New Delhi: The government on Wednesday said it was willing to discuss the Lalit Modi issue under an adjournment motion as demanded by the Congress in the Lok Sabha.
When the house assembled in the morning, the Congress moved an adjournment motion on the issue. The government listed for the discussion to be taken up under rule 193, which does not entail voting.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is in the eye of a storm over her links to the former IPL chief said: “Please accept their adjournment motion. Suspend the business of the house and debate the issue. Let only members of the opposition speak led by the Leader of Congress in the house Mallikarjun Kharge.”
“But my only request is that when I reply they should all be present in the house to listen to me,” Swaraj said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu also said that the government was ready to discuss the matter under an adjournment motion.
Kharge, however, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be present in the house when the matter is discussed.
“We have given an adjournment motion and you have rejected it. But we want you to suspend all business and take it up. But the prime minister should be present in the house as he has to take action against his ministers,” he said.
The speaker said she was ready for the matter to be discussed under an adjournment motion, but after the question hour was over.
“I have disallowed it. But if everybody wants then this can be taken up. But according to procedure it can be taken up only after question hour.”
The Congress disagreed with this and insisted on suspension of question hour.
Following this, the Congress members returned to their slogan shouting near the speaker’s podium.
With an eye on wooing voters ahead of what is expected to be a tough national election, India’s Hindu nationalist government announced cash handouts of billions of dollars for poor farmers.
In the annual budget presented in parliament Friday, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said 120 million farmers with less than two hectares of land would get an income of $85 a year.
Goyal announced that the measure, which will cost about $10.5 billion, would be implemented with immediate effect. “This will pave the way for them to earn a respectable living,” he said. “Such support will help them avoid indebtedness.”
Farmers complain that a sharp decline in crop prices has hurt their incomes and driven millions into debt. Rural experts said they were not sure whether the measure will assuage disgruntled rural communities that have been demanding loan waivers and better prices for their produce.
The government also announced a pension scheme of about $40 a month for nearly 100 million poor workers in the country’s vast unorganized sector and tax breaks for the middle classes.
The welfare measures come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party tries to address rising discontent in the country — there is growing anger in rural areas over falling crop prices and widespread worries that his government has failed to create jobs to meet the needs of the country’s huge young population.
The Bharatiya Janata Party recently lost elections in three heartland states, raising concerns it could struggle to win a majority in the upcoming elections. Modi had sailed to power in 2014 on the promise of creating millions of jobs.
Although economic growth numbers have been good, lack of jobs has emerged as the biggest challenge for Modi. A report in the Business Standard newspaper says a government survey that has not been released pegs the unemployment rate at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent.
Expressing optimism that “India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity,” Goyal said that infrastructure projects such as building roads in rural areas will boost employment.
The opposition Congress Party slammed the income support of $85 a year announced for farmers as inadequate. Saying that it is not going to be transformational, senior party leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “₹6000 [6,000 rupees, or $84] in income support for farmers boils down to ₹500 [500 rupees, or $7] per month. Is that supposed to enable them to live with the honor and dignity?”
The Congress Party is also trying to woo voters with the promise of a minimum income for the poor if it wins the upcoming general election. The BJP has dismissed the pledge as unaffordable, while economists have expressed concern that the “competitive populism” by India’s two main parties ahead of general elections could strain the country’s finances.
The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers. (VOA)