December 12, 2022
Saugata Roy’s speech on the Supplementary Demands for Grants – First Batch for 2022-2023
Hon. Chairperson Sir, I rise to speak on the Supplementary Demands for Grants. This is not an opportunity to criticize any of the Ministers but an opportunity to take stock of the economic situation in the country. Sir, there is a total supplementary grant of Rs. 39.45 lakh crore out of which Rs. 1.1 lakh crore goes towards fertilizer subsidy. It has been mentioned that this is due to the rise in urea prices as a result of the Ukraine-Russia war. Extension to Garib Kalyan Yojana will cost Rs.44,000 crore. More capital needed for general insurance, as its solvency margins have dipped. Rs.80,348 crore is kept towards food subsidy, including Garib Kalyan Yojana which is a
good scheme. Though we are buying the cheapest petrol in the world, still Rs.29.9 lakh crore is kept towards extra subsidy on petrol. Rs.13,669 crore is kept towards telecom to bring 5G to Jio, not to BSNL and MTNL. Rs.12,000 crore is kept towards railways, which is a good thing. Only you have to be careful that the Vande Bharat trains do not collide with the cattle. You must find out a technical solution to this cattle problem. Rs.10,000 crore is kept towards GST compensation. The Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) has been augmented by
Rs.31,000 crore. Now, nobody can have any quarrel with these Supplementary Demands. This is necessary. The Government will have to spend it. But, if I may remind the Finance Minister that two years ago, we had the Corona pandemic. We saw pictures of migrant labour walking to their village homes –all on foot –dying on the road and being run over by trains. Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, the young
economist who is a Nobel Prize winner, suggested that these people should be given a cash subsidy of at least Rs.10,000 crore. This cash subsidy of Rs.10,000 crore would not only put money in their hands but also allow them to buy a few things. That would also allow the money to circulate. The Finance Minister remained impervious to this plain demand of the most hapless people whom I have seen. It is worse than any migration in the history of mankind. This did not happen. Sir, now we will have to discuss about the economic situation. How is the economic situation under the Finance Minister, Shrimati Nirmala Sitharaman? I would say that India as a country has withstood the headwinds. There has been economic recession throughout the world. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has affected the world economy. When our rupee is falling against the dollar, some people have said that even the yen is down; the Chinese currency has fallen by 15 per cent; the British pound has fallen by seven per cent; so, it is a general problem. But I have not heard one statement from the Government to say what they are doing to improve the value of the rupee vis-à-vis the dollar. The Government has remained totally silent to this. Now the economists are saying that it will remain flat. Now rupee is at Rs.81.1 against the dollar. I remember that a few years back our rupee was Rs.45 to a dollar. Now it is Rs.81. The Government has not expressed the concern that it should have in this matter.
The other thing is with regard to the GDP growth. Any country’s economy is measured by the GDP growth. The World Bank estimates that the GDP growth for the FY 2023 is at 6.9 per cent. Now this will depend on whether inflation will moderate or not. Inflation was 6.77 per cent in October 2022. It came down a little compared to 7.4 per cent in September, 2022. The rise is mainly in food. I saw a very pleasant picture of the Finance Minister going like a common housewife to a market in Chennai buying vegetables. She must have realized how bad it is for the common middle-class people who are hit by inflation. The Reserve Bank has repeatedly raised the Repo Rate, the rate at which
it lends to banks. But it has failed to control inflation. I admit that it is not a runaway inflation but inflation all the same, and it is having an impact on the common man’s pocket. RBI’s tolerance band was six per cent. We have not been able to reach RBI’s tolerance band. The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) was slightly down to 8.39 in October from 10.7 in September, 2022. Inflation, as I mentioned, is 6.77
per cent in October, 2022. Have we left to the Reserve Bank alone, to their monetary policy, to control inflation or does the Government have anything to say about inflation? I read the newspapers every day expecting the Finance Minister to come out with a bold statement. But I do not see it. I see the Governor of the Reserve Bank speaking more than he should. But never the Finance Minister speaks anything about inflation. The other thing that I should mention is that the core sector is in a bad way. Its growth slowed down to 0.1 per cent and reached to 20-month low in October. Urban employment is still very high. Unemployment rate rose to eight per cent in November, which is the highest in three months. Urban employment rate rose to 8.9 per cent. I have not seen a single statement from the Government as to what they are doing vis-à-vis the employment situation. Yes, I have said that some steps taken by the Government were good. Capital expenditure stood at 46.8 per cent higher than what it was during the same period last year. GST revenues have increased significantly. The good side is that the MGNREGA declined in October by 7.5 per cent. That means, less people are going for this wage employment. There is more buoyancy in the rural areas in agriculture, which is a good thing. But again since ours is a rollercoaster ride, it is good in something and bad in something else. Like, merchandise export fell to a 20-month low in October, 2022. The export was the
