The Lok Sabha on Wednesday witnessed sharp exchanges between the Opposition members and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Anupriya Patel after Congress’s Gaurav Gogoi dubbed Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s promise of a ₹1000 crore package for the tea industry of Assam and West Bengal as a ‘jumla’ or a gimmick.
During the Question Hour, when Mr. Gogoi said that not a penny had been spent out of the amount that Ms. Sitharaman had announced in last year’s Budget, Ms. Patel said, “This is not at all ‘jumla’. There has been in-depth thinking and planning on the part of the government... We want to take all the benefits to the intended beneficiaries with due diligence and in a systematic manner”.
Though the Tea Board had drafted the Prime Minister Chai Shramik Protsahan scheme, there was an opinion that all welfare schemes related to education, health or other facilities were already being made available through various schemes of the ministries, she stated.
“One more opinion came that we can set up capital infrastructure like anganwadi centres, hospitals, ayush and wellness centres and schools,” she said.
One Rank One Pension (OROP), extension of the GST compensation and alleged misuse of Central agencies against political rivals were the other prominent issues that figured in during the Zero Hour.
Raising the OROP issue, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the government had not done justice with retired armed force personnel as it opposed a plea by the ex-Servicemen association in the Supreme Court.
With Congress president Sonia Gandhi by his side, Mr. Chowdhury said the previous Congress-led UPA government on February 17, 2014 had promised to implement OROP as per the recommendations of the Bhagat Singh Koshyari Committee.
“The present government believes in encashing their valour for vote politics but when it comes to giving back, it forgets them”, he alleged.
In the Supreme Court recently, the government opposed the ex-Servicemen association that had sought implementation of OROP with an automatic annual revision (as recommended by the committee) instead of the current policy of periodic review once in five years.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member Kathir Anand raised the issue of Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation for the States and demanded that the Centre extend it by a couple of years. Under the GST law, the States were guaranteed to be compensated bimonthly for any loss of revenue in the first five years of GST implementation from July 1, 2017. Tamil Nadu would suffer a revenue loss of about ₹20,000 crore if the compensation was not extended beyond five years, he said.
Trinamool Congress’s Sougata Roy raised the issue of ‘using’ the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate against non-BJP ruled States, leading to sharp exchanges between the TMC members and the Treasury benches. As BJP members protested, Mr. Roy used a term that Speaker Om Birla asked him not to use and adjourned the House for lunch.