Facing allegations from State governments ruled by the Opposition parties on the reported delay in clearing of Centre’s dues, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday asserted that all dues up till February this year had been cleared. She added that the devolution of funds had not been held up.
Stating that the current economic realities should be kept in view while talking about the reduction in interest rates for EPF from 8.40% to 8.10%, the Minister said, “Still, it is higher than any government saving schemes or rates given by banks on fixed deposit.”
Ms Sitharaman was replying to the debate on two Appropriation Bills concerning additional expenditure made by the Government in financial years 2021-22 and 2018-19. The Bills, already passed by the Lok Sabha, were returned by the House after her reply.
Ms. Sitharaman said that an amount of ₹1.59 lakh crore was transferred to States every month, adding that all the GST dues have been cleared.
Earlier, the Opposition sharply criticised the Government for not acknowledging the slowdown in the economy and the spiralling inflation. Many members including the RJD’s Manoj K Jha and Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi pointed that the government in the latest budget has sharply cut funds for social welfare schemes and various subsidies. Congress Rajya Sabha member Shaktisinh Gohil who opened the debate said the government is taxing the poor and helping the rich. He also hit out at the government for spending crores of rupees on the Central Vista project at a time when the Centre doesn’t even have money to pay States their share of GST revenue.
“If you have no money to pay the States’ GST share, then we don’t have any right to spend money on new Parliament,” he said.
Communist Party of India MP Binoy Viswam said the government has failed to address critical issues like rising starvation levels directly proportional to the rising unemployment. In such a scenario, the government has done a criminal act, he said, by decreasing funds for food subsidies.
Countering the criticism, the Finance Minister quoted data to show that the Modi government had done much better in the past seven years than the Congress-led UPA government in its 10-year rule.
She said the UPA government had made nil defence purchases during its 10-year rule, while the BJP government’s record in the sector was overwhelming. There was no reduction in the Defence expenditure.
She said the rural employment guarantee scheme MGNREGA was a demand-driven scheme and as the demand goes up, the allocation also goes up. The allocation in the coming year was ₹73,000 crore, the same as in 2021-22 when the actual expenditure was ₹98,000 crore. There was no reduction in fertilizer subsidy.