Discussions on the Union Budget and the Railway Budget continued in both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on Thursday.
In the Lok Sabha, leader of Congress Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury slammed the government's handling of the railways ministry, adding that the Centre will sell rail assets, the aviation ministry wants to sell Air India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will one day sell the country.
Chowdhury drew parallels between former railways minister Suresh Prabhu's claim that Rs 8.5 lakh crore will be spent by the ministry and the 2019-20 Budget's mention about spending Rs 50 lakh crore. "What happened to Prabhu's claim? Now you have added Rs 50 lakh crore more? It is clear you intend to sell its assets," he said.
Chowdhury further accused the government of privatising profit-making production units of railways, including the one in Rae Bareli.
A heated debate ensued between Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and union minister Rajnath Singh during the Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha over the issue of farmers. While Gandhi attacked the NDA government for giving no relief to farmers, asking if the government considers them inferior to businessmen, Singh blamed the Congress for farmers' woes.
Gandhi said that that businessmen have been granted concessions of Rs 4.3 lakh crores and loan waivers of Rs 5.5 lakh crore. Singh said the government's move to give Rs 6,000 per month to farmers will lead to a rise in their income by 20-25 percent. "The amount of increase in MSP (minimum support price) that our prime minister has effected has not been done by anybody in independent India's history," Singh said.
Congress MPs staged a walkout and were accompanied by leaders from TMC and BSP when they wanted to raise the issue of desertions of MLAs in Karnataka and Goa, but the Speaker did not permit them to speak on the matter.
Meanwhile, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader Kanimozhi said that it was a "shame for the nation" that the railways still employ manual scavengers. She criticised the government for attempting to hide the same by appointing them through contractors.
She also said all sign boards on Railways stations are in Hindi, and demanded they should be in regional languages as well.
In the Rajya Sabha, BJP asserted that the Budget is pro-poor and pro-farmer, aiming also at economic growth. Congress' P Chidambaram, downplayed the target of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25, saying the economy itself doubles due to the "magic of compounding" in six to seven years and does not require a prime minister or finance minister. He further said there are no measures to propel investments and savings. He said that the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman did not present macroeconomic data, including receipts from revenue.
BJP's Prabhat Jha said the Congress won five states in the Lok Sabha polls with the promise to waive of farm loans within 10 days of government formation, which the party has not fulfilled yet.
CPI member D Raja opposed the government's proposed plan to privatise profitable public sector undertakings (PSUs). He wanted to know the allocation made in the Budget for social sector, education, healthcare and MNREGA as well as for minorities and SCs, STs.
Trinamool Congress MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy falls flat on the promise of job creation and hopes of senior citizens. He also criticised the privatisation of railways. Prasanna Acharya of Biju Janata Dal took up the issues of the high rates of unemployment and "curtailing" of MGNREGA funds. Telangana Rashtra Samiti's K Keshava Rao expressed doubt over the government's optimism of reviving the economy amid a global slowdown.
CPM leader Elamaram Kareem and CPI's Binoy Visvam alleged the Budget has neglected Kerala. Kareem alleged that the government was exaggerating figures to portray India as a strong economy, apart being silent on the issues of economic slowdown, agrarian distress, industrial stagnation, and joblessness.
RJD's Manoj Kumar Jha demanded that the Centre grant special status to Bihar. Shiv Sena's Anil Desai lauded the Budget, but sought more fund allocation for Maharashtra, adding that Mumbai contributes maximum to the country's tax revenue and the Centre should compensate it accordingly. Opposition leaders raised other issues including debt relief, agrarian distress, economic slowdown and industrial stagnation.
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral sought that surplus revenue collected so far from Chandigarh be given to the Punjab government till a political decision is taken on making the Union Territory as its capital.
Kapil Sibal's said that restrictions imposed on the entry of journalists in the Finance Ministry premises in North Block be lifted. "Some journalists have said that their entry has been restricted in the Finance Ministry. They have security clearances from the MHA and have accreditation from the PIB. You have always been saying that you want a transparent government. Therefore I will request you that please do not take such decisions," he said.
With inputs from PTI