Opposition members in the Lok Sabha on Monday blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government's policies for the price rise and accused it of ignoring the plight of common people, saying kitchens will soon "see a lockdown" if the Centre does not take corrective measures.
Initiating a debate on the issue of the price rise, Congress member Manish Tewari said the government's decisions have hit hard 25 crore households in the country and widened the divide between the rich and the poor.
He alleged that savings, investment, production, consumption and employment, the five pillars of the economy, have been blown away due to the wrong policies of the Union government.
”During the UPA regime, 27 crore people were brought above the poverty line. Then it was learnt from a report, which was made public in 2021, that as many as 23 crore people are once again below the poverty line,” he said.
The situations arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic would be a factor leading to the current economic scenario but the country's economy had already started weakening with the government's decision to demonetise high-value currency notes on November 8, 2016, he charged.
After the note ban, the government brought in GST implementation which hit at least 2.30 lakh small industries. ”This note ban and GST not just impacted medium and small scale industries but employment also,” he said.
Trinamool Congress member Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar alleged that the Centre was not taking any step to tackle the price rise and said the frequent rise in prices of LPG has made it difficult for poor people to cook food.
"Does the government want people to eat vegetables raw?" Dastidar said as she raised a brinjal she had brought with her and took a bite from it, leaving the members visibly amused.
She asked the government to take care of the poor people and reduce taxes on items of common consumption.
Slamming the government over the GST hike, Tewari said, ”You have increased the GST on flour, curd, paneer, pencil and sharpener. You did not spare even children.”
The Congress leader said he was ”hurt” when 18 per cent GST was imposed on "crematoriums".
Hitting out at the government over the rise in fuel prices, Tewari said the Centre collected Rs 27 lakh crore through ”tax, excise duty and dividend” in the petroleum sector to swell its coffers but did not pass on the benefits to the people.
”The government may have streamlined its own budget, but has completely spoiled the life of the country's 25 crore households. Every homemaker is in tears,” he said, and asked the government, ”What kind of nation are you building?”
Sangeeta Azad (BSP) said prices of fruits and vegetables have gone up adding to the hardship of the common man.
She claimed that during the NDA government the income of farmers has been halved, while the prices of items of common consumption have gone up several times.
"The family budget is collapsing," IUML member ET Mohammed Basheer said and claimed the government was not serious about addressing the economic challenges facing the country.
"Kitchen is in turmoil. We had a lockdown during the Covid period, I apprehend now we will have a lockdown in kitchens because of this government's negative stance," he said.
Nama Nageswara Rao (TRS) demanded that the Centre should protect the farmers by increasing the procurement of foodgrains.
He said that the cost of living has gone up for the poor people with a consistent rise in prices of items of common consumption and fuel.
BJD member Pinaki Misra rejected the contention that repayment of oil bonds floated by the UPA government was responsible for increasing prices of petrol and diesel.
He said that between 2014 and 2022, the Centre collected Rs 27 lakh crore as tax on petrol and diesel, of which only Rs 93,600 crore was spent on servicing of the bonds.
Misra also raised the issue of a large number of people quitting Indian citizenship and wanted the government to introspect why high net worth individuals (HNIs) were moving out of the country.
"Is the CBDT, the CBI and the ED making life difficult for wealth creators?" he said.
Expressing regret over the hike in GST on some essential food items, Supriya Sule (NCP) said it has burdened the poor people.
She also demanded that the government should come out with a white paper on its promise of doubling farmers' income.
Bharat Ram Margani (YSRCP) said the government should focus more on alternative sources of fuel as dependence on fossil fuel import drains the country of foreign currency.
He also urged the government to revise the minimum support prices of agricultural produce to keep pace with inflation.
Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) said the government last time blamed the outbreak of Covid-19 for the price rise and this time its alibi is the Russia-Ukraine war.
He demanded the rollback of the imposition of GST last month.
On the transaction charges, Banerjee said banks are increasing fees on various services in the name of promoting digital transactions.
"Who is the real beneficiary of online banking -- bank or customers?" he wondered.
However, Kaushlendra Kumar of the JD-U, an NDA constituent, said people in villages were very happy with the initiatives taken by the Modi government, especially during the Covid period.
Opposition parties had stalled Parliament proceedings for days demanding a debate on the price rise.