The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday witnessed a heated debate on the current economic scenario with opposition parties taking on the government on a range of issues, including disinvestment of PSUs, demonetisation and unemployment, and demanding an "SPG" for data protection.
Participating in a short-term discussion on the economic situation in the country, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said it was important for the government to acknowledge the reality that for the last eight quarters GDP growth has declined.
Asserting that the consumption and investment engine was stuck, he stressed that an economy growing at 5 per cent was not acceptable in India.
Referring to demonetisation, Ramesh said the country is witnessing prolonged effects of a decision taken on November 8, 2016, which was called "a political masterstroke" but the economy had to pay a heavy price for it.
He said the haste with which Goods and Services Tax (GST) was pushed through has created many problems for small and medium enterprises.
The Congress leader said he cannot support the "panic privatisation" of public sector undertakings (PSUs) by the government, saying it may yield short-term revenues but in the medium and long terms will have detrimental effects on the economy.
Sudhanshu Trivedi of the BJP said the apprehensions expressed by the Opposition were governed more by an anti-Modi sentiment than factual submission.
"Yes I agree, the slowdown is there, the weather is not good, in rough weather, what we are doing, the best possible capability by which our finance minister is trying to do," Trivedi observed.
To counter the charge of the government being pro-rich, he pointed towards Jan Dhan Yojana, describing it as the biggest financial inclusion initiative.
Manoj Kumar Jha of the RJD took a swipe at the government, saying there was a need for an SPG (special protection group) for data as well.
"We need SPG for data protection in this regime. First they deny, then they say who leaked it...it is important to acknowledge," Jha said, referring to the elite security force that guards the prime minister.
K K Ragesh of the CPI(M) said it was ridiculous that members from the treasury benches were making rhetorical statements on the economy when it was facing a serious crisis.
He claimed that unemployment was at an all-time high and about one crore jobs were lost last year.
Satish Chandra Misra of the BSP raised doubts over the figures provided by the government. He said the government should reduce its extravagance and cut down on expenses.
He also raised the issues of PSU stake sale and merger of banks.
He demanded that the amount of money being spent by the government towards advertisements in the media be made public, and claimed that there was no discussion on economy in the media.
Sanjay Singh of the AAP opposed the disinvestment of public sector undertakings and highlighted the slump in the country's automobile sector. He alleged that select businessmen were being favoured by the government and it should change this policy.
Majeed Memon of the NCP claimed that there was an atmosphere of "systemic mistrust" in the country.
Binoy Viswam of the CPI said the country's economy is in a very bad state and alleged that a government which was pro-super rich cannot solve this.