India

Parliament live updates | Opposition creating a false narrative that the govt. is working for cronies: Sitharaman


According to an official order, the first leg of the Budget Session is scheduled to conclude today in an extended sitting of the Upper House till 3 p.m. The sitting for Saturday is cancelled. It was earlier decided that the Session would conclude on February 13 instead of on February 15.

The second leg of the Session will commence on March 8.

Here are the updates:

Rajya Sabha | 3 pm

“There was a feeling that development sector allocation was not kept up. The Department of Health and Family Welfare saw an increase of 23% allocation,” she says.

This Budget is for atmanirbhar Bharat, she stresses, adding, “We respect the honest taxpayer and properly utilise their money. We clearly show the money we are spending. A classic case is observing food subsidy. The balance sheet of Food Corporation of India has improved.”

Responding to former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s allegation that “major numbers are suspect in the Budget”, she highlights three instances in 2007-08 Budget, saying those numbers were suspect.

Rajya Sabha | 2.30 pm

9.7% increase in actual Health Budget: Sitharaman

On disinvestment, Ms. Sitharaman says many newspapers have hailed it as a bold policy. “‘Belated, but bold’, their headline read,” she says.

“Repeatedly, we hear that the 1991 reforms were important. The entire range that the Congress covered- high socialism, hybrid socialism, and then licence raj. They then came down from that high socialism to capitalism.”

This is consistent with our ideology, the Minister says.

On allocation for Defence, she says, “data will show you that pension arrears of last year were due to OROP implementation. We have only increased in terms of capital expenditure for defence.”

On Health, she says, “it was alleged that by bringing drinking water and sanitation under this, we are not showing the entire picture. And probably expenditure for the core area has come down.” She quotes WHO to justify including drinking water and sanitation in the Health Budget. She claims 9.7% increase in actual Health Budget.

“Let’s not get carried away by debate the budget for core three departments under the health head has increased,” she says.

On PM Kisan Samman Yojana, she says, “benefits worth 1.15 lakh crores have been submitted in over 10 crore families’ bank accounts. We have not cut down Rs. 10,000 crore. This is rationalisation. The main reason is that in allocation of PM Kisan Yojana, the farmers of West Bengal have not received the funds. This is why the numbers came down. We took the entire country and wanted every farmer to benefit. But there is a State who refuses to come on board,” she says.

The Opposition keeps saying the MNREGA is theirs, she says. “You may have given birth to the scheme but you left it in a mess.” “We removed all the ills out of the scheme and used it effectively.”

She gives statistics and says that during the UPA, funds were not properly utilised.

“In 2020-21, we gave Rs. 61,000 crores before the pandemic hit. Now it is more than Rs. 90,000 crore- the highest ever allocation.”

“Your allegation that you did not meet the Budgeted Estimate for MNREGA. The Budget Estimate of 73,000 crore is higher than last year,” she says.

On unemployment, she says, “immediately after PMGKY, within which we provided employees money from their account, The government stepped in to pay the PF contribution of employees and employers. That money went to over 38 lakh employees and to 2.3 lakh establishments.”

“A lot of people questioned us about MSMEs. Since 2019, we have taken a lot of steps to assist the MSME sector. There was a self-reliance fund with seed money of Rs. 10,000 crore,” she says.

During the pandemic we came up with an emergency liquidity scheme, she says, elaborating that as on February 10, 94 lakh MSME units had benefited.

Rajya Sabha | 2.15 pm

Nirmal Sitharaman begins her reply

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman begins her reply on the Union Budget discussion.

“About 48 members have spoken, fairly in great detail. I will reply to all of them,” she says.

“Post-pandemic and post-global contraction, economies have suffered all over the world. The attempt that has been made in this Budget is to provide a strong stimulus and have a multiplier effect. We are looking for medium and long-term growth.”

“Government has heard the views, opinions and suggestions from various policy makers of the country and collated all their thoughts together,” the Finance Minister says.

“Building Atmanirbhar Bharat reflects the aspirations of people of India, two-thirds of who are youth. The youth is not looking only for assistance, they are looking for an ecosystem.”

“The reforms that our government is introducing will bring is sustained growth. The relief and succor that was so required for the people was provided.”

