No relief has been given in tax rates for the middle class. You have given an increase in fuel prices. The excise duty on petrol has risen by 348% since 2014. Soon banks will have to provide fuel loans.”
However, BJP member Meenakshi Lekhi strongly defended the Budget and complimented the Modi government for steering the country out of the “fragile five” economies.
After saving lives during the pandemic, Ms. Lekhi said the focus was now on promoting livelihood and asserted that the allocations for most of the sectors had been doubled including health and sanitation.
Ms. Lekhi questioned if producers of any non-agricultural commodity could sell their produce in any market that offered a better price, why were farmers constrained to sell their produce in their district mandis.
She said the Modi government had offered annual assistance (PM KISAN) as farmers used to commit suicide for amounts as small as ₹10,000-20,000.
Trinamool Congress’s Saugato Roy described it as a cruel government, referred Ms. Sitharaman as “the great dismantler” who is dismantling the edifice of public sector undertakings (PSUs).
Several other Opposition members raised the issue of disinvestment of profit-making PSUs, including DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran.
Mr. Maran, who spoke on a range of issues such as the farm Bill, impact of the corona lockdown on MSMEs and jobs, demanded a White Paper on the effectiveness of the fiscal stimulus pakcage and a forensic audit on the expenditure of ₹35,000 crore on vaccines.
Mr. Maran urged the Prime Minister to take the vaccine shot to raise the confidence among people who might have “discomfort” in trusting the vaccine.