New Delhi: Opposition today slammed the Budget as “directionless” and said the government has made false promises as the economy continues to struggle with falling investments and dipping employment generation.
“This budget is full of platitudes. It lacks direction and vision,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said initiating the debate on the Budget in Rajya Sabha.
Lashing out at the government for reducing budgetary support for social sector and agriculture, the former Union Minister said the budget is “anti-poor” and “for the rich”.
Sharma said the credit for devolution of more funds to the states should go to the UPA regime as it had set up the 14th Finance Commission. The increased devolution of funds to the states is only a “mirage”.
He said the economy, rather than making a turnaround, is now struggling even though the NDA government had inherited a “strong economy”.
“The ground reality today is that investment is falling, off take is weak, export is falling, manufacturing is low and jobs are not being created. It is a recovering and struggling economy, not a surging economy,” the Congress leader said.
Taking a dig at the government for not fulfilling its promises on bringing back black money stashed abroad, Sharma said there is no need for a separate law as the existing legal framework is “adequate enough” to deal with the menace.
As the Congress leader elaborated on budgetary cuts for various ministries such as Women and Child Development and Education, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley intervened to say the government is giving more funds to the states now.
“Some of the (Central) schemes will go to the states as per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. We should keep this in mind,” Jaitley said.
Wondering whether the government has any blueprint for proposed smart cities, Sharma said first the priority should be improve civic amenities of the existing towns and cities.
Disagreeing with government's contention that the states would benefit, Sharma said the plan outlay to the states has been substantially reduced and they would be further burdened when tax collections fall short of projections.
With a struggling economy, the Congress leader wondered if the government would be able to achieve 15 to 16 per cent increase in tax collection.
“The collection will not be more than 11.5 per cent and tax revenue may be less than Rs 70,000 crore,” he said.
Prabhat Jha (BJP) said the budget is a reflection of the govenment's commitments towards the welfare of the people and slammed the Opposition for their criticism of the budget.
Naresh Agrawal (SP) also attacked government for pruning budgetary allocation for important sectors like agriculture and education while “pampering” the corporate sector.
Highlighting India's relations with the neighbouring nations, he batted for higher allocation to defence sector which has been kept unchanged compared to the previous budget.
Agrawal also wondered why the government could not take “revolutionary” steps when it has a clear majority and found it pointless to carry on with loss-making public sector units.
Pavan Kumar Varma (JD-U) said the budget is “lop-sided” and “there is no balance in the budget in relation to holistic development of the country.”
He said the budget brought out two principal philosophies of the government—to incentivise the corporate sector and foreign investors at the expense of poor and middle class people; and spectacular abdication of states.
This philosophy was perhaps based on the assumption that the rich might invest “something” in the economy while poor can wait for five years and middle class “has already voted in the last election.”
Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) also attacked the government for reducing allocation on welfare schemes such as Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and mocked at it for provisioning Rs 100 crore for “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” programme.
He also criticised the government for not paying proper attention to the poor in the budget even as one-third of the world's poorest of the poor live in the country.
“It's a shame on the part of the government,” he said.