During the second week of the budget session of parliament for the year 2022, there was extensive discussion on the ‘Motion of Thanks’ to the President’s address with the Prime Minister responding in both the houses where he criticized the principal opposition Congress in addition to listing the government’s achievements. Important issues about the union budget were also raised. Here is a review of the second week.
The second week of the budget session began with both houses mourning the demise of playback singer Lata Mangeshkar, a Bharat Ratna Awardee and former Rajya Sabha member. As per the schedule, both the houses continued with the ‘Motion of Thanks’ to the President’s address during which the opposition raised the issues of level of unemployment, lack of mention of national security, low budget allocation for agriculture and allied sectors, and the disinvestment of PSUs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded to the discussion on ‘Motion of Thanks’ in the Lok Sabha on the first day and in the Rajya Sabha on the second day of the week. In his response, he hailed the President for focusing on ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. Highlighting some of the major development achievements of his government, Narendra Modi also spoke about how India developed its own vaccine and carried out the vaccination drive. He also attacked the principal opposition Congress, citing the double-digit inflation and criticized them for politicizing the pandemic. An increase in exports in farm products, software, and mobile phones, and defence products, distribution of free ration, and EPFO registration were some of the developments highlighted by the Prime Minister. He concluded his address urging opposition members to come together and work for the nation in this moment of Amrit Mahotsav.
Discussion on Union Budget
General discussion on the Union Budget took place in both the Houses of the Parliament, which was presented in the previous week. Some of the concerns raised by the opposition are regarding the 2022-23 budget are.
- That the Government had promised 2 crore jobs a year, the opposition asked the government to report how many jobs were created.
- If the interlinking of rivers is implemented, opposition members from the state of Karnataka mentioned that the State would suffer even for drinking water. The population of Bengaluru city is alone 130 Lakhs, and the state is currently taking care of the needs using the consumptive drinking water allocated by the Supreme Court.
- Reduction in spending on the social sector in this budget has been raised by opposition citing that the spending on education is ₹ 88,000 crores, which as a percentage of GDP has dropped below 1% for the first time. India’s public health spending as a share of GDP was stated to be the lowest among the BRICS nations.
- Imposition of wealth tax stating that 102 billionaires have become 142 billionaires and the 142 billionaires’ wealth has increased from ₹ 23 lakh crore rupees to ₹ 53 lakh crore rupees in two years.
- The government had promised to double farmers’ income by 2022 and the opposition asked the government for data on the same and that the budget didn’t speak about it.
The opposition also criticized that the schemes were being repeated with new names. The opposition stated that the budget had no vision, no real long-term plan. The government’s announcement to start 400 Vande Bharat trains by 2024 was also questioned if the government had the infrastructure to do so since it meant that 3 trains had to be started every week.
In response, the finance minister stated that with respect to unemployment, 60 lakh jobs were created only under the PLI scheme. In addition, employment generation would take place when there is high growth and investment in infrastructure. Adding that there was no reduction in allocation for MGNREGA, she said that the health budget for 2022-23 is more than ₹ 86,000 crores, an increase from the last year. Likewise, the allocation for education had increased by 18% to ₹1.04 lakh crores since 2020-21. Furthermore, it was clarified that the States will be given an amount of ₹ 1 lakh crores above the States’ borrowing limits for a period of 50 years with zero interest to speed up various infrastructure projects and capital expenditure in the States.
The issue of privatization of Air India, LIC, and PSUs was raised multiple times. With the privatization of Air India, the airline market of India had become a duopoly, stated an opposition MP. The issue raised was that Tata Group owns Air India, has a stake in Vistara and the majority of Air Asia, combined to 42% of the market, and IndiGo owns another 37% of the market share, which effectively reverses the liberalization of the 1990s which moved the airline market into a competitive sector.
Apart from these discussions, the Hijab row in Karnataka was raised citing Article 14 of the Constitution. However, there were interruptions and the Congress MP who raised the issue could not complete his zero-hour submission.
The Constitution (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2022 which seeks to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 to omit Bhogta community from the list of Scheduled Castes in Jharkhand and for inclusion of the same and a few other communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes in the State was introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
The Standing Committee on Rural Development and Panchayati Raj in its report, ‘Critical Evaluation Of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)’, suggested a complete revamp of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme keeping in view the changing times and emerging challenges particularly in wake of the pandemic. It has suggested increasing guaranteed days of work from 100 to 150 days. Further, it recommended that budgetary allocation of a scheme of such enormous magnitude should be done in a more pragmatic manner so that there is no dearth of funds during mid-year and flow of funds for payment of wages, material share, etc. is maintained seamlessly. Last financial year 2020-21 witnessed a surge in demand due to the reverse migration of workers from urban areas back to rural locations and their dependence on MGNREGA as a last resort of solace.
Parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs in a report on ‘Police – Training, Modernization, and Reforms‘ expressed anguish over the underrepresentation of women in police and asked the Centre to advise states and Union Territories to create a road map for ensuring 33% representation of women in police. Noting the poor housing satisfaction levels among police personnel, it recommended an allocation of funds for housing. It noted that only 17 states either enacted or amended the Model Police Act, 2006 even after 15 years. It also advised the state police and central armed police forces to train and liaison with people living in the border areas for gathering intelligence on infiltration, use of drones and drug trafficking.
Important Questions raised
In response to a question on the number of foreigners granted Indian citizenship, the government stated that 4,844 foreigners were granted Indian citizenship in the last five years out of which 1,773 persons were granted Indian citizenship in 2021.
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare stated that it maintains data on COVID-19 deaths as reported by States in response to a question in Parliament. It added that states have also incorporated backlog COVID-19 deaths in their reports which are also updated at the national level, following the Supreme Court’s order to provide for ex-gratia assistance to the kin of the deceased by COVID-19. Furthermore, to facilitate the State Governments to have enough funds in their SDRF, the Central Government released the Central share of the SDRF amounting to ₹17,747.20 crores to States. After incorporating the State’s share amounting to ₹ 5,439.20 crores, State Governments have an amount of ₹ 23,186.40 crores in SDRF during the financial year 2021-22, in addition to the amount of opening balance available in their SDRF.
In response to a question on the caste-based census, the government responded that castes and tribes which are specifically notified as Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are enumerated in the Census. Moreover, the Government of India stated that it has not enumerated caste-wise populations other than SCs and STs in Census since independence.
Featured Image: Discussion on Budget