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Rajya Sabha: Opposition Asks Govt to Acknowledge Price Rise, BJP Blames Global Changes

Initiating the discussion, CPI(M)'s Elamaram Kareem demanded Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to withdraw her ‘arbitrary’ remark on GST.
Opposition MPs shout slogans in the Well of Rajya Sabha while staging a protest over the price hike in fuel and essential commodities during the second part of the Budget Session of Parliament,

Opposition MPs shout slogans in the Well of Rajya Sabha while staging a protest over the price hike in fuel and essential commodities during the second part of the Budget Session of Parliament. Image Courtesy: ANI

New Delhi: Opposition parties in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday appealed to the government to acknowledge the problem of rising inflation affecting the poor in India in order to fix it, but the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asserted that it is a problem arisen due to global development beyond the control of any country.

Participating in a short-duration discussion on rising prices of essential items, BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said price rise hurts everyone and the Narendra Modi-led Central government is constantly working to check it.

Inflation is ruling at 7% now and not yet reached the double-digit level like in the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, he said.

Javadekar further said due to coronavirus and Russia-Ukraine crisis, the supply chain was hit, pushing up the fuel and food prices globally.

"This is beyond the control of any country. Not only India, prices have risen in other countries too," he said.

However, the burden of high fuel prices on common man could have been reduced had the non-BJP states cut the value added tax (VAT), he said, adding that the Centre had reduced the taxes on petrol and diesel twice and it was followed by BJP-ruled states.

Accusing the Opposition of doublespeak on Goods and Services Tax (GST), the former Union minister said the Opposition had "unanimously" agreed for 5 per cent GST on pre-packed food items in the GST Council Meeting, but when talking to media outside, the same tax became "Gabbar tax".

For undertaking developmental work, he said funds are required.

"Money does not come by printing but by generating income," he said.

On rupee depreciation, Javadekar said the Indian rupee has appreciated in comparison with other currencies.

"It is a problem in other countries. We are faring better than other currencies," he said.

Initiating the discussion, CPI(M)'s Elamaram Kareem said there has been a constant increase in prices of essential commodities in the last eight years of Modi government.

Despite record foodgrains, it is tragic testimony that farmers are fighting to get better prices and consumers are weighed down by high prices, he said, adding that the government should have distributed the surplus stock to the poor through the public distribution system (PDS).

Imposition of GST on pre-packed food items has further put burden on the poor. The government should tax the rich not the poor, he said and added there was no unanimous decision in the GST Council on this issue.

"Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman had made an arbitrary statement and should withdraw it," Kareem added. Sitharmana had said that hiked GST rates would hurt the poor.

Refuting Javadekar's claims, TMC leader Derek O'Brien said rising prices of essential commodities coupled with imposition of GST on pre-packed food items, which was not agreed by Opposition in the GST Council, and unemployment is affecting the poor badly. On top of it, rupee appreciation has put pressure on the economy, he said.

"We appeal to the government as a constructive Opposition, first, you have to acknowledge the problem. If you do not acknowledge the problem, how will you fix the problem?" he said.

Brien further said the cess and surcharge has been increased to 20 per cent from 10 per cent 10 years ago. Two-third of it is collected by the Centre, thereby reducing the states' share.

"About 29% of youth are jobless in India. Subsidy on cooking gas has come down, but not the retail prices," he said and sought the finance minister to respond to these issues.

Echoing similar views, Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said, "People are fed up. In a democracy, the government should listen to the Opposition. But today it is not so."

Prices of vegetables to fuel have risen sharply and people are committing suicide due to unemployment, he added.

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