Lok Sabha

February 10, 2021

Saugata Roy speaks during the discussion on the Union Budget in the Lok Sabha 

Saugata Roy speaks during the discussion on the Union Budget in the Lok Sabha 


Sir, I rise to speak on the Budget and in support of my cut motions against the government. Regarding any budget in the country, Mahatma Gandhi gave an advice: when you do something, think of the face of the poorest man that you know and consider whether your step will do anything to wipe off the tear of that man. Now, if we consider that criteria laid down by Mahatma Gandhi, this Budget fails because it has not given any sop to the poor, to the migrant labourers, agricultural labourers and jobless factory workers. That’s why I think this Budget is not good for the country.

Sir, the Finance Minister has gone to have her lunch. I do not deny her that but it would have been good had she been here. [There is Anurag Singh Thakur from Himachal who is her deputy here. He is mainly the Hindi translator. I do not know whether he decides on policy issues. – expunged by the Chair]

If I may say, I saw a film by Gurinder Chadha, an English director, the film being Bend It Like Beckham; now, this Budget should be called ‘Spend It Like Sitharaman’. She has spent money wilfully, in a profligate manner, without thinking of the fiscal consequences. I shall also say I looked up the who’s who of the Rajya Sabha. Nirmala Sitharaman is an MA in Economics from Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy College in Tiruchirappalli amd an MPhil from Jawaharlal Nehru University. But I want to add another degree to her. It will be called OLX. She is part of OLX, which sells everything. She is a master in selling off family silver. I will go into disinvestment later.

Sir, let me go into the details of the Budget. The total Budget is of the value of Rs 34.83 lakh crore. It is about the same as last year, which was 34.50 lakh crore. So expenditure boosts are not there.

The fiscal deficit is Rs 15.06 lakh crore this year, which is 6.8 per cent of GDP as compared to 9.5 per cent of GDP last year. I would be in this House when Mr Jaitley gave his speeches as Finance Minister. He said, we promise the fiscal deficit will be brought down to within 3 per cent of GDP. Now, it has been found that the fiscal deficit last year (2020-21) had gone to 9.5 per cent. What does this mean? This means that it will lead to inflation and price rise, which are already happening. 

Fiscal prudence has been thrown out of the window and Mrs Sitharaman said, spend t like Sitharaman. She said, I spent and spent and spent. That is how the budget deficit went so high. 

I want to mention that it is a good thing that Rs 35,000 crore has been given for vaccines, but may I mention in this House that the government did not lock down at the proper time. Mr. Modi was busy with Ram and unsettling the government in Madhya Pradesh. That’s why lockdown was declared four days after it should have been declared. Then the migrant labourers, they were given no time to go to their homes. And you have seen the pictures, for example, on Barkha Dutt’s programme, of migrant labourers walking home with their luggage on their heads, holding their children by their hands, and their wives walking beside them, and many dying on the wayside.

This is another cruelty by the present government. The earlier cruelty was demonisation, where people died standing in queues. This neglect of migrant labourers by declaring lockdown without giving notice, was another act of cruelty. Our Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee has called the Prime Minister a cruel person.

Sir, where does the government get the money? If you see, the government is getting most of the money from borrowing. If you see the Budget at a glance, you will see that the money comes from borrowings and other liabilities, at 36 paise per rupee. And the total tax is much less. What are they doing? They are borrowing to sustain the Budget and they are not being able to raise revenues sufficiently, and they are depending on disinvestment.

 Sir, out of this expenditure of Rs 34.83 lakh crore, Rs 1.75 lakh crore will come from disinvestment. So I would like to give Mrs Sitharaman mother name, after Hollywood films like Avenger and Terminator—‘The Great Dismantler’. She is dismantling the whole edifice of the public sector.

Jawaharlal Nehru in the Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956 said the public sector will occupy the commanding heights of the economy. This government wants to take the public sector to the bottom of the economy. That is most unfortunate, that public  sector assets, built over time and through the labour and money of our poor people, will be sold to cronies of the government. This is the worst form of crony capitalism. Do you know Sir, that some airports have been sold? Six airports, you know, and who did they go to? All of them went to one family called Adani. If this is not crony capitalism, what is crony capitalism Sir? 

See the conditions of some of the companies that are being sold. Sir, do you know the condition in BSNL? And on the list are Air India, Bharat Petroleum, Shipping Corporation, Container Corporation of India (Concor) and LIC. So the government will roll up its sleeves and sell. Two public sector banks, one public sector insurance company. Mrs Sitharaman can go to her party and say, “See you wanted to dismantle Nehru, you were not able to. I have dismantled the public sector. You wanted to dismantle everything built by Indira Gandhi, who nationalised the banks and insurance companies. I’m selling two public sector banks, I’m selling one insurance company.”

This wanton privatisation, selling off of the family silver, as well as the monetising of public sector assets, is more dangerous. They are monetising all the assets of the public sector, which means any land with the public sector will be sold to fund this Budget. The assets of the National Highways Authority of India, they will be monetised, all the roads will be given to private parties. The distribution network formed by Power Grid Corporation of India will be given to the private sector. The public sector, which was built assiduously from the time of Nehru, will be dismantled by this government, under Narendra Modi and Mrs Sitharaman. 

Now let me discuss a little about the Budget. In fact, there is nothing to discuss about the Budget. The economy had contracted by 7.4 per cent. Now there is a pundit, who is the chief economic advisor—Krishnamurhty Subramanian, who is a Tamilian—who said we are in the midst of a V-shaped recovery curve. That means the same way in which the curve has gone down, it will now rise up. He is promising all things to the people, that the economy will come out of this unfortunate situation.

