Ready to support GST if recommendations accepted: Cong

Ready to support GST if recommendations accepted: Cong

Ready to support GST if recommendations accepted: Cong

Congress today claimed in the Rajya Sabha that the "real opposition" to the long-pending GST bill was coming from within the government and that the main opposition was ready to give full support to it provided its three key recommendations are accepted.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also questioned the credibility of the current GDP growth figure of 7.6 per cent, claiming that nobody believes these numbers as they are "suspicious".

The former minister asked the government to come out with "credible" GDP figures and suggesed setting up a committee under the chairmanship of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.

He also raked up the issue of alleged irregularities by Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) in its KG basin gas project and demanded a probe into it, while asking the government not be selective in investigating NPA cases.

Participating in a debate on the Finance Bill, Ramesh harped on '3 Gs' -- GST, GDP and Gas (of GSPC).

The Congress member insisted that his party wants GST and that it was ready to give full support to the government if its three suggestions are incorporated in the bill.

"We have three suggestions. One is setting up of independent committee to adjudicate disputes, elimination of one per cent tax and introduction of capping ...If consensus on these three is arrived, we are ready to support," he said.

The GST bill, which proposes to overhaul the indirect tax regime, has been pending in the Rajya Sabha for a number of years because of resistance mainly by the Congress which wants changes in it.

On capping upper limit for GST, Ramesh said the government says this cannot be accepted as there is no provision in the Constitution for this purpose. But the Article 276 (2) provides for capping and "with creative use of language" the government can accomodate.

Referring to a media report that said some section in the government believes that GST is undesirable, the former Minister said, "the real opposition to GST is not coming from the Congress, it is coming from within the government."

He attacked the government for using Congress as "smoke screen" for the current situation of GST.

Speaking about GDP growth figures, Ramesh said today nobody believes India's GDP figures. "Chief Economic Advisor, RBI Governor, London economists and WallStreet Journal do not believe our GDP numbers," he claimed.

"Nobody is denying that ware having high growth rate. But the number put on GDP are highly suspicious. It (GDP growth) is somewhere between 5.9 per cent and 6.5 per cent and not 7.5 per cent," he said.

Stating that India is growing and the country should grow much faster, Ramesh said, "For the first time, the credibility of GDP numbers are questioned. It has served the government purpose. I urge the government to pause a bit and come out with credible set of figures."

Raising the GSPC issue, Ramesh, whose term as Rajya Sabha member is ending tomorrow, said the country is concerned about non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks and the government cannot be "selective" in investigating NPAs be it private or public companies.

"I am speaking about misappropriation in the Appropriation bill. I am forced to use this route the notice for discussion on GSPC issue was not considered by the Chair," he said.

The government is investigating loan default of Rs 9,000 crore by industralist Vijay Mallya and the government should also probe irregularities at public-owned GSPC.

The Congress leader said, "What about a company (GSPC) which has taken loan of about Rs 20,000 crore and has to pay Rs 8,000 crore annually, while its income is only Rs 80 crore. Is it not a fit case of NPA?"

Ramesh demanded a probe into the lending of Rs 19,700 crore loan to GSPC when gas reserves had come down to one trillion cubic feet in offshore KG-basin gas project from 20 trillion gas discovery announced in 2005 by then Gujarat CM.

"Yes, UPA was in power but the company was GSPC. Bank loan increased from zero to Rs 19,700 crore. Why did this happen? Investigate this aspect. How was this loan given at a time when reserves were cut by GSPC itself? What did GSPC do? What was this money used for? " he sought to know.

"There can be no selective in its drive to bring down NPAs, misuse of funds and diversion of funds. The Finance Minister should investigate this," Ramesh said.

He also mentioned that the state-run firm had signed two contracts -- one each with 'Geoglobal' and 'Tough Drilling', which were not key players in the oil exploration business.

Referring to a Petroeleum Minister's interview in which he said ONGC was talking with GSPC for buying stake, Ramesh said the government is asking ONGC to buy 60 per cent stake in GSPC which is a sick company and owes Rs 19,700 crore to banks.

Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) attacked the government over its economic policies, accusing it of promoting crony capitalism and ruining the state of economy with "very fanciful slogans."

"We have heard very fanciful slogans but the state of economy is in a state of sleep, Make-in-India is Destroy India...Digital India is Robotic India," he said.

He contended that additional mobilisation of Rs 27,670 crore indirect taxes will impoverish the poor and forego of Rs 1,060 crore direct taxes will benefit the rich.

The state of affairs is such that barely 2.9 crore Indians file IT returns, which is less than 4 per cent adults in the country while barely about 18,000 have declared their income above Rs 1 crore which doesn't match up to the sale of luxury cars, high-end gadgets and gold in the country, he said.

Yechury said it is unfortunate that this government is not collecting "legitimately-due Rs 13 lakh crore including Rs 7 lakh crore which has been raised but not realised and more than Rs 6 lakh crore of NPAs."

Had this amount been collected, it could have given employment to lakhs of youth, he said.

