Bouquets, brickbats for Chidambaram as members debate budget

March 12th, 2008 - 8:09 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, March 12 (IANS) Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s budget for 2008-09 came up for discussion Wednesday in the Lok Sabha with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticising its “communal” approach and the Congress praising it for boosting development. V.K. Malhotra, the deputy leader of the BJP in the lower house, initiated the discussion on the annual budget.

He said the allocations for health and education were not in tune with the government’s commitments in the common minimum programme (CMP), the blueprint for the functioning of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

“The government promised in the CMP to spend six percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on education, and two to three percent on health. It is not reflected in the allocations made for 2008-09,” Malhotra said.

“Does Rs.344 billion for education make the six percent of the GDP? Does Rs.165.34 billion for health make two to three percent of the GDP,” he asked.

Referring to a Rs.10-billion allocation for the minorities in the budget, Malhotra said that while nobody was against the development of any section of society, the budget should not be communalised, an observation which drew verbal protest from the ruling benches.

Chidambaram drew praises from the ruling members for presenting an “outstanding” budget that would put the economy on the fast track of growth.

“The country is having a robust economy, thanks to an all-round development. (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must be thanked for that,” said Balasaheb Vikhe Patil of the Congress.

The Left members, however, criticised the budget.

“The budget will not help out the needy,” said Rupchand Pal of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M). He also rejected the argument that a Rs.600 billion loan waiver would in reality bring any relief to distressed farmers.

In the budget presented in the house Feb 29, Chidamabram announced the one-time loan waiver to cover an estimated 40 million farmers.

The discussion on the budget in the Lok Sabha is likely to continue till Thursday. A large number of members, not less than 100, are likely to participate in the discussion.

Chidambaram is scheduled to reply to the discussion Friday.

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