You know, Sir, that the economy has contracted by -7.4 per cent. Now, how do they propose to revive it? They say that we are going to spend big on infrastructure. Will that immediately solve the problem? No, because infrastructure projects take a long time to come up. So how will the government fund liquidity in the economy? And as for infrastructure, the Chamoli Hydroelectric Power Station that was being built by … <intervention by BJP Members> Sir, this is the BJP strategy on the floor, to disturb those who are speaking against the government. Sometimes Nishikant Dubey and sometimes Ravishankar Prasad ji are put to the job. It doesn’t really matter.

Mrs Sitharaman, during the lockdown, announced two fiscal stimuli. All over the world, economists have said, from Amartya Sen, Abhijeet Vinayak Banerjee, both nobel laureates, to several others, that if you want to give a  fiscal stimulus, put some money in the hands of the migrant labourer. They suggested a figure of Rs 10,000. This cruel government did not do it. They said they will help the economy, etc. They refused to give this kind of fiscal stimulus, as a result of which the economy did not revive at all. 

This year, they are giving more money for capital expenditure, Rs 5.54 lakh crore. It’d be a good thing if assets could get built up by that money, but will that amount ake us out of the rut that we are in? 

I would say that two steps are good. The whole banking system has collapsed, even you know it, Sir. Crony capitalists have taken away the money. And Vijay Malya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Chowksi have still not been arrested. They will not be, the cronies that they are of you know who. The total NPA of banks amount to Rs 14 lakh crore. Now they have created a type of bad bank, which they call asset reconstruction and asset management company. To these bad banks all these accounts with NPAs, will be shifted. Will the bad banks solve the problem? Many people say they will not, because there asset reconstruction companies are in the private sector. They have not been able to solve the problem till now. So why did the government start creating the bad bank? The other thing they are not a bad step is the creation of a development finance institution. It is being created because the big infrastructure projects need money. 

Sir, I have already said that asset monetisation and privatisation of non-strategic PSUs will create havoc in the economy. Now they are constantly talking about start up, stand up, sit down, Khelo India, Photo India, yeh sab kar raha hai.

So even if a start-up is not successful in this country, they say it will get an additional year of capital gains tax exemption. I want to have a statement from the government about the success of its Start Up India programme.

The main thing, I tell you, at this stage of the economy is to put money in the hands of the people to boost demand. This is a simple matter. It will increase liquidity in the economy, people will buy things, the economy will come up. And it can be done through tax cuts for the middle class. Everybody was expecting that this Budget would give tax cuts to the poor. 

They are very cruel, Sir. They know people are expecting, but they won’t do any such thing, or agree to the demand of the agitating farmers. 

If you look at the Budget carefully, you would see that income tax procedures have been simplified, but there have been no income tax cuts. Excise they can not do anything about, that is beyond GST, so she has tinkered with customs duty, thus increasing the prices of certain things.

Actually, what has happened ultimately is that despite all the tall talk, if you look at MGNREGA, the biggest employment creator, last year’s budget estimate was Rs 1,11,500 crore; this year it has been cut to Rs 73,000 crore. They said they are giving more money to health, but do you know how? It is a trick. They have added to health Jal Jeevan Mission, that is, rural drinking water supply, and they are sayng that they are giving Rs 2.23 lakh crore for health and well-being. Peculiar type of explanation.

All I want to say is that for flagship programmes, fund allocation has come down. Even for PM Kisan Samman Nidhii Yojana, the money has been reduced. 

What have they done? They have borrowed and borrowed. Nirmala Sitharaman has spent and spent. The economy is still not showing an upturn. What will happen to this country? I will give you some solid advice that I got from the IMF. Sir, you will know of Gita Gopinath. She is from Kerala. Geeta gave advice that said the IMF is calling for a synchronised investment in green and digital infrastructure as the pandemic starts to come under control. Gita has also been advising Pinarayi Vijayan for some time. Now she works for the IMF full time. She has also said  that governments must put in place public investments—listen to this—when this government is selling everything. The IMF and an American-controlled organisation is saying that the government must put in public investment as well as opportunities for private investment that support low carbon and climate resilient growth. This could be an efficient mass transit system, smart electricity grids or by phasing out harmful subsidies.

But listen to this Sir: green and digital investment also include support for workers as they transition from shrinking to expanding sectors. Increased investment in training, re-skilling and high-quality education will be pivotal for unlocking the potential of a green and digital economy. Does this budget speak of a green and digital economy, which is the need of the hour?

The PM is very happy that Gita Gopinath praised the farm laws. When there is a toss up between Gita Gopinath and the farmers at the Delhi borders, I am with the farmers. When there is a toss up between Gita Gopinath and this government, I am with Gita Gopinath. My choice is quite simple.

Sir, as you know, we have contracted by 7.2 per cent. China has been successful in containing the pandemic, it grew at 2.3 per cent. We have not been able to follow that example. I would ask this government that at this stage, let them make friendship with the country. The Prime Minister mentioned Triple Talaq and all. All these are divisive agendas. Let the government not divide the country any more, let them do something to lift the poor,  the migrant workers, marginal farmers out of their poverty. Let the government look at West Bengal, at how well the chief minister has implemented Kanyashree, which has benefitted 69 lakh girls, Sabooj Sathi, where 84 lakh students were given bicycles, and Swasthya Sathi, which has touched 10 crore people in the country. Let them learn. Let them take a leaf out of Bengal’s book and lift the country out of the morass that their wrong politics and wrong economics have led to.