He also lamented that 100 billionaires in the country accounted for more than Rs 62,000 crore which is one-third of India's GDP whereas in 90 per cent of the families, bread earners barely earned Rs 10,000 a month.

"This government is promoting crony capitalism with the state of economy in being a dismal stage," he said and quoted Wall Street Journal about "India's fudged growth data."

Demanding to know where the 2 crore jobs are as promised by the BJP government, he said the job creation was at its worst, impacting all sectors including the IT. He said agriculture has declined and severe drought has prompted suicides.

"Don't do statistical manipulation...there are lies, damn lies...where is the statistic," he said.

Satish Chandra Misra (BSP) demanded to know whether flagship programmes of the government were being implemented and said the employment has contracted in the country while agriculture has collapased.

Misra said the state of economy was in dire strait with no farmer willing to engage in farming, bankers not giving loans and education sector taking a backseat. He said there is a need to enhance judicial budget in the wake of about 3 crore cases pending.

He wanted to know what happened to the health schemes as well as schemes for housing the poor.

V P Singh Badnore (BJP) said India has the fastest GDP growth at 7.5 per cent when compared to China's 6.9 per cent.

The country's GDP growth is even much higher than the world's GDP rate of 3.5 per cent, he said.

While the country was lucky with falling crude oil prices in the global market, drought impacted the economic growth, he said, emphasising the need to sustain growth to get the level of advanced nations.

Badnore said this year's budget adheres to the roadmap of fiscal consolidation and the new intiatives announced by the government are the right step for achieving the GDP growth.

He, however, said that there was need to emphasise on achieving Gross Happiness Index (GDI) instead of Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) which has also been endorsed by the United Nations and 34 countries.

Badnore also made some suggestions to the government including upgradation of revenue department.

Attacking the government, Vivek Gupta (Trinamool) said instead of "ease of doing business", what was prevailing in the country is "ease of doing corruption".

He alleged that Income Tax department has become a den of corruption. He demanded to know from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari as to what happened to their election plank of freeing the country from 6 lakh inspectors.

Terming the government as the "biggest litigant", Gupta said 57 per cent of the litigations were tax related.

He also questioned the government as to why the RBI was not disclosing the names of defaulters and why Indian carriers like Indigo were the only ones in the globe which charged money for food etc from Indian flyers in foreign currency durinng the interantional flights.

K C Tyagi (JDU) lamented that it was a pardox that the country housed 25 lakh places of worshp and barely 15 lakh schools and 75,000 hospitals.

Terming the economic policy as unproductive, he said this is a distorted image of capitalism.

"Unfortunately today those who are used to growing plants in pots are teaching the people how to do agriculture," he said.

Naresh Agrawal (SP) demanded wanted the government to bring changes in the corporate law. He said all sectors whether agriculture or real estate were in a bad shape while China was ruining Indian economy by dumpting steel.

Questioning what action the government was taking on Panama issue, Agrawal said 2000 fresh names have surfaced and they should be brought before the country.

"This government, in terms of finance, is a failure. Announce some good measures today...If Finance Minister has to take orders from above, then he is helpless...This is a fear-stricken government," the Samajwadi Party member said.

AV Singh Deo (BJD) alleged that the Centre's poor economic policies were impacting states like Odisha.

He sought government's intervention in Polavaram project dispute saying if it is implemented, 1.5 lakh acres of land will be submerged in Odisha while thousands will be displaced.

C M Ramesh (TDP) said the assurances given to Andhra Pradesh on special category status should be fulfilled.

The state has been hit with a serious financial damage due to the reorganisation and it requires additional assistance, he added.

Ishwarlal Shankarlal Jain (NCP) said the government should work on fast resolution of tax cases in the country, which is a unnecessary financial burden on both the government and the companies.

Welcoming the government's crop insurance scheme, Naresh Gujral (SAD) said the success of the programme lies in its effective implementation.

Shantaram Naik (Cong) questioned the success of the 'Make in India' programme and said the House should be informed about which foreign company has agreed to set up a manufacturing facility in India and have agreed for technology transfer.

He also demanded that the agreements signed by the government under the public private partnership should be put in the public domain as is being done with the Acts and policies.

Ajay Sancheti (BJP) said issues related to tax policies and tax reforms should be addressed at the earliest.

Narendra Jadhav (Nominated), in his maiden speech, said the budget for 2016-17 has some weaknesses and many strengths.

Welcoming the government's act to contain the fiscal deficit at 3.9 per cent in 2015-16, he said the Finance Minister's move to maintain fiscal deficit at 3.5 per cent in 2016-17 is commendable.

He, however, said that the government is "overestimating" disinvestment proceeds and proceeds from spectrum auction, which is "overambitious, but not unrealistic".

He stressed on increasing spending on social sector such as education health and skill development keeping in view India's large young population.

He stressed that government should allocate a sizable amount to health, education and skill development so that India can make its youth employable and this in turn will help the country achieve a double digit growth rate.