worse, and the Indian rupee depreciated to 2.6 per cent against the US dollar. Sir, what I want to say is that the global headwinds are not nice. The Indian economy has sown resilience. Overall, agriculture has been excellent. For two years, we have a good agriculture production and our farmers have shown a lot of strength. We are claiming to be the third biggest economy. We are already the fifth, and going to become a five-trillion-dollar economy by 2026-27. But our GDP growth has slowed down to 6.3 per cent. The fiscal deficit is at 45.6 per cent of a full year’s target already in October, 2022. The manufacturing sector, I told you, has declined. It needs policy support from the Government. None has been forthcoming. Services sector alone – trade, hotel and transport services – has kept up the growth momentum, in the post-COVID situation, of the economy. They need to be congratulated for that. So, we need to think out of the box. The main problem is that these percentages mentioned are not being felt by the common man. There are two primary problems – inflation and unemployment. Job creation has slowed down after uneven recovery. The other sector which needs the Finance Minister’s attention is the banking sector. I saw a statement and I do not know whether it is economically correct. He said that NPAs are up by 365 per cent under PM Modi. That is the statement of Mr. Kharge. I do not know about it. Hon. Finance Minister may clarify. In the last five years, Rs. 10 lakh crore were written off to help banks halve their NPAs. The Government has written off Rs. 10 lakh crore and thus, banks have halved their NPAs. Banks have recovered only Rs. 1.32 lakh crore from write-offs in five years ending March, 2022. Sir, the industry is pressing for two things. They have been asking for decriminalising the GST law and lowering of personal IT rates. The industry says
that shrinking exports with high deficit call for a policy reboot. Food and fuel inflation must be controlled. Having said all this, let me state quite clearly that the Indian economy and the world economy are at a crossroads. Instead of boasting that we are going to be a USD 5 trillion economy, we have to remember that globally, lay-offs are taking place. The US tech companies – Twitter and Meta – are cutting down employment. Ultimately, this will also have an effect on the Indian IT firms like TCS, Infosys and Wipro. The manufacturing contraction shows why RBI should pause rate hikes. Having said all this, Sir, I have posed the main problems of the Indian economy before the Finance Minister. This is the last time she will make a detailed statement in the House before she presents the Budget. She has
already started the pre-budget consultations. I do think that she will clear the cobwebs and doubts in our minds regarding the position of the economy. Now, I come to my last point. I would urge the Finance Minister to be more charitable and fair towards West Bengal. She has no particular constituency to cater to. She is a Tamilian based in Andhra Pradesh and stays in Delhi. So, she can be fair to everybody. … (Interruptions) And as Mr. Danish Ali pointed out, she is in the Upper House, elected from Karnataka. The Government of West
Bengal hashuge pending dues from the Central Government. Some people say it is Rs. 1,00,000 crore. There are pending dues of Rs. 7,300 crore under MGNREGS alone and huge amounts under Housing for All. We do not have a full-fledged Cabinet Minister of Finance now in West Bengal. There is a Minister of State for Finance over there.She can call and she can sort out some of the financial demands. My friend Dayanidhi Maran mentioned many projects in Railways that were started. I would request the Finance Minister to give some extra money to Railways which will help Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw to modernise the Railways where Vande Bharat trains have been hit by cattle. We have many ready projects in West Bengal awaiting completion, like the remaining part of Kolkata Metro including the suburbs, and the ArambaghBishnupur line. All these lines are pending completion for a long time. We have been neglected. Now, the Lok Sabha elections are year-and-a-half away. It is time to bury old enmities, put country on a pedestal, and march towards becoming a better country in the 75th year of our Independence. Let us forget our old rivalries. As my friend Mr. Dayanidhi rightly mentioned, strong States
mean a strong Centre. On behalf of West Bengal, I plead with the Finance Minister to help us become strong in the State of West Bengal. Thank you, Sir.