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'What is the Point in $5 Trillion Economy if Majority are Poor?' Kapil Sibal Asks in Rajya Sabha

Sibal said farmers are not happy, automobile and FMCG sectors have witnessed declines and there was an overall slowdown in the economy. Moreover, he said the unemployment rates are at the highest and there are no new projects in the manufacturing which contributes 15 to 16 per cent of the GDP.


Updated:July 11, 2019, 10:15 PM IST
'What is the Point in $5 Trillion Economy if Majority are Poor?' Kapil Sibal Asks in Rajya Sabha
File photo of Congress leader Kapil Sibal.

New Delhi: Achieving a $5 trillion economy will have little meaning if the majority of people in the country are poor, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said in Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

Participating in the debate on the Union Budget, the former Union minister said, "In terms of per capita, we rank 122nd in the world. Tell us how you will improve income of the poor." Sibal said under the circumstances the question was not of becoming a $5-trillion economy but of raising the per capita income.

"In Mumbai, 60 per cent people are poor and only one per cent are rich but its GDP is impressive," he said.

"If 80 crore of the masses in the country earn less than Rs 10,000 per month then what is the point of a USD 5 trillion economy," he said and asked what steps the government was taking to increase the income to Rs 20,000 or Rs 40,000 per month.

He said the budget speech lacked thematic consistency and vision and it was like watching a trailer, not a movie. "There are four engines of growth - private investment, public investment, external consumption and internal consumption.

"Three of these cylinders of the economy have collapsed and the fourth is on the verge of collapsing," he alleged.

He said investment in public and private sectors has been reduced impacting manufacturing, jobs and economy.

He said the unemployment rates "are the highest and there are no new projects in the manufacturing which contributes 15 to 16 per cent of the GDP". Sibal also stressed that scientific crop pattern should be promoted in the country saying exports like paddy and sugar require the consumption of billions of cubic metre of water.

"India's water ends up everywhere but in India. Paddy, sugarcane, cotton, which use the highest water, are among our exports. We will have no drinking water in the country if this continues as agriculture consumes 68 per cent of the drinking water," he said.

He said that 78 per cent of piped water was sourced from groundwater and 5,194 blocks of groundwater had dried up. He said farmers are not happy, automobile and FMCG sectors have witnessed declines and there was an overall slowdown in the economy.

By increasing Rupee one on petrol and diesel the government will get Rs 18,000 crore to the kitty which will impact the poor while higher provisions of taxes on rich were a mere show off and budget optics, he claimed.

He also charged the government with hiding the severity of ILFS scam. He warned that if the government was bent on bringing sovereign funds, it will not be able to service the debt in case the rupee value falls.

Vishambahar Prasad Nishad (SP) alleged that faulty policies of the government were forcing farmers to commit suicide.

Prabhat Jha (BJP) said Ayushman Bharat has benefited the poor immensely. Manas Ranjan Bhunia (TMC) alleged the government was suppressing figures related to expenditure and revenue.

He also said that India never witnessed such a low rate of economic growth in past and asked the government to do something beyond giving just Rs 6000 per annum to farmers. Ashwini Vaishnaw (BJP) said, "A member's comment that economy would double irrespective of whatever government would do, is not correct. Why didn't that happen in pre nineties when we were struggling to increase the growth rate."

He suggested that the government should increase annual investment on infrastructure project from Rs 3.02 lakh crore to Rs 11 lakh crore as this would help in achieving nominal economic (GDP) growth of 13 per cent for achieving USD five trillion economy target.

He claimed that there is enough fiscal room for doing it as Japan's total debt is 240 per cent of their GDP while this ratio is 90 per cent for the US.

RS Bharathi (DMK) asked the government to reconsider the proposal of a 10 per cent hike in customs duty on newsprint and 5 per cent tax on books saying it was like taxing learning.

NCP leader Praful Patel said, "It is very crucial to give impetus to an economy which is showing signs of a slowdown. The government needs to tackle issues like agriculture and providing jobs to youth."

Biswajit Daimary (BPF), T Subbarami Reddy (Congress), KR Arjunan (AIADMK), Birendra Prasad Baishya (AGP), Anil Baluni (BJP), M V Rajeev Gowda (Congress), Vijaysai Reddy (YSRCP), Prabhakar Reddy (YSRCP) and K Ravindra Kumar (TDP) also participated in the debate.

Binoy Viswam of the CPI said that the government has not taken any step for agriculture reforms. It has also ignored the health sector, he said. Veer Singh of BSP said that budget has no special schemes for SC/ST and women.

The government says that it would double the income of farmers but it is silent, as how it would be implemented.

"The government should focus more on farmers as they are not even able to recover their cost price," he said. Sushil Kumar Gupta of AAP asked the government to increase spending on education, which is declining every year and is 3.40 per cent of the total budget.

He also asked the government to increase its share in the central taxes from Rs 325 crore to Rs 6,000 crore, which the Delhi government has asked for.

"Give us our proper share without any discrimination," said Gupta adding that now the budget of NCT is around Rs 60,000 crore and the grant is just 0.45 per cent of that. Ripun Bora of Congress said posts are lying vacant in colleges and universities. He also asked the government to bring Women's Reservation Bill in the house.

Abdul Wahab of IUML, Shwait Malik of BJP and Kamakhya Prasad Tasa of BJP also participated in the debate. BJP leader and former Union Minister K J Alphons said macroeconomic data like inflation, fiscal deficit, current account deficit are best-ever in the country and alleged that the Upper House has been misled by ex-finance minister P Chidambaram who spoke earlier in the day.

Gopal Narayan Singh of the BJP said the government will provide all possible support to the farmers and to uplift the poor.

Kumar Ketkar of the Congress said apart from being the first full-time woman finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman has another credential, that of belonging to the "widely condemned and abused" Jawaharlal Nehru University.

"She (Sitharaman) does not come from the Tukde Tukde Gang but she comes from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, another member of the Ministry is Mr Jaishankar (External Affairs Minister) so in a way, JNU is contributing immensely to the Ministries led by Narendra Modi," Ketkar said.

Ketkar claimed that the recently released movie 'Article 15' clearly shows the plight of Swacchata Bharat (Clean India Drive) workers and their poor wages and living conditions.

Delivering his maiden speech in Rajya Sabha, Vijay Pal Singh Tomar of the BJP said the Budget has accorded priority to women and the rural economy. He claimed that the condition of farmers deteriorated due to the apathy of previous governments.

Also making his maiden speech, Naranbhai J Rathwa of the Congress demanded that Railway Budget be presented separately from next year.

Mohammed Ali Khan alleged that the government has not done justice with minorities in the Union Budget and claimed there has been a reduction in scholarships offered to them. He said the Centre must fulfil the promises made to Telangana for its development and welfare.

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