Slamming the Union Budget 2021-2022 in the Rajya Sabha, opposition parties on Friday said that the budget holds nothing for the common man and rather serves the interests of the capitalists, even as the ruling party defended itself saying that it has earmarked funds for all including strengthening the health sector.
Leaders of parties like Congress, BSP, AAP, and Left attacked the central government for allegedly selling off the country's assets and PSUs to big industrialists.
Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil alleged that the budget helped the rich capitalists and was asking the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden to become 'atmanirbhar' (self-sufficient). He alleged that the cess imposed by the government was an attempt by the centre to deprive the states of their share in taxes.
He said that PM Narendra Modi recently quoted his predecessor Manmohan Singh and Sharad Pawar selectively and out of context on the issue of farm reforms, and recalled that he, as Gujarat chief minister, had recommended a law to ensure Minimum Support Price (MSP) to farmers.
"The country is passing through a bad time due to decisions like demonetisation and the GST. The government is helping and supporting the big people and is asking the poor, the weaker and the downtrodden to become 'artmanirbhar'," Gohil alleged.
BJP leader and union minister Anurag Thakur attacked opposition parties, asking them not to use farmers for their political gains and asserted that the three new farm laws will help in doubling the income of peasants. He challenged the opposition leaders to show him if it is written anywhere in the three laws that the regime of mandis and MSP would come to an end due to the legislation. "We are committed to double the income of the farmers," Thakur said.
Bhupendra Yadav (BJP) lauded the government for providing over Rs 27.1 lakh crore, which is 13 per cent of GDP, under 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' in three financial packages.He also noted that the government is ready to talk to farmers on agri bills with an open heart and mind.
On the issue of privatisation, he quoted former Prime Minister Charan Singh, who in his book had talked about loss-making PSUs due to mismanagement and corruption.
Binoy Biswam (CPI) charged that in the name of 'atmanirbhar', this budget is clearly helping capitalists.
"Is this the model of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' that you surrender everything to capitalists. This government can be called a government of FDI for capitalists. Don't try to cheat people, as it is time they understood this," he alleged.
Biswam alleged that the government is selling everything from air to sea to land and even underground and is "blindly following" the capitalist model.
Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda (JDS) said the finance minister has provided for all that is required to deal with the pandemic in this budget.
He was of the view that privatization is not always good for all sectors as sometime it creates private monopoly also.
Ashok Siddharth (BSP) said there is nothing in this budget for the common man as it is trying to sell the country's assets and PSUs.
"This government wants the rich to turn richer and the poor poorer," he charged, adding that it is not fair to give away the rights of poor, Dalits to industrialists.
The BSP member said the interests of SCs/STs and OBC are being hurt the most through privatisation and asked the government to bring a law to enforce reservation for SC/ST/OBC in the private sector.
Sanjay Singh (AAP) charged that the government was selling off everything to private companies and big industrialists.
Participating in the debate, Satish Chandra Misra of BSP asked the government to waive the customs duty on the import of radiation machines used for treatment of cancer patients.
India is recording 12 lakh new cases of cancer every year. Besides, the country is witnessing around 5.5 lakh death every year, which is even higher than the total mortality of 1.5 lakh from COVID-19 in India, on which the government has spent more than Rs 35,000 crore for vaccine only.
"Death by cancer is increasing every year and according to WHO report which is alarming, says every one among 15 people in India face the risk of cancer," he said adding. According to Misra, all machines used for radiation therapy are either imported from Sweden or the USA.
Now in the budget, customs duty on radiation machines has been increased to 27.4 per cent.
"Instead of encouraging, the government has increased the tax to 27.4 per cent from 20 per cent, which include customs duty, health cess, social welfare and GST," he said asking the government to look into this aspect as it would earn only Rs 120 crore.
Abdul Wahab of the IUML said the budget has failed to give any attention to farmers, students, migrant labourers, minorities, and backward communities.
Wahab also raised the issue of allocation of funds for a campus of Aligarh Muslim University at Malappuram and difficulties faced by retired army personnel in getting One Rank One Pension (OROP), to which Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur assured to look into.
"OROP was pending for 30 to 40 years and the only person, who was able to implement it, is Narendra Modi. Thousands of crore rupees have been given to ex-servicemen," Thakur said.
Shiv Pratap Shukla of the BJP termed the budget as progressive. According to him during the pandemic, the Modi government gave priority to health and not to economic growth.
Inputs from PTI