NEW DELHI: On the opening day of the Budget session, which got under way on Monday, the NDA Government put the entire blame for the hike in the rail fares as well as diesel prices on the previous UPA, claiming that it was the inheritor of a “legacy”.
While the Lok Sabha was continuously disrupted, the government agreed to a discussion on the price rise, suspending the question hour. It started with the Congress, with the BSP, the SP, the CPM and the Trinamool Congress(TMC) all lambasting the Centre by sarcastically referring to the BJP-NDA’s ‘acche din’(good days) slogan. “The government is committed to contain it (inflation) because we consider it a serious and sensitive matter,” Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley said in his reply.
However, Jaitley’s statement did not satisfy the Opposition, resulting in the Rajya Sabha witnessing the first and not likely to be the last walkout of the new session.
According to Jaitley, the previous government had always postponed taking decisions, which has forced the new government to take tough decisions. He pointed out that the `1 hike in diesel prices was a continuation of the UPA policy.
Similarly, Jaitley said that the hike in the railway passenger and freight fares was a decision taken by the UPA Government in February. The fare hike was to be implemented from May, but the directive was withdrawn on May 16 after the LS poll results were announced.
“At 7pm (on May 16), having approved the tariffs in February itself, (which would) become effective in May, because the Railways have been running up losses, the outgoing minister issues another order saying, “What you have done in the afternoon should be rescinded, and the matter should be decided by the next minister,” he said.
Jaitley asserted that Railways has incurred a loss of `30,000 crore on the passenger front. “For any public utility to run, the users must pay,” he said. TMC’s Derek O’brien immediately stood up to say that the numbers are disputed.
Taking a dig at the TMC, whose supremo Mamata Banerjee had been a former Union Railway Minister, Jaitley noted slyly, “I don’t know if those, who administered the Railways in the past, were the original sinners. My friend from the TMC should realise where the shoe started pinching.”
On the issue of food inflation, Jaitley said that the Centre had taken immediate steps to combat the price rise, including prevention of hoarding.