High borrowings may push up interest rates, MPs tell Govt

Inflation, particularly of food items, too remained an area of concern, they said in the resumed discussion on the general budget.

Main opposition BJP said the whopping Rs four lakh crore gap in the resources was a matter of concern and the impact could be felt on inflation.

Raghunandan Sharma (BJP) said the government had changed the weightage of food items like milk, edible oils and sugar in the price index to downplay the impact of inflation.

"You are trying to deceive the people of the country," he said.

Shobhana Bhartia (Nominated) lauded Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for taking a big gamble by allowing high fiscal deficit and said it is a "bold decision" to revive the economic growth.

She said with the handsome allocations for rural sector, this was a budget for Bharat, adding "it pays to concentrate on inclusive growth" as shown in the recent elections.

However, she expressed apprehension that the high deficit may drive up interest rates affecting the private sector. Increase in minimum alternate tax was a bit of dampner in the budget, she said suggesting setting up of equity fund for small sector units.

Sharma said announcements like help to farmers in the grip of moneylenders were restricted to Maharashtra with an eye on assembly polls due in November this year.

The budget has also largesse for
West Bengal which is also going to polls in two years, he said.

Rajeev Shukla (Cong) said the focus of the budget was 'aam aadmi' and the heavy borrowings at times are required for development.

He asked the Finance Minister to divert money to successful primary education scheme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan from what he called ineffective schemes like adult education.

Shukla sought a package for electronic media on the lines of print media which, he said has been given rates for government advertisements.

Tarlochan Singh (Independent) claimed that Punjab has received only Rs 1,000 crore out of the Centre's Rs 71,000 crore debt waiver scheme. He said this amounted to a premium on loan default and punishment to those who repay in time.

He wondered how the incentive could be so low when the state has a share of 80 per cent in the foodgrains under Central Pool.

Keshav Rao (Cong) supported the Budget proposals and said the focus was rightly on rural development.

Avtar Singh Karimpuri (BSP) said that the public-private partnership should be reviewed if the country has to be saved. The focus instead should be for removal of poverty, population and pollution control.

Ram Narayan Sahu (SP) said utilisation of money given under NREGA needs to be monitored.

He said the Budget was silent on the naxal menace and wanted to bridge poverty as it breeds violence.

M S Swaminathan (Nominated) complimented the Finance Minister for steps taken on food security and wanted the government to construct modern food storage structures of one million tonne each at 50 places in the country to have adequate reserves.

A K Sengupta (Independent) wanted effective delivery of social development programmes and help to the small and marginal farmers through self-help groups.

Mohsina Kidwai (Congress) supported the proposals saying the budget has given big emphasis on agriculture and said it will help the aam aadmi (common man). She, however, wanted more focused attention on issues like climate change describing it as a challenge.

T Subbarami Reddy (Congress) described the budget as historic and unprecedented saying it has taken all aspects into consideration.

Vasanthi Stanley (DMK) wanted the minimum support price of paddy at par with wheat and expressed concern on the fiscal deficit.

The DMK member said even as Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse was denying the rights to Sri Lankan Tamil civilians, the government had provided a help of Rs 500 crore and wanted the relief to reach them effectively.

Naresh Gujral (Akali Dal) described the fiscal deficit as "alarming".

He said the budget did nothing for the labour intensive export oriented industry like garments.

Mabel Rebello (Cong) support the budgetary proposals saying it was a social sector budget.

E M S Natchiappan (Cong) demanded that the government must regulate sale of land to foreign companies, while his party colleague Alka Balram Kshatriya sought income tax relief for cooperative banks.

Mangala Kisan (BJD) urged the government to undertake developmental works in the scheduled areas, which fall under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.

Sharad Joshi (SBP) suggested comprehensive review of the debt waiver scheme as farmers' suicides were still continuing. He said the government must regulate the utilisation of water and shift focus to underground irrigation systems.

Khekiho Zhimomi (NPF) said a blue print must be prepared for the development of North-East.

Bharat Kumar Raut (Shiv Sena) raised the issue of taxes on greenhouse farming and also conditions of urban poor, particularly in Mumbai.

Gireesh Kumar Sanghi (Cong) requested the Centre to help Andhra Pradesh government in its ambitious plan to set up mineral water plant in each village and provide 20 litres of the safe water at Rs 2.

Pointing out that the retail prices of food items are still high despite inflation coming down, Viplove Thakur (Cong) said the government should address the issue. She also demanded release of funds directly to districts, instead of state, under the NREGA.

Mysura Reddy (TDP) said huge amount of taxes are under disputes and in many cases taxes are raised but not realised.

While talking about the energy security, Reddy said the changes in the duty structure proposed by the Finance Minister would favour an Ambani group company.

Mabel Rebello and Prabha Thakur (both Congress) hailed the Budget for the increased social sector spending and said this would uplift the conditions of the poor.

Praveen Rajpal (Cong) said the Income tax exemption limit should be increased for individuals, women and senior citizens and retirement age should be uniform.

Tariq Anwar (NCP) said the rate of interest on farmers loan should be brought down to four per cent from six per cent.

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