Parliament proceedings | Nirmala Sitharaman hits back at Chidambaram

The Parliament house in New Delhi. File

The Parliament house in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The Parliament budget session resumes on February 11. Today is the last day of the budget session.

Parliamentarians keep an eye on the results of the Delhi Assembly elections today.

The controversial talking point on Monday was the Supreme Court held that reservation in promotions in public posts could not be claimed as a ‘fundamental right’. Opposition parties staged a walkout from both Houses.

Bill for consideration in the Lok Sabha today: Arjun Munda's move that the Bill further to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 to modify the list of the Scheduled Tribes in the State of Karnataka, as passed by Rajya Sabha, taken into consideration.

Papers laid on the table in Rajya Sabha:

HARSH VARDHAN for Ministry of Science and Technology; SHRIPAD YESSO NAIK for Ministry of AYUSH; PRAHALAD SINGH PATEL for Ministry of Culture; RAJ KUMAR SINGH for Ministry of Power; ASHWINI KUMAR CHOUBEY for Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; ANURAG THAKUR for Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

Here are the latest updates:

Rajya Sabha | 4.50 p.m.

Jairam Ramesh asks for a clarification on GST compensation for the states.

Finance Minister responds: "I shall clear what has been collected till now on the compensation for states."

Anand Sharma asks the FM to clarify about revenue deficit that leaves only a little for the capital expenditure out of the borrowed money.

The Chair asks the FM to respond, to which Ms. Sitharaman says, "No response. I have said all that have to be stated."

House gets adjourned till March 2, 2020.

Rajya Sabha | 4.00 p.m.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in the Upper House.

"55 members have participated in the discussions and spoke about the budget. In my reply, having heard many of the members, I'd like to respond to most of the speakers."

"The nominal GDP has increased to ₹2.9 trillion. Inflation has been at 4.5%. Central govt's liabilities have come down. The global sentiment towards India is at a very favourable mood. The net FDI flows is $24.4 billion. We've announced a national infrastructure and we are sure that ₹1 lakh crore can be taken for spending in infra. IIP numbers have registered a growth. PMI and PMI services have increased. Forex reserves have been built. Gross GST revenue generation is consistently improving. There's a positive confidence on the Indian economy and the BSE Sensex increased. More than this, repo rate cuts are giving a positive growth."

"I want to go back to talking about the points that former finance minister [P. Chidambaram] has spoken about. There was more sarcasm than content in his speech. When all of us were equally worried about onions, none of us had avocado in our mind. A lot of assumptions were put out."

She hit back at former minister P. Chidambaram for his ‘incompetent doctors’ attending to economy remark, saying there was nothing to learn from the people who gave the mountain of NPAs along with twin balance sheet crisis. “We are certainly predisposed about not repeating mistakes of UPA.”

"Twin balance sheet problem we inherited in 2014. Cronies ran out of the country and we are trying to get them back. Inflation and food inflation was in double digits. We have kept the inflation well under 4%. Data and account fudging on which we are most often questioned, I want to highlight that even today, we are paying annually ₹9,900 crores on bonds as interest. Govt's liability on oil subsidy was shifted to oil companies and the oil marketing companies were kept in this burden and after 2014, we have taken up that also."

She says FDI “ran out of the country in 2012-13” under “competent doctors” overseeing the economy.

"We've not fudged any accounts. We've shown all the details where it needs to be shown. FDI ran out of this country between 2012 and 2013 and this is 'competent doctors running the country'. The FDIs have been reviewed by several. The FDIs drafted during that time and the impact it is having on the industry, I'd want to appreciate. Today no one wants to talk about bilateral since everyone is scared."

She says defence of India was paralysed and did not have equipment under the UPA.

"In 2014, I was a Minister of State in Finance. Since then till today the number of amendments that 2013 Companies Act is going through, the amount of work one has got to do for cleansing the Companies Act 2013 which has such a lot of criminal elements, till today, all of us are bearing the brunt," she says, to which MPs oppose. The Chair, Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu says, "Sitting and commenting is bad."

Also, free trade agreements (FTAs) entered by the UPA are hurting the country, she says.

The FM continues, "As soon as I tabled the budget, I went to the forum and asked the forum to give any suggestions which you want to take up that would help remove the criminal elements."

"I ensured every soldier gets bullet-proof vests. Why didn't they buy Rafale? A former minister wants the Defence Ministry to protest? The Prime Minister said, 'first ensure that our soldiers get bullet-proof vests'."

"Appropriate action will be taken against any of those who are responsible for any missing toilets in Madhya Pradesh."

The finance minister says green shoots of recovery were visible with a rebound in industrial activity and GST collection crossing ₹1 lakh crore-mark in six months of the current fiscal. Food inflation has not been allowed to cross acceptable thresholds under the Modi government, she said.

