Oppn slams govt in LS for ignoring 'aam admi' in budget

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New Delhi, Feb 10 (PTI) The Opposition slammed the government in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday for ignoring the 'aam admi' and showing insensitivity towards agitating farmers in the budget proposals for 2021-22, which were unveiled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier this month.

'The aam aadmi has been let down totally in the last seven years...and the budget has betrayed his most fundamental aspirations,' Congress member Shashi Tharoor said while initiating the general discussion on the Union Budget.

The finance minister has neither played defensive nor hit the ball, he said, adding, 'She has just run out of ideas. You cannot cross the sea but just keep staring at it.' Tharoor said the budget has reduced expenditure on defence and healthcare, and 'delivered a blow to the economic system'.

Although the nation suffered a lot because of the stringent lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government's response to deal with the sufferings of people 'showed no sensitivity', he said, adding, 'Bharat should become aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) and not Bharatvasis.' Accusing the government of ignoring the crisis instead of recognising that there is one at the border with China, Tharoor said the Centre seems to have overturned the slogan 'Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan' into 'Na Jawan, Na Kisan'.

Dayanidhi Maran of the DMK said that the government did not extend any income tax concessions to the middle class and the budget was not for the common people. He said that the COVID-19-induced lockdown has severely impacted the tourism industry and the government has not done anything to support that sector.

'This budget was touted as an unprecedented budget. True Sir. It is unprecedent left all budget,' Maran said, adding that there is no clarity on sector-specific revival.

Congress member Tharoor said the budget, did nothing to assuage the concerns of the agitating farmers with regard to the minimum support price (MSP).

The road to a new India should not be littered with the wreckage of the old India, the MP from Thiruvananthapuram said and urged the government not to create barriers on the path of the 'annadatas' (farmers), who are protesting against three new farm laws at the borders of Delhi.

During the debate, Maran also said that despite the fact that crude oil prices have seen a dip in global markets, fuel prices in India shot up during the pandemic time.

Talking about defence sector, he said the budget for this important segment has been increased marginally.

'We are in the middle of extreme tension with China...The figures of defence spending barely show any change. We are worried...We are in a war situation. We have to ensure that our army is well armoured to protect our country,' Maran said.

He claimed that the allocations for agriculture were slashed.

The DMK MP said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi became emotional in Rajya Sabha while giving his farewell speech to Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday and asked why Modi cannot show the same compassion for protesting farmers.

Referring to the Rs 35,000 crore allocation for COVID-19 vaccines in the budget, Maran said a forensic audit should be done on companies that receive the funds to ensure that it is not a 'backdoor for funding political parties'.

Lone AIADMK member P Ravindranath and some BJP members protested Maran's remarks regarding Tamil Nadu, including that the state government was corrupt.

On the corruption remark, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur made an apparent reference to a corruption case that involved Maran.

BJP's Nishikant Dubey sought to raise a point of order saying that things about a state government should not be mentioned in the House. However, N K Premachandran, who was in the Chair, said there was no point of order.

Participating in the discussion, Meenakshi Lekhi (BJP) said due to the efforts of the Narendra Modi government, the country has come out of the 'fragile five' economies.

Today, India is among the top five economies in the world, she said, adding that the finance minister is now talking about a double-digit growth rate.

The economy is projected to grow at 11 per cent during 2021-22 after a likely contraction of 7.7 per cent in the current financial year as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

After saving lives, the focus is now on promoting livelihood, which the budget has tried to do, Lekhi said, adding that the allocations for most of the sectors have been doubled.

TMC member Saugata Roy alleged that budget failed to provide support measures for poor and migrant labours.

'I think this budget is not good for the country... There is nothing to discuss in the budget. She (Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman) is part of OLX, which sells everything,' he said.

He added that fiscal prudence has been thrown out of window and the government is getting most of the money from borrowing.

Roy stated that the finance minister is a 'Great Dismantler'.

'Public assets built over time will be sold to cronies of the government. This is the worst form of crony capitalism,' he added.

He said that allocations to key programmes like MNREGA has been reduced.

Arvind Sawant of the Shiv Sena also criticised the government for privatising public sector undertakings.

CPI-M's A M Ariff said the Budget 2021-22 is an advertisement for disinvestment and alleged that the Modi government is selling India to corporates. He said the government should change its 'Make in India' slogan to 'Sell out India'. PTI CS NKD RR RAM BKS PR PR ANB ANB