Opposition parties in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday accused the government of leaving out the majority of the poor in its Budget 2022-23 and not doing enough for the farm sector that employs a large number of people in the country.
During the second day of the discussion on the Union Budget, CPI leader Binoy Viswam alleged that the Budget was a "failure" and only intended to benefit "big corporate houses such as Tata, Birla, Ambani and Adani".
"This Budget is not for the poor but the rich at the top," he said, adding there has been no attempt to provide succour to women, farmers and health sector as allocations have been slashed and subsidies reduced.
TRS leader K R Suresh Reddy lamented the "cut" in food subsidies and the "meagre" sum allocated for research in agriculture.
"With the heavy heart, I must tell the finance minister that a 90 minutes (budget) speech has left 90 crore Indians out of a Budget. This so called progressive budget has alienated the majority of the poor people," he said
Reddy said, "The year 2022 was the year to double the farmers' income...You reduced Rs 10,000 crore for procurement ( of agriculture produce).
"The policy of procurement (agriculture produce) is vague. Farmers sows crops in December and you assure them to tell them about the procurement plan in March. Growing crops is not a SWIGGY service. Farmers need time," he said.
Reddy said the agricultural sector's growth needs to be brought to a "reasonable high" in order to double the farmers' income, else it will remain a mirage.
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra's Modi's allegation that the Congress governments in states were the reason for migrants walking back home during the pandemic, Viswam said, "Was it Congress party which did the lockdown?"
He said though his party CPI has lots of criticism against the Congress party as it started the disastrous policies of the economy, it is BJP that is doing much more damage.
In his speech earlier this week, while replying to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President's address, the prime minister had said the government would support the wealth creators, he noted.
"Who are the wealth creators. For this governments Adani, Ambani, Tata and Birla type of people .. This is a Adani Ambani government and a Tata Birla Government," he alleged.
The government has surrendered Air India to Tata with paltry costs, he said.
"The ecosystem of the economy is shattered by the carbon emission from this government," he said sarcastically, adding the economy has to be protected from "this level of emission of carbon from the financial policy of this government."
In concluding his speech, the Left party leader quoted Pope Francis and Karl Marx.
Taking a dig at this, Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman, who was present in the Upper House, said: "Viswam first quoted Pope Francis and immediately after this he is quoting Marx, I just want to be sure."
Nominated member Narendra Jadav termed the Union budget as "visionary" and said it is aimed at sustainable growth and development of the Indian economy.
"It is supposed to strike a balance between economic acumen and political sagacity," he said adding, the finance minister has struck a fine balance between the two and it reflects professional integrity.
The Indian economy has staged a smart recovery posting a 9.2 percent real GDP growth, rising from the depth of the unprecedented corona pandemic, he said.
Dismissing the criticism by opposition members, Jadav said they have committed "bloopers" and "blunders" and went on to question some of their statements.
Over Trinamool Congress member Jawahar Sircar's allegation that expenditure on education has declined to one percent of GDP, he said, "This is completely wrong."
It is around four percent of GDP and not 1 percent and "I would urge my learned friend to get his facts straight and not to mislead the House", he said.
The most important thing in this budget is that priority has been given to economic growth over fiscal consolidation, he added.
"For FY 2021-22, the current financial year, the finance minister has budgeted lowering the fiscal deficit as the ratio of GDP from 9.2 percent to 6.8 percent," he said, adding she has nearly succeeded in hitting that target posting a revised fiscal deficit of 6.9 percent instead of 6.8 percent."
According to him, this is an "excellent" fiscal marksmanship.
The best thing in the budget is the enhanced capital expenditure and 43 percent of this is being devoted to building a world-class infrastructure of roads and railways, he added.
"The strategy which underlines this budget is very clear. Sharply increasing public investment would entice greater private investment. It will create more jobs, more income and in turn create larger consumption demand and to meet the demand, there would be more production and therefore there would be more jobs," he added.
This virtuous circle would lay down the foundation of sustained economic growth, he said
Birendra Prasad Baishya of AGP supported the budget terming it as a growth o-oriented.
Reddy (TRS) claimed that the demand for MNREGA was rising but its budget allocation was reducing at the same time.
"The sheer unemployment pressure in rural India will force and compel the government to increase the allocation (MNREGA)," he said.
Reddy suggested treating the hospitality sector as "infrastructure" as it contributes significantly to the gross domestic product.
He suggested that the finance minister assure the farmers that MSP (minimum support price) will continue to stay.
BJD leader Amar Patnaik said, "In agriculture investment fund where spending was planned to be Rs one lakh crore in six years, the spending is Rs 6,627 crore in two years."
He stressed that the focus on the rural economy is required.
"We need to incentivise private investment in the clean energy trajectory by having a national adaptation investment fund which is very transparently set up," he said.
DMK leader M Mohamed Abdulla claimed the budget did not have any mention of the problem of inequality that the country is facing now.
"Also it is not focussed on the country's two pressing problems --unemployment and the crisis affecting agriculture and the informal sector," he said and claimed that a few billionaires and large companies are only benefiting.
"Even as the pandemic devastated the lives of hundreds of millions, the poor are let down, salaried class is hit hard...the rich get richer and poor get poorer.. corporate surcharge is reduced to seven percent," he said.
He suggested that the government should have adequate tax on corporates and generate money for social security.
"Country is not a geographical map it is an emotional sum of people who live there," he stated.
SP leader Sukhram Singh Yadav sought support for families of farmers who lost their lives in the protests against the three agri laws.
He said that there is no mention of schemes for small farmers in the Budget and asked the government to support the leather industry in Kanpur.
RJD leader A D Singh alleged that the government was only doing lip service when it came to making the country self-sufficient Atmanirbhar).
He said that if the government really wanted to change things, they need to reduce compliances both at the end of the central and state governments.
Singh noted that the government should set up a committee to study the cost involved in setting up of business by adhering to all laid down compliances.
He said that big corporations can handle it but the medium and small-scale industries cannot bear the cost.
M Thambidurai, whose AIADMK is an ally of the BJP, favoured some kind of income tax relief to the people.
He also asked the government to make sure that 60 lakh jobs are created through various Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes.
Thambidurai lamented that states were not getting enough funds under the GST regime and sought more support from the Central government in this regard.
He also sought more funds for police modernisation.
V Vijayasai Reddy of the YSRCP said it is a "stylish budget with no substance".
He accused the Centre of giving "step-motherly" treatment to Andhra Pradesh.
He said the Centre has deliberately been increasing the cess and surcharges in its gross tax revenues which is not shared with the states and the states' share has been brought down.
Reddy claimed that by increasing the special additional duty the Centre has pooled Rs 2.87 lakh crore from which the states are not getting a single rupee.
"The share of tax component in the excise duty which is shared with the states has decreased by 40 percent in the case of petrol and 59 percent in the case of diesel," Reddy claimed.
Referring to divisible profits and Andhra Pradesh's share of taxes, he said in the 13th Finance Commission between 2010-15 the state's share was 6.9 percent which came down to 4.3 percent in the 14th Finance Commission period between 2015-20 and has further reduced to 4.07 percent in the ongoing 15th Finance Commission.
"So year after year, the share of taxes (of Andhra Pradesh) is coming down and it is nothing but a step-motherly treatment," Reddy said.
Jharna Das (CPI-M) claimed that the allocation of all major schemes for farmers has been seeing budgetary cuts including the allocation for fertiliser subsidy.