New Delhi, Aug 3 : Concerned over price rise, Opposition today warned that it will be forced to tell the government ‘Go, for God's sake, Go' if it failed to check the spiral, which has hit the common man hard, at the earliest.
Leading the charge, former Finance Minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who initiated a discussion in Lok Sabha on a motion expressing “deep concern” over price rise, blamed government policies for the situation and said, “We will not accept inflation of more than three per cent”.
Hitting out at the Congress which came to power on the ‘aam aadmi' plank, he alleged that government policies have helped the profiteers, blackmarketeers, hoarders and the corrupt to “loot” the common man of an additional Rs six lakh crore in the past three years.
“The amount is huge given the fact that the revenue of the government this year is to the tune of Rs 6.64 lakh crore,” he said.
“We totally reject the theory that growth is required at any cost. Growth for what? To dispossess the poor and push them further into the vortex of poverty”, he said, adding “the poorest of the poor at the bottom strata of our society does not understand high GDP growth at 8-9 per cent”.
“As Oliver Cromwell told a British Prime Minister in his time ‘Go, for God's sake. In the name of God, Go, Go', this House will tell you the same and will not tolerate” if the government failed to check rising prices, he said referring to the famous words of the English statesman to parliament in 1653.
Making a strong plea for firmly bringing corruption under control, Sinha was critical of the anti-poverty schemes including UPA's flagship NREGA saying there were massive irregularities in its implementation.
“In such a situation, you will not be able to control prices,” he said, adding faulty implementation of schemes like NREGA would lead to corruption which will give rise to conspicuous consumption.
Faced with a delicate situation after the opposition stalled parliament for two days, Government had yesterday arrived at a compromise with the Opposition to take up the discussion on price rise under a rule which entails voting. The motion, however, is a consensual one and has been so worded that the Congress-led alliance can also associate with it. CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta has, however, moved an amendment to it.
Sinha took a dig at Manmohan Singh, thanking the “economist Prime Minister” for sitting through the debate. He also had a word of caution for Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that he could lose elections as “I lost mine when I failed to listen to the poor old woman in my constituency on price rise”.
When an Opposition member pointed out that the Prime Minister does not have to contest an election as he is from Rajya Sabha, the BJP leader remarked that “those who don't have to contest polls are happy people”.
During his hour-long speech, Sinha asked the government to focus on bringing down food inflation, which “travels laterally” by affecting other sectors, and take strong steps to check corruption.
Reminding that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had said in 2005 that the prices were rising due to futures trading, the former Finance Minister wanted to know why six years down the line, the government had not taken any step to stop it. He also defended the NDA government for having started futures trading saying “we did it when we were managing an economy of surpluses.... Please go ahead and stop it now”. Sinha came down heavily on the moves to bring FDI in retail sector, warning that it was “fraught with dangerous consequences” for the country as American companies like WalMart were known to have “destroyed” farmers and small retailers in the US and Mexico.
“I want to warn ... we know there is US pressure for allowing FDI in retail sector. Please don't succumb to that pressure”, he said.
Sinha wanted the government to impose restrictions on the flight of capital from India, saying a whopping sum of USD 44 billion was invested abroad by Indian corporates whereas FDI worth USD 27 billion came into the country. “Liberalisation does not mean that the country should suffer. The poor face problems and the rich leave the country,” he said, adding that “a government which is helpless cannot help anyone”.
Pointing out that government godowns were full, he asked why the government was not giving foodgrains to the poor at a time when the food was rotting. “Release 40 million tonnes of foodgrains and see how much prices come down”.
In this regard, he recalled how the BJP-led NDA had utilised the 65 million tonnes of foodgrains it had during the worst drought of 2002-03 for helping the common man.
“People go to sleep hungry. They die of hunger. But you do not distribute foodstocks from your godown as it would lead to government deficit.... Price rise is the worst form of tax on the poor,” Sinha said in his stinging criticism of government policies.
The BJP leader regretted that instead of taking “pro-active” steps, the government has left inflation control to the RBI which has raised the interest rates as many as 11 times in the recent past.
JD-U leader Sharad Yadav asked the government to withdraw diesel subsidy being enjoyed by car owners, telecom operators and malls. He said diesel consumed by telecom towers was causing an estimated loss of Rs 48 crore daily. “Four lakh telecom towers are there in the country. They are enjoying Rs 3.80 subsidy per litre, which is meant for farmers. Why are you giving subsidy to the telecom operators, big malls, hotels and car owners?”, Yadav asked “We should charge an additional amount of Rs 4 per litre diesel from the telecom operators and this should be distributed among farmers. Thus we can control the spiralling prices of essential commodities,” Yadav said. Law Minister Salman Khurshid said government had taken a number of fiscal measures like reducing import duties, suspended futures trading in rice and certain pulses to rein in prices.
He admitted that inflation was on the rise since December last year but attributed it to the increase in the petroleum prices globally.
Khurshid also dismissed Opposition allegations that the government was pursuing growth at any cost. “We have learnt a great deal from the Prime Minister on growth strategies but we have never heard the concept of ‘growth at any rate'.
“We have to ensure enough growth that can allow us to help the poor. We do not believe in growth at any rate,” Khurshid said. PTI