The Opposition took on the government in Lok Sabha on Wednesday over the economic slowdown, marked by a six-year low GDP growth of 4.5 per cent during the second quarter of the ongoing fiscal.
Opening the discussion on Supplementary Demands for Grants, Congress member Shashi Tharoor said manufacturing growth has come down to an average 3 per cent in the past five years, and the automobile sector is among the worst hit in the last two decades.
Tharoor said consumer spending has come down, national rural poverty has risen, and 30 million people have fallen below India’s official poverty line. “We have seen a decline in consumption…including (that) of essential food items,” Tharoor said, adding that the government has had a “dismal record of budgetary failure”.
“You will see slippages in fiscal deficit this year,” he said, and sought to know the government’s roadmap for making India a $5-trillion economy by 2024.
Shiv Sena leader Vinayak Raut said traders, farmers and the youth are unhappy, and claimed that the Mudra scheme to provide loans to marginal sections of society has the maximum number of non-performing assets.
D N V Senthilkumar of the DMK said there is a need to increase the fund limit under Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme.
Just before Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman got up to reply to the discussion, Congress floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury expressed his regret for calling the Finance Minister as “Nirbala” (weak), and called her his sister.
BJP member Nishikant Dubey, who faced sarcastic references from Opposition members for his remarks questioning the “relevance” of GDP, received support from Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJD. Mahtab called for a debate in greater detail on the issue.
Among others who participated in the discussion included BJP member Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BSP’s Danish Ali and RSP’s N K Premachandran.
The discussion also touched upon the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. After National Conference’s Hasnain Masoodi referred to the house arrest of his party leader and MP from Srinagar Farooq Abdullah, Minister of State in PMO Jitendra Singh said the Union Territory saw one of the most peaceful festive seasons in decades.
Masoodi also referred to restrictions on Internet and demanded that people be allowed to offer prayers at the grave of Sheikh Abdullah on his birth anniversary on Thursday. Singh reminded the House that (under a Congress government) Sheikh Abdullah had been detained 2,000 km away in Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu), while Farooq Abdullah is staying in own home.
BJD’s Mahtab said normalcy in J&K does not end with the issue of Farooq Abdullah and political leaders’ arrests. Normalcy, he asserted, will be restored when Kashmiri Pandits, who had been driven out of the Valley, returned to their homes. They too deserved justice, he said.
Trinamool member Saugata Roy said the government should pull up those responsible for the “failure” of Chandrayan-2 mission. He made this suggestion while objecting to the government’s decision to provide additional funds to the Department of Space.
This led to a strong reaction from BJP members, who insisted that Roy take back his words. BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi, who was in the chair, said that historically India’s space programme has done very well and that the member should know that.