"Consistently we've kept fiscal deficit well within the limits as compared to the numbers before 2014. There is no way that capital expenditure is coming down. We have maintained this fiscal discipline. We are managing both and that is the discipline that should be recognised."

"Since July, we've been making sure MSME sector is protected. No one sector has had any cut in their resources. The maternal mortality rate in India is appreciated since it has come down at a faster rate than the global rate itself. Infant mortality rate is now come down and even that is at a faster rate of decline, than global. Increase in number of post graduation seats is also recorded. Health workers numbers are also up. Incidents of TB and malaria cases have come down."

"No resources have been cut down for any Ministry."

Lok Sabha | 3.30 p.m.

BJP MP Ravindra Kushawaha from Uttar Pradesh: "I welcome Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda's initiative. I'd like to say that, about 15 such tribal communities from Uttar Pradesh will get justice soon."

BJD MP Anubhav Mohanty from Odisha: "Kindly include OBC in the census. For a state which has 62 tribes and 13 primitive vulnerable tribal groups, how can the govt oversee Odisha? We are rich in culture and the tribal people. My party has already said that Odisha must have a tribal museum."

BJP Nishikant Dubey from Jharkhand says, "Jharkhand now has a tribal as a cabinet minister and certain communities from Jharkhand should be included."

The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill is passed.

Lok Sabha is adjourned till March 2, 2020.

Rajya Sabha | 3.00 p.m.

BJP MP Gopal Narayan Singh from Bihar says, "There is no marketing arrangement for crop production. Then how will he earn? But now we have a vision for the same."

INC MP M.V. Rajeev Gowda from Karnataka, "Today is the death anniversary of Deendayal Upadyay. Poverty and malnutrition increasing. Consumer expenditure has dropped in rural India. When we are 112nd on the global hunger index, this govt slashed food subsidy, they cut MGNREGA funding, which is a social safety net for the poor, and further, the govt doesn't release the funds on time. Even their new found love on refugees, their funding is cut by 6%. Funding for education has come down to ₹220 crores. The Malviya teacher training initiative, Digital India, research and training have come down. Economic Survey had a whole section known as Thaalinomics, but no, the amount of food is coming down. Soon under this govt, people's thaali will be khaali."

Message from LS is being read.

BJP MP Roopa Ganguly speaks. "Budget is being called as being sent to ICU or ventilator or as financial coronavirus. Do not make fun of the futuristic budget. This budget is quantity vs quality. Skill development needs a lot of concentration now."

Lok Sabha | 2.30 p.m.

House reconvenes. MPs discuss The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill for consideration and passing.

Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda speaks. "The govt is working towards the betterment of tribal community. It pays heeds to the requests from MPs. I am thankful to Parliament Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi for bringing certain measures. Our PM has also made sure that justice reaches all," he says.

"What is the living condition of tribal communities in this country? There are number of communities included in the SC and ST list. But the percentage of reservation is not going up. The number of communities is increasing but in jobs or other areas, the reservation remains the same. Employment opportunity and allocation of funds need to be enhanced," INC MP Suresh Kodikunnil from Kerala says.

BJP MP Prathap Simha from Karnataka speaks in Kannada.

Rajya Sabha | 2.00 p.m.

Further discussion on the Union Budget 2020-21 is on in the Upper House.

BJP MP GVL Narasimha Rao says, "We are adding 7 million jobs in the formal sector every year, based on payroll reporting by research teams, whereas some are creating umemployment is at its highest. Job growth was the lowest when UPA was in power and Mr. Chidambaram was the FM at that time. Millions of women went out of jobs in rural sector. Defeminisation of labour force happened when UPA was in power. We have now 'engendered' women in employment. Under UPA rule inflation wasn't under control. Every time you point a finger towards this govt, there are four fingers poiting at your own inefficiency."

INC MP Syed Nasir Hussain from Karnataka: "People expected a lot from this budget this year. The background of the budget was that, GDP was at an all time low, food inflation highest in the last 6 years, investment growth lowest in the last 17 years, manufacturing lowest in past 15 years, private consumption lowest in the last 7 years, tax consumption lowest in the last 20 years. So people felt that they would get a new vision. There were so many promises during the time of elections. Sensex crashed and this budget showed that we've again got a 'suit-boot ki sarkar'. Budget is again concentrating on corporate sector. 3 crore people have been added to the below poverty line (BPL)."

INC MP Pratap Singa Bajwa from Punjab: "My suggestion is that even farmers who work on below 5 acres of land, could be included in MGNREGA. Food processing industry should be closely monitored. Punjab wants diversification. Govt of India should support maize. Govt talks about the stubble burning. They should see the expenses of farmers. But if a bonus of ₹100 is given to paddy, then not even an inch of stubble would be burnt."

Rajya Sabha | 1:30 p.m.

Mohd. Ali Khan, INC, raises the issue of Article 370 and alleges that in the name of development, the country is being divided.