“It is worth mentioning that 800 million people were provided free food grain. 400 million, including women, farmers and divyang, got cash transfers.”

Ms. Sitharaman says it has now become a habit for some in the Opposition to constantly allege, “in spite of what we are doing for the poor, a false narrative that this government works only for cronies.”

“More than 1.76 crore houses under PM Awas Yojana, 2.76 crore houses electrified- Are these for the rich?” she asks. She adds, the Opposition, “is unthinkingly throwing allegations.”

“9 crore fellowships. Who are these fellowships going to? To cronies? To the rich? 9 crores registered under the PM Fasal Bima Yojana. These are not big farmers.”

She asks who benefited from these? “Damad?” (son-in-law) she asks.

The Congress protests the usage of the word.

Damad or son-in-law exists in every house. Why are you taking offence?” Ms. Sitharaman responds.

“There is credible proof who this government is working for. Delivery and performance in last-mile connectivity is a distinct achievement of our government.”

Rajya Sabha | 1.50 pm

In his maiden speech, Syed Zafar Islam of BJP congratulates the Finance Minister for the Budget. “It as the worst time to present a Budget. There were a lot of problems to tackle. Nirmala Sitharaman exceeded the promises made in this year’s Budget.”

He says the Sachar Committee report is a reflection of how “you (UPA) government neglected the minority government,” referencing Kapil Sibal’s speech from yesterday.

Vivek Thakur of BJP says, “This is a Budget that brings in a complete directional change.” He adduces data in support of the reforms envisaged by the three farm laws

Rajya Sabha | 1.30 pm

Dinesh Trivedi announces resignation from Rajya Sabha

Dinesh Trivedi announcing he will resign from the Rajya Sabha on February 12, 2021.

Dinesh Trivedi announcing he will resign from the Rajya Sabha on February 12, 2021.
 
| Photo Credit: RSTV

 

Dinesh Trivedi of TMC says, “It feels unnatural for me to sit quietly when there is so much violence in my State.  I am part of a party and so bound by party discipline. I feel suffocated.”

“Swami Vivekanand has said ‘arise, awake, and stop not until the goal is reached.’ And I cannot keep quite.”

With that, he announces that he will resign from Rajya Sabha.

Rajya Sabha | 1.15 pm

‘We did not talk of zero loss’

Rajeev Chandrashekar of BJP says, “this Budget is a landmark Budget. The worst economic crisis that India faced in centuries is behind now us. In September last year, 23% contraction was used to paint a doomsday scenario. This once in a lifetime of crisis is also an opportunity to rebuild our economy”

“This Budget is designed to ensure growth and jobs. The government spending will lead to job growth. It ensures expansion of manufacturing and focuses on wellness. The Budget is bringing in financial sector expansion and transparency.”

He counters Kapil Sibal’s claims that the government is indulging in data juggerly. “We are not the ones who spoke about zero loss,” he says.

Hypocrisy is staple of opposition politics. This criticism of disinvestment is a classic game of Congress who have in the past have chosen Italian firms over local HAL to produce helicopters

Chaudhary Sukhram Singh Yadav raises the issue of his Twitter account being suspended. “I have not done anything for the government to direct Twitter to suspend my account. I have only posted about the farmers movement. There is nothing wrong in it.”

Rajya Sabha | 12.30 pm

‘Conduct IBPS exam in the Kannada language’

Satish Chandra Misra of BSP says he will speak on infrastructure available for cancer treatment. “We are not taking notice of over 5 lakh people who are dying of cancer each year. This is an alarming situation,” he says.

G.C. Chandrashekar of Congress says the Karnataka State government can’t afford the salary of govt officials. He blames the centre for not giving GST payouts to the State. “If the GST compensation is not given to the State, from a revenue-surplus State, Karnataka will become a revenue-deficit State,” he says.

“Four Cabinet Ministers are from Karnataka, but this is the gift that the State is getting,” he says.

Mr. Chandrashekar also asks that the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection Probationary Officer (IBPS) exams be conducted in the regional language of Kannada.

Rajya Sabha | 12.15 pm

‘Inequality between the rich and the poor has widened’

Deependra Singh Hooda of Congress says, “There has always been a difference in what the government says and actually does. The government that talks of atmanirbhar India has reduced the Budget of skill India. The so-called nationalist government has reduced the funds for pension for our soldiers.”

