Abrupt end to budget session sinks discussion on price rise
The budget session of Parliament was abruptly ended on Thursday two days before schedule, prompting the Opposition to accuse the Narendra Modi government of stonewalling in the House a discussion on price rise.
The joint Opposition kept fighting for a separate debate in both Houses of Parliament on the surging prices of essential commodities but the government didn’t concede the demand despite disruptions. The Congress said the session was folded up early only because of the pressure to discuss the people’s primary concern.
“The entire country wanted this debate on rising prices. The Opposition parties kept giving notices for discussion but the government said questions about price rise had cropped up during the discussions on the budget and appropriation bills,” the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, said.
“The prices of petrol and diesel are being hiked like a daily morning ritual. Every minute something is getting costlier. But they didn’t allow us to speak on this issue. They didn’t want Parliament to discuss this,” the Congress leader added.
“Not one item has been spared — petrol, diesel, cooking gas, medicine, fertiliser…. The government doesn’t want to focus on real concerns. The government is not worried about unemployment, farmers’ problems or prices.”
While petrol prices have reached Rs 120 per litre, diesel prices are touching Rs 100 and gas cylinders are Rs 1,000 apiece. Most vegetables are selling at about Rs 100 a kg, with the lemon in pole position at Rs 400 a kg. The prices of edible oil and pulses too have soared.
The Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Chowdhury, said: “We had asked for a discussion on price rise. People are in acute distress. The business advisory committee decided to hold a discussion. But the government backed out after giving consent. They ran away, cutting the session short. They thought the price problem was becoming indefensible.”
He added: “They are blaming the war. But the finance minister herself said we would buy crude oil at a discounted price — for $35 a barrel. Why this war excuse then? Why the morning ‘gift’ to the poor? The Prime Minister gives sermons on democracy on the BJP’s foundation day. Is it democratic behaviour that the government won’t allow even one demand of the Opposition, which has constantly cooperated on government business in Parliament?”
The Congress chief whip in the Rajya Sabha, Jairam Ramesh, said: “While the Opposition was desperately waiting for debates on two issues — price rise and the state of the implementation of an agreement with the protesting farmers — the government too had listed business for the remaining two days. The business advisory committee of the Rajya Sabha had allotted time for two bills — (relating to) weapons of mass destruction and the Antarctica Treaty — but the session was abruptly adjourned sine die.”
Ramesh complained that the leader of the Rajya Sabha, Piyush Goyal, was never present in the House. A few Congress members protested against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s absence from the Lok Sabha on most days during the session.
The Congress on Thursday held media conferences across the country on price rise and organised demonstrations in many state capitals, including Delhi and Mumbai.
Rahul Gandhi attacked the Prime Minister, tweeting: “Direct benefit transfer to Modi-Mitr: Rs 26.51 lakh crore fuel tax collected from people, and Rs 10.86 lakh crore loans written off for the rich.”