V. Vijaysai Reddy, YSRCP, says in 2013-14, during P. Chidambaram's tenure, FDI had grown by 5% but now it has registered a 16% growth.

The budgetary allocation towards defence has also increased significantly from Mr. Chidambaram's tenure, he says.

Mahesh Poddar, BJP, says the current government is committed to reduce poverty. "Irresponsible people" had created an atmosphere which caused bank depositors to lose trust, he alleges. He refutes the allegation that only 5% of budget has been allocated for backward sections, saying that other benefits have been made available to everyone irrespective of their backwardness or lack thereof.

Lok Sabha | 12:15 p.m.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is responding to Members' concerns on the Budget.

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of Opposition in the House, asks about the fate of the scheme to bring in the Green Revolution, that was introduced by the UPA government in 2011. He says that density of population and poverty are highest in eastern India.

"I am grateful to this House that my longest Budget speech has generated so much interest," she says, adding that 98 participants from the House have contributed and enriched the debate on the Budget.

"In 2014-15 our economy was about 2 trillion, in 2019-20, we have reached 2.9 trillion," she says.

There are seven indicators that the economy will improve, she says:

Global sentiment is in favour of India, she says, citing data on FDIs; the National Infrastructure Pipeline may further increase the inflow of FDI. The third: investment activity is on a rebound, IIT number in 2019 has registered a growth.

Among other reasons, she assures the government that GST collection is steadily increasing. The last reason, she says, is that the secondary market continues to be upbeat.

Around 190 cases involving claims of ₹3.67 lakh crores have been sorted out and the realisable amount of Rs 1.57 lakh crore has been realised by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, she says.

She cites steps taken by the RBI to push the economy towards speedier growth. The RBI has introduced benchmarking for MSMEs and other projects, for which banks will now have to adjust their interest rates, she says.

"Per the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana 1.9 lakh crore houses with toilets, electricity, LPG connections will  be provided by 2022.

"The Stand Up India scheme has been extended to 2025, under which bank loans between ₹10 lakh and ₹100 lakh to at least one individual belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, or a woman, per bank branch is allotted.

"Rs 50,000 crore has already reached the accounts of 8.1 crore farmers, as of today," she says.

Those who have less than Rs 10 lakh total income stand to gain from the removal of DDT, the applicable rates being between 0% and 20%, she says, adding that small retailers are thus being benefited.

The NIRVIK scheme will expand the scope of export credit, she says.

The allocation for Scheduled Tribes in DE 2019-20 was ₹52,884 crore; there was an RE that ₹49,268 crore was utilised. In DE 2020-21, the allocation was increased to ₹53,653 crore. She cites a similar increase in the allocation for Schedules Castes, women and children.

For the youth, 15 special steps have been taken, she says. Youth in the coastal areas are being encouraged by promoting blue economy, 58 lakh SHGs have already been mobilised, large scale employment through building of district-level hospitals, funds allocated to Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to push ahead with their agenda, are among the steps she cites.

Ms. Sitharaman concludes her reply by elaborating on the steps taken to boost startups. She thanks the Members of the House.

Opposition protests.

House is adjourned till 2:30 p.m.

Rajya Sabha | 12:00 p.m.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, BJP, says the 16-point approach for farmers and agriculture covers the entire chain from production to distribution.

Food-processing, storage, distribution- all have had measures undertaken to boost them, he says.

He cites the National Infrastructure Pipeline Scheme to elaborate on sectors that have been identified for investment.

Chairman Naidu clears the air, says no Bill being introduced today. He adds that he requested both Treasury and Opposition benches to issue a whip as the attendance was very low during Budget discussion.

-- Vijaita Singh, The Hindu

Lok Sabha | 11:30 a.m.

Trafficking of children is being discussed.

G. Kishan Reddy, MoS, Home Affairs, is responding to Members' questions.

The next question pertains to funds released for Panhayati Raj schemes/programmes.

Manish Tewari, INC, asks if any audit has been done to determine if funds released for Panchayats are absorbed and spent appropriately.

Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister, Panchayati Raj, responds, saying such audits are in place. The 14th Finance Commission report revealed that the funds for Panchayats have tripled, he says. Technical support is being developed accordingly, he adds.

Subsidy to farmers is discussed next.

Rajya Sabha | 11:00 a.m.

Chairman Venkaiah Naidu is in the Chair.

Discussion on the Union Budget 2020 is underway.

Dr. K. Keshava Rao, TRS, speaking on the GDP, says that the rate of increment and not the absolute figure is what matters in economics. He alleges that the centre has an "absolutely step-motherly attitude towards State governments".

Lok Sabha | 11:00 a.m.

Speaker Om Birla is in the Chair. Question Hour is underway.

Foreign fishing trawlers in EEZ are being discussed.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 2:04:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/parliament-proceedings-live-budget-session-february-11-2020/article30789510.ece

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