“This government has the highest rate of unemployment in 70 years. It has the highest fuel rates in 70 years. And the inequality between the rich and poor has widened far more in your tenure. Today, 1% of Indians own 73% of assets.”

“We had hoped that this Budget would answer the problems of farmers. It instead reduced the agricultural Budget by 8.5%.” “You look at the farm bills from the perspective of the rich corporates. Why is the government reluctant to legalise MSP?”

“I demand that the government immediately take two steps- one, reopen the door for the talks once again. Two, give compensation to the families of those farmers who have lost their lives in this agitation. Your stature won’t be reduced by listening to the farmers. I plead with you, please listen to them,” Mr. Hooda says.

Dr. Sasmit Patra, in the Chair, allows Minister Anurag Thakur to speak. Mr. Thakur says, “They talk of MSP, but let me tell you that we have given 2.5 times more MSP than the UPA govt.”

Rajya Sabha | 12 pm

Point of Order raised

Sanjay Singh of AAP says, “This Budget is set to sell India’s assets. BPCL, SAIL, Airports – these aren’t private property, these are owned by 131 crore Indians.”

“PM Modi made fun of the farmers by calling them ‘andolanjeevi‘. By calling the agitating farmers andolanjeevi, you have also insulted Mahatma Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar, Rammanohar Lohia…we are proud of the andolankaris.”

“Chaudhary Charan Singh was named here. Charan Singh’s followers are sitting there on the border of Delhi and you are making them suffer,” Mr. Singh says.

Members raise Point of Order.

MoS Parliamentary Affairs V. Muraleedharan quotes Rule 240 asking Mr. Singh to not raise irrelevant issues and limit himself to the the Budget discussions.

Mr. Singh points out that Bharatiya Mazdoor Sanghtan, “which is your own organisation has opposed your policies of privatisation.” “You don’t let farmers speak there (at the border) and here, I am not allowed to speak.”

Rajya Sabha | 11.50 pm

‘General direction of Budget is to withdraw support for agricultural sector’

Deve gowda addressing the Rajya Sabha on February 12, 2021.

Deve gowda addressing the Rajya Sabha on February 12, 2021.
 
| Photo Credit: RSTV

 

Former Prime Minister H.D. Devegowda of JD(S) compliments the government for the Budget presented. “MNREGA which proved to be one of the saving grace of our country’s economy and creating employment saw a Budget cut. The government did little after removing the main safety net for rural India,” Mr. Gowda says.

“The general direction of the Budget is to withdraw the support for the agricultural sector,” he says.

Rajya Sabha | 11.40 am

‘Intellectual dishonesty’

Bhupender Yadav of BJP says, “I thank PM Modi that in these challenging times too he brought us a Budget of hope.”

He accuses the Opposition of misreading statistics to create fear among people. He counters Congress leader P. Chidambaram’s remarks from yesterday, and says that it is intellectual dishonesty to quote numbers out of context.

He quotes Chaudhary Charan Singh, who had argued that PSUs should have been privatised a long time ago instead of being fed tax payer’s money. 

“Those who speak about farmers have never heard farmer’s views. The three farm laws will bring new life to the rural economy. Which is why the government is speaking to farmers keeping an open mind,” Mr. Yadav says.

Rajya Sabha | 11.30 am

‘Indian team won in Australia because of religious unity in the team’

Shaktisin Gohil of Congress says  a mother does not discriminate between her two sons, doesn’t tell her younger son to become aatmanirbhar. “But this government wants the poor to be aatmanirbhar but provides protection to friendly corporates. “

“You present lucrative schemes but with a terms and conditions. You said senior citizens do not have to file income tax but then terms and conditions were applied,” he says.

“You have zero duty on scrap imported from foreign countries, but slap 2.5% duty on scrap collected here,” he adds.

“40% tax has to be given to States, so this government is slapping cess that has not to be shared with States.”

“I want to explain how the mandis will be shut if farm laws are implemented? whenever you sell a product you have to pay tax to APMC, if products are sold outside and tax is not paid, how will APMC survive? Don’t assume that farmers are fool, they have understood,” he says.

