Saturday, Mar 08, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
Leading the attack on behalf the Congress(I), Jyotiraditya Scindia, called the budget "long on rhetoric but short on substance" since it various proposals would translate into "nothing". For instance, on poverty eradication a paltry sum of Rs. 507 crores had been provided under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana for 50 lakh below the poverty line (BPL) families, which translated into Rs. 2.80 a day a family. "It will only remain garib ke pet me danna but will not provide them khana," Mr. Scindia said implying that the allocation would mean "a grain in the stomach of the poor but not a proper meal".
Why bleed farmers?
Quoting the Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, as having said that "agriculture was the lifeblood of our economy," Mr. Scindia wanted to know why the Government was "bleeding" the farmers and causing them to commit suicide. ''This budget like the past successive ones of this Government has increased the fertilizer prices and fuel prices."
The economy was on a downward spiral with the GDP growth rate lower than before, a negative growth in agriculture and industrial sectors and fiscal and revenue deficits overshooting estimated levels. Seventy per cent of the tax revenue was going towards debt servicing while revenue collection targets were unachievable. The allocation for education was "grossly low" while employment in the organised sector was shrinking.
Rupchand Pal of the CPI(M) described the budget as a "roadmap to further pauperisation and more joblessness". The budget was pro-rich, anti-poor and anti-farmer and reforms must be re-oriented in the interest of the common people.
A.K. Swain (BJP), however, supported the budget, but asked how loss-making public sector units were turning into profit-making ventures soon after being privatised.
He wanted the Government to reduce the mobile phone rates and increase the MPLADS fund from Rs. 2 crores to Rs. 3 crores a year. Bhratruhari Mahtab (BJD) wanted debt-restructuring scheme for those States whose debts were unsustainable.
Raghuvir Singh Kaushal (BJP) claimed that a huge amount of fertilizer subsidy was being pocketed by manufacturers and suggested a direct assistance to farmers. He said the budget addressed the concerns of all sections of society.
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