Congress did little for poor during its long rule: Anurag Thakur in LS

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New Delhi, Feb 11 (PTI) Attacking Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur on Thursday said his party ruled the country for 'five generations' but did little for the poor.

Making an intervention during a debate on the general Budget in Lok Sabha, the BJP member said that the previous governments did not implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.

He asked the Congress to explain the reason for not implementing the recommendations.'One party misled farmers to further its political interests. But it won't help,' he said.

'A party ruled the country for five generations but did little for the poor. The poor were eliminated but not poverty,' the minister said.

Challenging opposition members to indicate a clause in the new legislations that talks about closing mandis (wholesale markets), he said the new agri laws rather provides farmers the freedom to sell their produce anywhere in the country and any market of their choice.

'If Rahul Gandhi can leave Amethi (in Uttar Pradesh) and seek election to Lok Sabha from Wayanad (in Kerala), why farmers are restricted to sell in only one mandi. Farmers should also have an option of choosing mandis of their choice,' Thakur said.

Assuring that the mandi system will remain, he said not a single member of the opposition could highlight the clause which indicates the these wholesale markets will be closed.

It was the Narendra Modi government that has increased both the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and procurement under this, Thakur said, adding that the Congress cannot give lecture on agriculture as it has done very little for farmers.

He urged the opposition not to become a hurdle in the way of empowerment of the farming community.

On the protest over the cess imposed in the Budget, he said the Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess (AIDC) will be utilised for developing better storage facilities and smooth movement of produce so that wastage is minimised.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi's borders since last November and demanding a rollback of the Farmers'' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Enacted in September last year, the laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the MSP and do away with the mandi (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

Thakur also took on the Congress for accusing that the government is favouring certain industrialists and asked the opposition party to explain how a particular project in Kerala was awarded on invitation basis to one of the industrialists.

'Who was given the port...the then Congress government gave the port to a particular industrial house,' he said.

Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd, India’s largest port developer and part of the Adani Group, in December 2015 formally began development of the international transhipment project in Vizhinjam in Kerala.

Pointing out that the Congress-led UPA government had left India in financial distress, he said the country was counted among the fragile five economies in 2014.

In the next financial year, as per the International Monetary Fund projection, he said, India will clock a growth rate of 11.5 per cent, highest among the large economies of the world.

It was under the able guidance of Prime Minister Modi that India has seen the lowest COVID-19 mortality rate among the world, Thakur said.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, India has become the highest manufacturer of PPE kits and the country has become a vaccine hub, he said.

Led by the prime minister, he said, India was able to turn the crisis into an opportunity and there is every chance of India becoming a economic and manufacturing powerhouse as this government believes in its citizens.

With regard to fiscal prudence, the BJP member said the government is committed to bring it down as it has demonstrated in the past. 'Our government is committed to USD 5 trillion economy and we will fulfill this dream,' he said.

Speaking during the debate, K Jayakumar of the Congress said the new farm bill does not guarantee MSP and also fails to provide any legal recourse to poor farmers.

Jayakumar charged the government of selling family silver to fund budget deficit through disinvestment.

BJP's Sanjay Jaiswal said the Rs 34.5 lakh crore Budget embodies turning crisis into opportunity.

He hoped that the Budget allocation of Rs 2.58 lakh crore for MSP procurement would persuade farmers to shun their protest over the farm laws. PTI DP NAB DP ANB ANB