THE Budget Session as usual began with the President’s Address to the joint session of Parliament on January 29. After this, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha met and made obituary references including in the name of former Lok Sabha MP and CPI(M) leader Khagen Das, who passed away on January 21 in Kolkata. Later the copy of the President's Address was laid and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley laid the copy of Economic Survey 2018-19 in both Houses of Parliament. On February 1, the finance minister presented the Union Budget for 2018-19 in Lok Sabha and after that the House was adjourned. The next day’s sitting was cancelled as one of the sitting member died.
On the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address, CPI(M) MPs gave a number of amendments. While speaking on this in Lok Sabha, Md. Salim said the President invoked B R Ambedkar regarding both political and economic aspects of our democracy. Merely participating in the electoral process and casting of vote does not make a democracy. Economic and political freedom is a must and to ensure that, we need to further strengthen democratic institutions. The basic scheme of things in the country is being targeted. Democratic traditions of the country are under attack. It was a tradition at the time of the NDA government that the largest party amongst the ruling coalition moved the Motion of Thanks first and the other party seconded it. Even today there is a coalition government, the NDA government, at the Centre but there is also a new tradition that the ruling party doesn’t find its allies to be trustworthy. It is a question of trust deficit. So many promises have been made that people are beginning to doubt that they will be fulfilled. This is the biggest challenge. Demonetisation, GST and economic slump have created problems for migrant workers within and outside the country. The government has not said one word about the migrant labourers. The government should issue some strictures against hate crimes. The Supreme Court has said there is a need for fixation of minimum pension and social security guarantee for senior citizens. Even now there are employees in government service and in public enterprises who are not getting minimum pension. What is the government doing for the unemployed youth? The government is not paying any heed to the problems of Dalits, the oppressed, deprived sections, farmers and labourers.
In Rajya Sabha, T K Rangarajan took part in the discussion and expressed some disagreements with the President’s speech. He said Tamil Nadu faces discrimination. The Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam Party are also unhappy with the government. The President’s address mentions about doubling the income of farmers by 2022. Previous governments were also worried about farmers, but had not done anything for them. The number of farmers committing suicide is increasing every year. The problems of water scarcity and irrigation faced by farmers and the Cauvery water issue in Tamil Nadu have been brought to the attention of the government. Tamil Nadu has not got its share of Cauvery water. Even the ruling of the Supreme Court has not been complied with. According to a survey on unemployment in 2015-16, nearly half of India’s workforce is self-employed. Self-employment to not bad, but, do not venture to call them ‘pakoda sellers’. With an income of less than Rs 5,000 per month and less than Rs 200 per day, how can their families survive? People are unemployed. And therefore, they go for self-employment. You talk about "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam", but push back Rohingya refugees when they sought refuge in our country. There is a mention in the speech about the benefits extended to the poorest of the poor. But 99 per cent of the population divided among themselves 27 per cent of the wealth created, whereas 73 per cent of the additional wealth is owned by one per cent population. There is a mention of ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in the address but is silent about India’s going down in the rank of Global Hunger Index. In India, 38 per cent of children suffer from stunting and malnutrition. The malnutrition happens to be one of the major causes for diseases among children. Since I come from Tamil Nadu, I wanted to raise two or three points relating to Tamil Nadu. I request the central government to issue necessary orders to the Archaeological Department to continue the excavation in Keezhadi. The findings of Keezhadi will throw new light about the history of human civilisation in India.
K K Ragesh said that the President's speech has the same rhetoric that is being repeated by the prime minister and his team during the last few years. They are offering a lot many things but they are delivering nothing. This government is about to complete four years in office. It is the right time to review the promises that it had made. The slogans like ‘good days’ and 'sabka saath, sabka vikas' are missing in the President’s address. They have got a lot many PM’s yojanas. These yojanas have delivered nothing. It is good if they are providing eight crore LPG connections to the poor, but, at the same time, during the last 17 months, the price of LPG cylinder has already been increased by Rs 77. In such circumstances, how can the poor afford to purchase the LPG cylinder?
Joice George said on the budget that though there are big announcements for rural development and universal healthcare and minimum support price for agricultural produces, on a detailed analysis of the budget document I feel disappointed. It was the promise of the government to ensure 50 per cent profit above the cost of production of all agricultural crops through Minimum Support Price (MSP) but nothing happened on the ground to alleviate the miseries and hardship of the poor farmers. Though the finance minister was boisterous about rural development, there was not sufficient allocation for implementation of various related schemes such as MGNREGA. If the government is really committed to ensuring development of the rural population, there should be sufficient allocations and a mechanism to implement various projects in a time-bound manner.
Speaking on the Union Budget in Lok Sabha, CPI(M) leader P Karunakaran said the government claims that there is better growth rate, and inflation and deficit are under control. The Economic Survey also made it clear that this growth rate is based on market conditions of foreign countries with regard to exports. There is a better demand, the exports from the nation may increase every year. The government has failed to provide employment to the youth. People are retrenched from existing jobs as a result of disinvestment, and there is no new employment opportunities also. The population of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in terms of percentage is 25. But the allocation is only 1.6 per cent for their welfare. Can the government say that it has given better allocation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes? It was said that Nirbhaya centres to help women in distress would be opened in various states, but we have not seen it anywhere. You are really misleading the women of this country. The main source of revenue is indirect tax. In many of the countries, the percentage of indirect tax is less, compared to the direct tax. But in our country, every year the percentage of indirect tax is increasing. It means that more and more burden is on the common people. The finance minister has completely failed to address the burning question of price rise. The basic reason for the uncontrolled price rise is the price of petroleum products. In the international market, the price of crude oil has come down but why is the government not in a position to transfer this benefit to the common people? The government has declared that they are going to disinvest 24 major Public Sector Undertakings. The Public Sector Undertakings are the wealth of the nation, wealth of the people. The government is giving it to private companies and as a result of this, a large number of people are out of jobs. This House also discussed the issue of huge NPAs in banks especially the Public Sector Banks. Parliament itself has sanctioned Rs. 1 lakh crore to the Public Sector Banks, which would really not be giving any relief to the common people. It is just to compensate the big corporates, who had taken huge amounts of money from these banks. Therefore, the line or the policy of the government is very clear, which is to give more and more assistance to the corporate sector.
In Rajya Sabha, Tapan Kumar Sen said that when the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Bill was being legislated a commitment was made. That commitment should be honored now. The genuine demands of the people of Andhra Pradesh should be fulfilled. We fully endorse the proposed uplift of the poor, farmers and women, etc. in the budget. Definitely, we are with the government in doing all these good things. A number of schemes covering all sectors have been announced in the budget. But that is not supported by budgetary arithmetic. The budget has supported the ‘Modicare’, but allocation is not there to meet that promise. Budgetary exercise turned out to be something playing deception on the people and the honesty and integrity of the entire exercise stands serially compromised. The central expenditure on education has also fallen. It is a false statement that the government has already given one and a half times the cost of production for rabi crops and has decided to give it further for kharif crops. The statement should be withdrawn.
C P Narayanan said that every state is being burdened with expenditure of various departments. We claim that we are a country which has got the maximum number of young population. But unless we educate, feed and keep them in good health this youth will become a burden on us. The Right to Education Act has become very ineffective because every year budget allocation for education is proportionately decreasing. A complete reversal of the policies of the government is needed.
After seven days of sitting, Parliament breaks for 23-day recess and the next sitting will be on March 5.