Opposition today attacked the government for its demonetisation move, burgeoning NPAs and failing to provide succour to farmers, saying financial support for various schemes for the welfare of poor have been slashed in the Union Budget. Participating in the resumed discussion on the General Budget, the House also saw a BJP member rebutting the opposition charges saying adequate monetary support has been given to welfare schemes like MGNREGA and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. Resuming the debate, BJP MP Shankarbhai Bhegad welcomed the initiatives announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the 2017-18 budget for the welfare of the people and said the government has announced plans to electrify all villages by 2019 and every village in the country will be provided drinking water facility. He said adequate funds have been allocated for housing schemes for the poor, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, MNREGA, Ujwala scheme among others.
He also referred to the utility of cow dung and urine for organic farming and appealed for protection of cows. SP member Naresh Agarwal targetted Jaitley for meeting with capitalists but not the farmers before finalising the budget. Highlighting the farmers’ plight, he said “the farmers are not getting minimum support price today. They promised that GDP would grow but it is declining now. If GDP goes down to 6 per cent, then youth will come on the streets.” Referring to massive victory of BJP in Uttar Pradesh, he said “it was the PM’s victory and not that of the BJP.”
In an apparent reference to Yogi Adityanath’s elevation as Chief Minister of the state, Agarwal said “we had seen the political image, we have to see the administrative image. We have given six months time to the new government before commenting on its performance.” Expressing concern over growing non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks, he said “the government should inform how much promissory notes were issued by RBI before demonetisation and how much have been returned.
Whether any black money has returned to the country.” Agarwal also questioned the government on the issue of farm loan waiver, asking how can the loans of nationalised banks be waived off. He also referred to a statement of State Bank of India CMD that farmers’ loans cannot be waived off and the situation will further deteriorate if they are. Agarwal said the government should not export wheat or sugar but instead encourage farmers to grow more crops.
Ridiculing the committee on minimum support prices being headed by an IAS officer, the SP MP said “an IAS officer is not in a position to know the condition of farmers. Rather two farmers should be in the MSP committee to decide the minimum supporting price for any crop.” On the petroleum policy, he said when crude oil price was falling, petrol and diesel was being sold at Rs 70 and Rs 60 per litre respectively. Jharna Das Baidya (CPI-M) said the government had failed to provide adequate monetary support to various schemes meant for the welfare of poor in the Union Budget. “This Budget has no place for women, poor, weaker sections of society and the oppressed. This Budget belongs to the rich,” she added.
Tiruchi Siva (DMK) attacked the government on the demonetisation initiative, saying it has failed to achieve any of its intended purposes from the exercise. He said only the poor had suffered during the drive which has now impacted the whole economy of the country. “No country in the world has taken such a serious step. The Finance Minister should now tell us as to how much black money has been unearthed due to the exercise,” he demanded.
He said though the intention of the government might be good for undertaking the step, the implementation part was a “mess” and attacked the government for pushing cashless transactions by taking a hasty decision. “So many people in the country do not have cellphones or internet connection. How are they supposed to do cashless transactions? It’s too hasty a decision,” Siva said. He also asked the government to revive public sector undertakings instead of divesting stakes in them.
He sought more schlorships to students from the SC/ST communities. R Vaithilingam (AIDMK) sought the release of Rs 2,500 crore by the Centre to mitigate the impact of “severe drought” in Tamil Nadu. He asked the Centre to take up interlinking the rivers in order to get rid of water scarcity in the region for all times to come and sought the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board so that Tamil Nadu gets its share of water. He also urged the Finance Minister to release adequate funds for developing fisheries in Tamil Nadu.