Aap Ki Adalat: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman praised the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Income Tax department for unearthing huge amounts of black money during raids, but made it clear that her ministry never interfered in their functioning.
Replying to questions from Rajat Sharma in the ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ show held during India TV Budget Conclave on Friday, Sitharaman said, “Look at the huge stacks of currency notes seized by ED. They looked like clothes left in a bulk for the washing machine. Pahaad jaise cash miley hain (the seized cash looked like small hills).”
Rajat Sharma: But Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia says, that they could not find anything in his lockers or from his home?
Sitharaman: “Kuch Mila Nahin? (got nothing?) ED, CBI I-T, whenever they go out on raids, they carry proofs with them. They ask 10 times about those proofs.”
Rajat Sharma: Have you ever asked ED about the raids?
Sitharaman: “Bilkul poochtey nahin (We never ask). They are an independent organisation. Why should I ask them? In Modi’s government, we do not give instructions to them on phone.”
On West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s reaction that it was a direction-less budget, which she could have prepared in 30 minutes, Sitharaman replied: “Budget is a serious document. The budget document is not for excitement. In a budget, you have to toil a lot. Politicians should do some homework before making comments.”
On Congress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s remark that the word ‘poverty’ has been mentioned only twice in this year’s budget, Sitharaman said: “If I mention it a thousand times, will poverty be eliminated? We are working on the ground, providing power, drinking water, toilets and LPG connections to the poor. There are two ways to tackle poverty. One is, entitlement, about which politicians only speak, but nothing is done on the ground. The other is, empowerment, which the Prime Minister emphasizes, so that the poor can get their due.”
Sitharaman said, the funds for MNREGA this time were reduced, because “it is a demand-driven programme. Money is given when there is demand. This time, we are providing work to people under PM Awaas Yojana and in Jal Jeevan Mission. We allocated Rs 79,000 crore for PM Awaas Yojana, so that those people who are seasonally unemployed can do work in these two programmes.
The Finance Minister agreed that inflation took place because of “several external factors because of which fuel and fertilizer imports became costlier. Under the directions of the Prime Minister, excise duty on fuel was reduced in November, 2021 and June, 2022, to ease the burden on people. Similarly, imported fertilizers which cost us Rs 1,800 per bag was being provided to farmers at only Rs 200 per bag. The Prime Minister wanted the government to share the full burden.
The causes behind inflation were not in our hands. We gave some relief by reducing excise duty on fuel, but many state governments did not cooperate. The inflation rate stood between 6 to 7 per cent, but after RBI and the government’s measures, it has declined from October and November. To curb rising price of atta, the Group of Ministers has decided to release wheat from buffer stock in the market.”
Sitharaman hit out at Rahul Gandhi describing his Bharat Jodo Yatra as ‘Bharat Todo Yatra.’ “Rahul’s allegations against Modi, are all baseless. He is trying to fool the people by making false allegations. I feel really sorry because India should have a responsible opposition. You cannot be a responsible opposition by making baseless allegations. When GST was being finalized, Congress supported the move. Pranab Mukherjee was pressing for GST, but now that GST is being implemented, he (Rahul) is describing it as Gabbar Singh Tax.”
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