“India cricket team that won in Australia comprised a Hindu, Sikh, Christian and a Muslim. We won because of this unity. They want to break this,” he says and the Treasury Benches object to his religion reference.

“Manmohan Singh had constituted a committee of which CM Narendra Modi was the head. He had said in the report that MSP should not be removed. Now that same person, after become PM is misquoting Dr. Singh and Shard Pawar,” he says.

Rajya Sabha | 11.20 am

Bhoomi, akasham, pathalam, all for FDI’

Binoy Viswam of CPI says this government will become the executive committee of the Bourgeoisie. You have given bhoomi, akasham, pathalam… all for FDI. This government is for FDI.  The market model has failed everywhere, including the USA,” he says.

“You put sanitation, health, and nutrition under one basket and claim there is a hike in allotment. There is actually a decease of allocation in the times of pandemic,” he says.

Rajya Sabha | 11 am

‘No reservation in private sector’

Ashok Siddharth of BSP says the Budget does not offer anything for a large section of the people of the country. “There is no reservation in private sector. Will the government provide reservation benefits to SC/ST who will be left out if banks and other public sector units are privatised by the government?” asks Mr. Siddharth.

“Bring reservation in private sector to benefit 25% SC community members. Government is saying 1 lakh 26 thousand crore allocated for SCs in the Budget, but this should be increased.”

Rajya Sabha | 10.45 am

‘Unbridled growth of corporates’

Abir Ranjan Biswas of TMC says there has been no explanation of sector-specific revival of the economy. “The Budget allows for unbridled growth of corporates. This government is for, by and of the capitalists,” he says.

“They intend to privatise two more public sector banks, but haven’t mentioned which ones.”

“LIC has been sacrificed at the altar of crony capitalists,” Mr. Biswas says.

“The Rs. 100 crore package announced for tea plantation workers in Assam and West Bengal has come down to Rs. 2,000 per worker for the entire year. There are 5 lakh such workers,” Mr. Biswas says.

M.V. Shreyams Kumarof LJD says the Budget has shown anger and false sense of ego. “There has been a 34% reduction in Budget in comparison with the previous one,” he says. He asks that MPLADS fund be reinstated.

Rajya Sabha | 10.30 am

Discussion on Union Budget continues

MoS Finance Anurag Singh Thakur addressing the Rajya Sabha during a discussion on the Union Budget on February 12, 2021.

MoS Finance Anurag Singh Thakur addressing the Rajya Sabha during a discussion on the Union Budget on February 12, 2021.
 
| Photo Credit: RSTV

 

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will respond to Budget discussion at 2 p.m. in Rajya Sabha, says Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

MoS Finance Anurag Thakur speaks now.

“There has been a 34.4% increase in capital expenditure in this Budget. We have set a target to make India TB free by 2025,” he says.

“Why did you privatise the six airports and gave it to two particular families?” the minister questions the Congress government’s policies.

Referring to former PM Manmohan Singh, he says, “Doctor saab was an honest man but there was no department under him where there was no corruption.”

“Why is the middle class aspiring to buy houses?” the Minister asks, adding, “because we exempted them from income tax returns for a year.”

“The Budget allocation for PM-Kisan scheme was slashed by Rs. 10,000, said a TMC member. I will tell you why it was slashed. It was slashed because the West Bengal government did not provide names. Democracy has died in West Bengal.”

“We are committed to doubling the farmers’ income.”

“Why did you not create agriculture infrastructure in past 65 years? How can agriculture cess increase the price of diesel and petrol? Where is it written in the farm laws that mandis will be shut and MSP will be withdrawn?” the Minister asks.

“You want negative news to run,” he alleges, addressing the Opposition.

“India was among the five most fragile and worst economies in the world when we came to power, but under the Narendra Modi government, India is among the top six economies in the world,” he says.

Rajya Sabha | 10 am

Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti says during COVID-19, migrant labourers would not have got work had it not been for MGNREGA. “There has been no proposal by the Centre to increase 100-work days under MGNREGA. The States can increase. Kerala and two other States have done it.”

“In M.P’s Morena, how many are eligible under MGNREGA,” asks Ramgopal Yadav of SP. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, says 14 crore job cards have been issued under MGNREGA. “10 crore people are working, and women participation is 52%. I can provide district wise data later.”

