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Govt pursuing 'feku federalism', Union Budget was 'betrayal': Oppn in RS

Opposition said there was a "veil of arrogance" shrouding the BJP people which the countrymen will have to recognise

Derek O'Brien
TMC member Derek O'Brien during the budget session of Parliament in New Delhi. | Photo: PTI

Opposition parties in Rajya Sabha on Friday accused the BJP-led government of "feku federalism" and "arrogance", saying the union budget was a "betrayal" of the farmers and warning the ruling party not to mislead the people.

This "feku federalism (of the Centre) won't do", an angry Derek O'Brien of the Trinamool Congress said while referring to the burden imposed on states for railway infrastructure development.

Participating in the resumed debate on the 2018-19 budget, Neeraj Shekhar of the Samajwadi Party said the budget was a "betrayal" of the people, especially farmers who were still committing suicide and being forced to sell their produce in the market below the minimum support price.

He said there was a "veil of arrogance" shrouding the BJP people which the countrymen will have to recognise.

Shekhar also asked why people were paying Rs 75 per litre of petrol now when the crude prices are $68 per barrel and said they were paying the same price when the crude prices had skyrocketted to $140 per barrel and sought to know the kind of arithmetic behind this.

On the issue of non-performing assets (NPAs), he sought details on the loans given to big corporates since 2014 when the BJP-led government came to power.

On claims over Rs 710 billion being deposited into Jan Dhan accounts, Shekhar asked how much was deposited in these accounts after November 8 when demonetisation was announced.

"I appeal to the Government not to misguide the farmers, youth and the minorities," Shekhar said.

With BJP ally TDP members holding placards inside the Well demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh, YSRCP MP V Vijayasai Reddy asked Basawaraj Patil, who was in the Chair, how come the TDP was protesting without resigning from the Union Cabinet.

When some members including those from TDP began shouting slogans as Trinamool Congress member Derek O' Brien stood up to speak, he assured the protestors that he completely sympathised with their cause.

"We know you are deprived.. We are with you Andhra, you (TDP) have to move now from that (Treasury benches) side to this (Opposition) side," O'Brien said.

Observing that Congress leader P Chidambaram had sought answers to 12 questions on the budget from the Finance Minister, O'Brien solicited replies from Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on 12 queries relating to his ministry.

Asking if railways was a union subject, why were the states being asked to bear the expenditure for its infrastructure creation, he said "this feku federalism (of the Centre) won't do" and the states should not be cheated.

O'Brien asked why the Depreciation Reserve Fund provision was slashed to Rs 5 billion in the Railway Budget from Rs 50 billion. He said the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of the Railways which was 6 per cent earlier had come down to 2 per cent in the last 3.5 years in the NDA regime.

The TMC leader also questioned the commercial viability policy of the government, saying there was the talk of 8 railway routes in Bengal being shut.

To this, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament had suggested it, but the issue was resolved after Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha's intervention.

O'Brien also questioned the government over job creation, saying 1.25 lakh safety job posts in Railways were lying vacant.

"We told you (Government) not to implement GST in July. You have kept a provision of Rs 55,000 crore for compensation to states in the Budget but the compensation during the first six months alone was Rs 40,000 crore, which implies it will be Rs 80,000 crore for the entire year. From where will you bring the remaining Rs 55,000 crore," he asked.

C P Narayanan of the CPI(M) said the Centre's share has reduced in the centrally sponsored schemes whereas the states were being burdened. He also raised the issue of farmers' suicides, and said unless the mistakes are rectified, the future is bleak.

S Muthukaruppan (AIADMK) said "We were an ally when J Jayalalithaa was alive and our party has supported the BJP at crucial times," but funds have not been given to the state.

Referring to the devastation caused by cyclone Vardah, Muthukaruppan said "We had requested Rs 250 billion from the Centre for rehabilitation but not a single rupee has been given". He also sought a drought package for Tamil Nadu.

He demanded nationalisation and inter-linking of all rivers in South India, so that water from Cauvery river can be distributed to all parts of the state. He alleged that there was politicisation of the Cauvery Water dispute.

Vandana Chavan (NCP) raised issues relating to nursery, primary and secondary education and said one million teaching posts are lying vacant and the training programmes for them have failed to take off.

Stating that this year's budget was most challenging one since government came to power, SAD leader Naresh Gujral urged the government to fullfill the promise of providing MSP 50 per cent more than the cost of production.

"The next crop will come in the next two months. Farmers are expecting a good deal. Don't let them down. I will not get into the formula (of fixing the MSP). I hope they will get a good deal," he said.

Farmers commit suicides due to debt caused because of inadequate returns, health problem and marriage expenses. The government has announced steps to take care of first two problems. "It must be honoured in letter and spirit."

N Gokulakrishnan (AIADMK) sought 20 per cent increase in the central assistance to Puducherry as the Union Territory is facing tight budget. He also asked the government to implement pending demand of providing a rail link from Dindigal.

Rajeev Shukla (Cong) sought to know the formula on which basis the cost of production of agri-produce will be decided while fixing higher MSP as promised in the budget.

He however lauded the Health Insurance scheme but asked the government to be cautious as nursing homes might end up taking advantage of it.

While raising concern about lack of jobs, slowing exports and rising inflation and widening fiscal deficit, Shukla emphasised that the government should also look at undertaking judicial reforms.

D Raja (CPI) said the government suffered from "ideological and psychological bankruptcy and hypocrisy" as it does not have any strategy to generate revenues.

Rather generating revenues, it has forgone revenue to the tune of Rs 2.45 trillion by giving concessions to corporates, he alleged and said the government is also disinvesting PSUs and privatising firms like Air India.

Warning the government of facing an alarming job crisis next year, Raja said the International Labour Organisation in its report has projected that 77 per cent of workers will have vulnerable jobs in 2019 and 18.9 million will be unemployed.

He also talked about economic inequality and concentration of 73 per cent of wealth with one per cent corporates and said the budget was anti-poor and not growth oriented.

Sanjay Seth (SP) said it was a disappointing budget. Ram Kumar Kashyap (INLD) and Rajeev Chandrasekhar (IND) also spoke.