Debate on price rise: Rich-poor divide widened, household budgets in disarray, says opposition

The Indian economy was on a decline even before the Covid pandemic came in as the government had failed in all five fundamentals of economy — savings, investment, production, consumption and employment, the Congress said on Monday as the Lok Sabha discussed price rise in a heated debate.

Starting the discussion, Congress leader Manish Tewari charged at the government for the rise in prices of essentials, saying the BJP government has “widened the inequality between the rich and the poor and has failed to provide jobs to the people”.

“The government may have balanced its own budget, but it has thrown the budget of 25-crore households out of gear with its policies; every homemaker is in tears,” he said.

Tewari claimed that during the NDA rule, more people are back to being poor. “During the UPA regime, 27 crore people were brought above the poverty line. But then under this government, as many as 23-crore people are once again below the poverty line as defined by the Anoop Satpathy committee; earning less than Rs 375 per day,” he said.

Tewari claimed that under the Modi government, 92 of the richest people in India has wealth equivalent to that of 55-crore Indians put together. “There can’t be bigger inequality than this in our country,” he said.

Tewari said the tell-tale indicator of lack of jobs is the growing number of MGNREGA workers. “The number of people engaged through MGNREGA is the highest ever now. Eight years ago, the government had called this programme ‘gadde khodne ki scheme’ (scheme for digging holes) but thanks to this scheme…today crores of families are able to earn a living. I demand that the government take back its words,” he said.

Tewari attacked the government for increasing the GST on flour, curd, paneer, pencil and sharpener. “You did not spare even children,” he said, adding that he was saddened to see 18 per cent GST on crematoriums.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the PM says the culture of freebies (revdi culture) should end. “What is the distinction between revdi culture and other culture,” he asked.

Trinamool Congress’s Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar said the government’s policies had left people without money to buy even LPG cylinder. She said the government was forcing people to eat vegetables uncooked. “This is what you are forcing people to do,” she said, while mimicking eating a raw brinjal.

Biju Janata Dal’s Pinaki Mishra tore into the government’s defence against the criticism on high fuel prices. “Of the Rs 27-lakh crore collected by the government since 2014, only 3.4 per cent has gone to service oil bonds. So, don’t tell us that oil prices are rising to service oil bonds…they are going up because you have to balance your budget,” he said.

BJP member Jaskaur Meena said eight years of Modi government have been for the welfare of the poor.

Jayadev Galla of the TDP wanted to know the measures taken by the government and the RBI to control inflation. CPI member A M Ariff also raised the issue of GST on food items, while taking exception to 5 per cent GST on rice and its products.

BJP leader and former MoS for Finance Jayant Sinha said the inflation is higher in the US and Europe as compared to India, which is the result of measures taken by the Modi government. “There is no ‘mehngai’ (inflation). The Opposition has been looking for it but is unable to find it,” he said.

Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference, Harsimrat Kaur Badal (SAD), Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM), Hanuman Beniwal (RLP), ET Mohammed Basheer (IUML), ST Hasan (Samajwadi Party) and NK Premachandran (RSP) were among those who took part in the debate.

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