New Delhi: Taking note of concerns over rising prices, the Lok Sabha on Wednesday adopted a motion urging the government to take further effective actions to contain adverse impact of inflation on common man.
The motion was adopted after a marathon debate during which the Opposition had accused the government of being insensitive to the sufferings of people, a charge rejected by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who outlined various initiatives being taken by the government.
“This House takes a considered view of inflation and urges the government to take further effective action to contain its (inflation) impact on common man,” Meira Kumar, Speaker, Lok Sabha, said.
The issue of price rise was discussed in the form of the motion as a compromise after a week-long deadlock over the mode of debate as opposition parties demanded voting, which was opposed by the government.
Mukherjee, in his hour-long reply, listed a series of steps taken by the government to contain price rise to ameliorate sufferings of vulnerable sections of the society.
The finance minister used the opportunity to make a strong plea to the entire spectrum of political parties for support to the government’s move for implementing Goods and Services Tax (GST) replacing a layer of state and central taxes and duties.
Rejecting a charge of being insensitive to common man’s sufferings, the finance minister said, “If government was not sensitive it would not have gone for Right to Education as also jobs for the rural poor and entitlement of food grains through a legal enactment. All these are indications of the sensitivities of the government towards people.”
He also hit out at the BJP-led NDA government wondering whether their decision to increase kerosene price from Rs2 a litre to Rs9 was an act of being sensitive to the people.
“As a village boy I have studied up to class X under a lamp of kerosene. I used to walk 10 kms everyday. So I know the life of a villager. Don’t ridicule my sensitivity,” Mukherjee said.
Agreeing that the three oil marketing companies had posted a profit of Rs4,000 crore, Mukherjee said it was a result of cross subsidy provided by upstream oil companies and supported by the government.
Otherwise the losses of the oil marketing companies would have been a whopping Rs99,000 crore, he said and asked, “Should I not protect our PSU oil companies?”
Responding to BJP’s contention that prices were stable during its regime, Mukherjee said the economic growth was not as much as now. “If you have growth, there would be inflationary pressures,” he added.
Admitting that inflation is a problem, Mukherjee said the Centre alone cannot address this and sought a collective and coordinated action by the states and the union government to rein in inflation.
“Unless there are coordinated efforts by states and the Centre, I am afraid it will be difficult to address the problem,” he said and noted that implementation of PDS and maintenance of essential commodities act are the duties of state governments.
Seeking support from all the political parties and states, the finance minister made a strong plea for implementation of GST that would help in checking price variations across states.
Not satisfied by Mukherjee’s spirited defence of the government’s policies, the Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said he (finance minister) has narrated merely a “thesis” without specifying any concrete steps to bring down the sky rocketing prices.
The sense of the House during the discussion was that the finance minister should effect some roll back in petroleum price hike to give some relief to the common man.