On being asked about the surge in demand in MGNREGA, Minister Tomar says, “whenever demand is created, efforts are on to meet the demands. The Budget has increased, Rs. 1,11,000 crore has been allocated and Rs. 90,000 crore has been disbursed to the States.”

Responding to a suggestion of having systems in place for inspection of safety of railways bridges, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal says, “there are 34,665 bridges in the Indian Railways which are more than 100 years old. We have a scientific system of inspection.”

Union Minister Rameshwar Teli says two mega food parks have been sanctioned in Gujarat.

Union Agriculture Minister Tomar, on being asked if the government intends to give subsidy on diesel to farmers, says, “We have given Rs. 80,000 crore subsidy on fertilisers and also on solar pumps …our intention is to ensure that farmers’ income increases.”

“The three farm laws are a step in the direction to increase farmers income,” says MoS Agriculture Kailash Chowdhury.

“There is no such category as COVID-19 vaccine and for the Commerce Ministry to come out with a code for only that type of vaccine is not our mandate. The export of COVID-19 vaccines started only in January. There has been no significant increase in the overall export. 15 million dollar increase only. Rupees 338 crore worth of export of COVID-19 vaccine,” says Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal.

Question Hour ends.

Rajya Sabha | 9.30 am

Question Hour begins

Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu presides over the sitting on February 12, 2021.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu presides over the sitting on February 12, 2021.
 
| Photo Credit: RSTV

Mansukh L. Mandaviya, MoS Chemicals and Fertilisers, says the share of generic medicines in India’s market has increased from 2% (in 2014) to 8% now. “Government has directed doctors to only mention generic salt names of medicines not the brand names in prescriptions.”

Many notified medicines are not available in Jan Ashudhi stores, says Ashok Vajpayee of BJP.

A Member’s phone rings, Chairman says, “you should know how to switch off your phone. If not, seek help from your neighbour.”

Rajya Sabha | 9 am

Zero Hour begins

Maharaja Sanajaoba Leishemba in the Rajya Sabha on February 12, 2021.

Maharaja Sanajaoba Leishemba in the Rajya Sabha on February 12, 2021.
 
| Photo Credit: RSTV

 

Rajmani Patel of Congress asks that a Buddhist temple in Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa be developed as a national heritage site.

B. Lingaiah Yadav of TRS speaks in Telugu.

Maharaja Sanajaoba Leishemba of BJP asks that the Manipuri language in Manipuri script be included in the Indian currency notes.

Ashok Siddharth of BSP says 60 lakh Dalit children should get 100% scholarship. Thawar Chand Gehlot responds, “according to the ongoing scheme, the funds had to be shared by States and Centre. Many States were deprived of funds due to the ration, we changed that and said that 60% will  be paid by Centre and remaining 40% by States. Centre continues to provide the funding.”

Mujibullah Khan of BJD asks if the toilets built under Swaccha Bharat scheme are seen only on paper. “I want to know this from the Centre. There are anomalies in its implementation. Make a squad to go and check in States if toilets are indeed being constructed.”

K. Ravindra Kumar of TDP speaks in Telugu.

Bikash Ranjan of CPI-M says the government is proposing to reduce nine institutes into four clusters. “It will impact disabled persons, I ask that it be decentralised.”

Manoj Kumar Jha of RJD asks for a high level committee to be constituted to probe the “fudging in COVID-19 testing in Bihar”.

Shamsher Singh Dullo of Congress says that SC Students suffering in Punjab as Centre has not released its share of funds. Union Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot says it is incorrect to say that Punjab has not received the funds. “Punjab has not submitted utilisation certificate, matter was examined by courts also.”

Agenda

Rajya Sabha

Reports to be presented:

Reports of the department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence

Reports of the department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development

Reports of the department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment

Report of the Committee on Empowerment of Women

General Discussion on the Union Budget

Agenda

Lok Sabha

Reports to be presented:

Reports of Committee on Petitions

Report of Committee on Empowerment of Women

Reports of Standing Committee on Defence

Reports of Standing Committee on Rural Development

Reports of Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment

General Discussion on the Union Budget

Legislative business:

The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (for consideration and passing)

Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020 (consideration of Rajya Sabha amendments)

Private Members’ business discussion



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