July 18, 2019
Saugata Roy speaks on The Finance (No. 2) Bill, 2019
Sir, I rise to speak on the Finance Bill.
The Finance Bill should normally deal with the tax proposals of the government but this Finance Bill deals with a lot of other things which it should not; I will mention that later.
Before starting my speech I have a suggestion to make to the government, I heard Mr Nishikant Dubey in silence and I suggest that he be made a minister of your government, since he knows so much about corruption that has taken place. Why is he not made the chief policeman of the government so that he can catch all? Why doesn’t the government catch all the wrong doers, put them in jail? Who is preventing them from doing so? They have an absolute majority. The shouting about old time corruption is again an attempt to confuse the people.
Madam, I shall remind you that in 2014, the Modi government had made two promises to the people – that all black money from abroad will be recovered and Rs 15 lakh will be put into the account of every Indian citizen. And secondly, two crore employment per year will be given. Five and a half years have passed; the promises have not been fulfilled. Mr Modi has proved to be an effective salesman, a dream merchant, who does not deal in reality.
Madam, November 8, 2016, was a black day for India when demonetisation of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes were done. It was promised that all black money in the country will be captured but three years later the black money has not been captured. The government has not given any figures on how much black money has been recovered due to demonetisation. They still talk about black money. We want a white paper from the government as to how many MSME units were closed because of demonetisation.
When the hurried implementation of GST took place, we had protested. We said that we support GST in principle, but it should not be done in a hurry. As a result of hurried implementation of GST, many small businesses have been closed in the country. The minister has not even mentioned demonetisation, the Finance Minister, in the whole budget speech. Demonetisation is a bad dream best forgotten. That is their theory.
Madam, the Finance Minister says, that the effort of tax proposals, that is in the Finance Bill, will aim to stimulate growth, incentivise affordable housing and encouraging start- ups by releasing entrepreneurial spirits. Madam, we are talking of a situation when the growth rate has fallen to 5.8%, unemployment is at an all time high of 6%, and growth of unemployment is the highest in 45 years. Madam, I may also mention that there is a decline in car sales, consumption is ebbing, the NBFC Non Banking Financial Companies crisis has aggravated the credit crunch, FDI is decelerating as well.
Madam, also exports have sunk to a 14-year low, as a percentage of GDP, and are unlikely to get an upgrade. Thus the present scenario with the factors which drive GDP growth is very pessimistic. You need 8 per cent growth per year to reach 5 trillion economy by the year promised. The government is thinking that there will be a miracle, but that it is not going to happen. One possibility is if our youth workforce becomes the world’s workforce. The budget declared that it would bring new programmes to skill youth for foreign employment. So, it is back to brain drain. But given the government is unskilled, skilling is hard to keep people’s hopes up. So, how we will reach 5 trillion economy? Not under Modi 2.0.
Let me go to tax proposals. Over Rs 2 crore, the surcharge is 25 percent and over Rs 5 crore, it is 37 per cent. One complaint is that the surcharges do not go to the State, they are not in the divisible pull and we protest against this on behalf of the State. The corporate companies have been given an advantage as this government is fully dependent on private investment for survival.
Tax on cash withdrawal is now 2 per cent over Rs 1 lakh. Then what will the tea gardens do? They will have to pay Rs 1000 to their workers, all in cash every month. So, this means they will have to pay an extra 2 per cent tax. As it is, tea gardens are in bad state. Road and Infrastructure Cess have been increased by Rs 1 per litre. Excise Duty has also been increased. These steps lead to inflation and it will create a lot of problems for the common man, and I oppose this.
Customs duty on gold and other precious metals will increase from 10 per cent to 12.5 per cent and I oppose this. Thousands of Bengali workers are employed in the jewellery trade in Mumbai and Surat and most of them will lose their jobs if tax on gold and other precious metals are raised. Tax on imports has also been raised and this will hit the newspaper industry. It seems that the government wants the newspaper industry to shut down. That is why they are creating such a situation so that they cannot express freely.
Madam, last year, and also the year before that, I had opposed inclusion of non-tax proposals in the Finance Bill. And now there are major legislative changes proposed in the Finance Bill. They include dispute resolution schemes, Central Goods and Services Act, Reserve Bank of India Act 1934, National Housing Bank Act 1897, Insurance Act 1938, Security Contract Regulation Act 1956 etc.
Madam, the point that has been raised earlier and I want to repeat that the Finance Bill is a Money Bill, it cannot be discussed in Rajya Sabha. So, it escapes proper legislative scrutiny. That’s why, they are bringing these Bills as Finance Bills so that they cannot be discussed in Rajya Sabha.
May I say, that it seems that for the first time, Madam, may I read, changes in the taxation regime may vary according to the government. Such changes can only be done by directly directed House like ours. However structural changes in our legal system, which are related to taxation should only be done through an established mechanism of scrutiny and deliberation of both houses of the Parliament. There is no reason to exclude the Rajya Sabha from deliberating on the changes of a permanent nature to the legal system on having its opinion at least.
This Finance Bill also includes GST. Madam, listen to this, with the introduction of the Bill, this is for the first time since the advent of indirect tax regime, the government has sought to bring amendments to the GST registration. This poses certain questions as to whether the government can amend the GST Law by including the proposal in the Finance Bill. Would this be a trend of the government to introduce amendments to the GST legislation, during the Union Budget, to the GST Council recommendations? And above all, can the government propose any amendment in the Bill which goes beyond the recommendations of GST Council? This is an important point. GST is representative to federalism. Now, if you include GST amendment in a Finance Bill, which cannot even be discussed in the Rajya Sabha you are actually taking away the power of the GST Council, and of federalism. What you should have done is to bring a GST Amendment Bill that would be discussed in both the Houses of Parliament. Now putting GST amendment into this is something that I strongly oppose.
Only two things have to be supported in this Bill, Madam. One, they have removed customs duty on defence goods, which is needed for the country. And the other is they have clarified the matter with regards to the angel investors, as far as the startups are concerned. I think this will help the growth of the startups.
Madam, overall this budget does not give any direction to the people. It will not release the animal spirit of entrepreneurship in the country. It will not take the country $5 trillion economy. It will not relieve the farmers who are committing suicide from their extreme misery. It will further exacerbate and hand over the family silver to private parties like selling off Air India and 1.90 lakh crore public sector shares to private parties. We shall fight against it.
To quote Nazrul Islam (why we are not stopping to protest)–
আমি সেই দিন হব শান্ত,বিদ্রোহী রণ-ক্লান্ত
যবে উৎপীড়িতের ক্রন্দন-রোল, আকাশে বাতাসে ধ্বনিবে না,
অত্যাচারীর খড়গ কৃপাণ ভীম রণ-ভূমে রণিবে না –
আমি আমি সেই দিন হব শান্ত!