Opposition criticises 'timid' budget in Lok Sabha
Opposition parties on Wednesday described the Union Budget as timid and lacking any reforms, as they continued their attack on the government on the issue of demonetisation in the Lok Sabha.
Congress leader M. Veerappa Moily, initiating the debate on the Budget, termed the government's November 8 demonetisation of higher value currency as "harakiri" or suicide.
Initiating a discussion in the Lok Sabha on the General Budget for 2017-18, Moily also said India had "followed Pakistan" in its demonetisation move, and that only these two countries have claimed that the note ban is aimed to fight corruption and black money.
"This budget has turned out to be a timid one."
"Fighting corruption, and black money was the reason cited for demonetisation... these are the exact words used by Pakistan for demonetisation (in 2015)," Moily said.
He said 22 countries had gone for demonetisation, and only India and Pakistan have cited fighting corruption as the reason.
"It dawned on the Prime Minister that Pakistan has taken a right step. Let's follow it. For the first time, we have followed Pakistan. It is unprecedented... It is not worth following Pakistan," he said.
He said that on November 8, the day demonetisation was announced, the three service chiefs met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Maybe surgical strike entered the brain of the Prime Minister... In the evening he made a surgical strike on the economy," the Congress leader said.
Moily said, while former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, by nationalising banks had brought banking to the doorstep of the people, Prime Minister Modi was taking away banks from the poor.
He also said that the Prime Minister and the government have "toned down" their rhetoric on demonetisation outside Parliament, but not in the House.
Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy said the Lok Sabha should have condoled the deaths of persons in the country after the November 8 demonetisation.
Participating in a discussion on the Union Budget 2016-17, Roy said that since the government was not paying condolences, he would do it.
"A condolence should have been made for those who lost their lives... I offer condolences to the families of more than 150 persons who died (while standing) in (ATM and bank) queues due to demonetisation," Roy said.
He also slammed the Budget for, what he said was, absence of reforms, and said the government thought that the demonetisation of the high-value currency notes will bring in revenue, but it did not happen.
"Why is this a conservative Budget? No reform steps have been taken," the TMC leader said.
"The government expected Rs 10 lakh crore out of the demonetised currency totalling Rs 15 lakh crore will come back... but that did not happen," he said.
Roy also questioned the low spending on defence and said: "We are spending only 26 per cent of China's defence budget."
He also rued that the Budget did not even mention the Minimum Support Price for crops amid what he called an "agrarian crisis".
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP P. Karunakaran said the budget was disappointing. The Left leader also called upon the government to bring the women's reservation bill in the Lok Sabha.
"Budget proposals are disappointing. When we compare allocation to last year, increase is nominal or stagnant. Size of budget has come down to 12 percent of GDP," he said.
On the women's reservation bill, he said: "We are ready to support the bill, are you willing to introduce it in the house?"