Former finance minister P Chidambaram says in the Rajya Sabha, that, NDA government's economic policy is a 'betrayal' of the country saying all norms of fiscal prudence have been thrown out of the window. The Opposition on Thursday targetted the government over agrarian crisis, unemployment and other issues.
The debate on 2018-19 budget was initiated by the former finance minster. During his 40-minute speech, the Rajya Sabha, witnessed continuous ruckus and sloganeering by ruling BJP members who sought an apology from the Congress for such disruptions during the Prime Minister's speech in Lok Sabha yesterday.
An unfazed Chidambaram continued to target the government in a loud pitch and sought replies to 12 questions relating to the economy, while describing minimum support price (MSP) for foodgrains, job creation and the Ayushman Bharat scheme as the three 'Jumlas' (rhetoric) of the BJP-led government in its last full budget before the 2019 polls.
Taking a dig, the former Finance Minister also asked whether the government will suggest the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to include those selling pakodas in its definition for employment.
Seeking replies from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 12 questions emanating from the Budget and plaguing the economy, Chidambaram termed the government's economic policies as a 'betrayal of the country', claiming that all norms of fiscal prudence 'have been thrown out of the window'.
'Before you assumed office, you promised 2 crore jobs. A proper job is employment that is regular, certain and reasonably secure,' he said, asking the BJP what its definition of a job was.
He questioned the government over how many ILO-defined jobs have actually been generated in the last four years.
Describing Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian as the 'good doctor', Chidambaram said the Government should listen to his diagnosis prescribed in the Economic Survey. He said the Government was going to leave behind a limping economy.
The former Finance Minister asked whether the Government would cut the excise duty on petrol and diesel if global crude prices rise. He claimed that the NDA government believes hard- working individuals should be taxed and not the corporates.
'We support Triple Talaq Bill but not these Triple Jumlas,' he said, adding that the three 'jumlas' (rhetoric) were regarding MSP for farmers, job creation and the Ayushman Bharat programme announced in the Budget to provide Rs 5 lakh worth of annual cover in case of secondary and tertiary hospitalisation to 10 crore families.
Accusing the government of 'cheating' the farmers when it termed MSP as inflationary, he said 'you can announce MSP but not all farmers will get MSP. Many farmers are forced to sell in the market. Will you pay them the difference between MSP and market price. Have you made a provision regarding this in the Budget.'
Claiming that the Economic Survey has carefully avoided the issue of jobs, Chidambaram quoted data for three financial years from 2015-16 and said India was the first country in the world in which jobs increased when GDP growth had fallen.
'What kind of Jumla is this? Where are the jobs,' he asked.
He also dubbed the Ayushman Bharat scheme as the 'biggest jumla' of the government and said it had earlier announced the National Health Scheme which was not approved by the Cabinet and 'quietly buried' and unveiled a new scheme now.
Laying out his calculations related to the annual premium contribution of Rs 1 lakh crore needed for implementing the Ayushman Bharat, he asked 'from where will you (government) raise additional resources as the new cess has already been accounted for'.