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Opposition attacks Modi government over unemployment, privatisation in Rajya Sabha

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DMK MP Kanimozhi pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the plight of the poor and marginalised, led to job losses, and hit sectors like tourism and hospitality and "the road to recovery is still very bleak".

NEW DELHI: Opposition members in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday hit out at the government over high unemployment rate and said the Union Budget 2022-23 failed to address the issue of job creation and increasing domestic demand.

During the general discussion on Budget 2022-23, Dola Sen (Trinamool Congress) and Elamaram Kareem of CPI(M) also criticised the government for its "destructive privatisation drive" and termed the disinvestment policy as "Sale India".

Taking part in the debate, Sen said when the Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power in 2014, it claimed that it would create 2 crore jobs per year and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech this year said that the government would create 60 lakh jobs over the next five years.

"I want to ask who is telling the truth?" Sen said.

On similar lines, Sanjay Singh of AAP said the government's claims of providing 60 lakh new jobs was an admission of its inability to meet the past promise of 2 crore jobs.

In reality, Sen said, even before the pandemic, for the first time after Independence the unemployment rate was the highest in 45 years.

"In just four years of time, 2016-17 to 2020-21, in spite of Modiji's Make in India policy, and call and push, the number of people employed in the manufacturing sector (has) reduced by almost half," she asserted.

Noting that in India 5 million youngsters join the workforce on an average per year, she said, "(it is) very unfortunate but it is a fact that this Budget gave no assurance to those youngsters, to the women, to the migrant workers, to the jobless employees, even to the MGNREGA workers."

The fund allocation of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) has been decreased, Sen lamented, adding that there is a due of Rs 3,358 crore of wages still to be paid to MGNREGA workers "who get employment for only 100 days in a year".

Sharing similar sentiments, Kareem said, "What was required was introducing an urban employment guarantee scheme. On the contrary, it has cut down expenditure of MNREGA."

He flagged issues such as loss of earnings, deepening poverty and hunger, and price rise of essential commodities.

"No Budget in recent period had been presented at a time when the economy is going through such a challenging situation. In this scenario, what was needed in the Budget was a big push towards job creation and increasing domestic demand," he said, claiming that the Budget had not addressed these concerns.

DMK MP Kanimozhi pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the plight of the poor and marginalised, led to job losses, and hit sectors like tourism and hospitality and "the road to recovery is still very bleak".

She said the Union Budget was expected to balance short term fiscal needs with structural reform, to support medium term growth, given the backdrop of Covid pandemic.

"However, nothing has been done in this regard and the road to recovery is very fragile," Kanimozhi said.

She claimed that the only surety in the last three years was the economic uncertainty, which the Omicron variant has now amplified.

Attacking the government's privatisation programme, Kareem said, "Union Budget 2022-23 has been presented in the overall background of desperate and destructive privatisation drive, forgetting the needs of common man..."

Sen also accused the BJP-led government of abusing their majority in both houses of Parliament to privatise "national assets".

"...Modiji's Make in India has become Sale India virtually," she said.

She claimed that the government's 'National Monetisation Pipeline does not have the mandate of the people as the BJP "never mentioned anything about this massive economic overhaul in their election manifesto of 2014 and 2019".

Kanimozhi also raised issues around inadequate budgetary allocation for health, and asserted that healthcare needs to be accorded topmost priority.

"Unless the Budget allocation for medical care and infrastructure increases to 6 per cent of GDP, country may not be in a position to serve its 140 crore population," she cautioned.

The Opposition members also sought to corner the government on its promises on doubling of farmers' income, housing for all, and fast loans for eligible SMEs and start ups.

"In 2022, all the promises still remain a distant dream," Kanimozhi remarked.

Countering the prime minister's claim that India is prospering economically, Sen said the Global Hunger Index put India at a dismal 101 out of 116 countries, and that in comparison even Bhutan was placed better than India.

Asking the government to focus its efforts on taking the country forward, Singh said: "Who are you to decide what people should wear, what they should eat, or how they should live.

Source: Press Trust of India 

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