Nirmala Sitharaman's Price-Rise Defence Faces Congress Walkout

The finance minister's response came after 10 days of chaos in parliament as the opposition demanded a discussion on price rise.

"Currently retail inflation is at 7 per cent," Nirmala Sitharaman said.

New Delhi:

Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman, responding to the debate on price rise in the Lok Sabha today, gave an account of all the parameters to assess the economy, and said there is no chance of the country going into recession or stagflation. In the middle of her response, the Congress staged a walkout, saying they were not satisfied with her response.

"The pandemic, second wave of Covid, Omicron, Russia-Ukraine -- in spite of all this we have held the inflation at 7 per cent or below. And that has to be recognised," Ms Sitharaman said.  

"Currently retail inflation is at 7 per cent. During UPA rule from 2004 to 2014, the inflation went into double digits. During that period, the inflation was above 9 per cent for 22 consecutive months," she said.  

Most of the inflation, she said, is in food and fuel. "Food inflation is coming down in the world, and it will come down in India also," she added.

Declaring that India is still better off than other nations, Ms Sitharaman said the GDP of the US fell 0.7 per cent in second quarter, after logging 1.9 per cent in the first quarter.  

"They called this unofficial recession. There is no question of India getting into recession... A Bloomberg survey of economists said there is 0 per cent possibility of India slipping into recession," she said.

Citing the other parameters of economy, she said, "The NPA (Non-Performing Assets) of commercial banks is at a six-year low. GST collections have been above Rs 1.4 lakh crore consecutively for 5 months".

The finance minister's response came after 10 days of chaos in parliament as the opposition demanded a discussion on price rise. The Treasury and Opposition benches agreed for discussion on the price rise issue in the lower house after Parliament Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi moved a motion for revocation of suspension of four Congress Lok Sabha MPs.

Around 20 members across parties participated in the discussion. Even like-minded parties like Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal and the YSR Congress urged the government to intervene to arrest inflation.

Congress MP Manish Tewari started the discussion, accusing the BJP-led government of mishandling the economy through "demonitisation and the ill-conceived GST". Through the latest GST hike, the government has strengthened their budget but ruined the budget of 25 crore Indians, he said.

Jharkhand's BJP MP Nishikant Dubey cited the fact-checker Mohammed Zubair's tweet on LPG prices to counter Mr Tewari. The price of LPG in 2013 was over Rs 1,000, now it is less, he said.

The BJD's Pinaki Misra highlighted that the cash in circulation now has doubled compared to the pre-demonitisation period and asked the government to introspect on its policies.  

Countering the Centre's defence that fuel prices are rising due to the fuel bonds purchased by Congress, Mr Misra said the Centre has collected 27.27 lakh crore through fuel taxes. Every time they say that they are paying for the fuel bonds purchased by UPA, but in reality, "they have just paid 93,600 crore... which is just 3.4 per cent," he said.

Trinamool Congress's Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, munching on a raw brinjal, said the price of LPG cylinder have been raised four times in the last few months. "From Rs 600, it is now Rs 1,100...Does the government want us to eat raw vegetables?" she said.

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