Friday, March 11, 2011

Don\'t blame the poor, it is Bush language: Brinda

NEW DELHI, March 11, 2011

Price rise is an unlegislated tax, and the budget favours only the rich\'

Lashing out at the United Progressive Alliance-II for following anti-people policies and not even sparing school-going children in the general budget by levying taxes on their textbooks and stationary, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat on Thursday urged the government not to blame the poor for the food inflation.

"By attributing the rise in prices to increasing consumption by the poor, the government is putting the blame for food inflation on the poor and thereby asking the common man to live with it," she said in the Rajya Sabha, while participating in a debate on the budget.

Ms. Karat said the government was linking food inflation to higher purchasing power of the poor resulting from employment programmes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. "What kind of an argument is this when there is so much malnourishment in the country. The same argument was given by the former United States President, George W. Bush, when global food prices rose in 2008. I request the Finance Minister not to blame the poor for eating more. This is George Bush\'s language," she remarked.

The CPI(M) leader described price rise as 'unlegislated tax\' and said the budget favoured only the rich and the corporates, while resource mobilisation had been shifted to the working class. "This is clear by increasing contribution of indirect taxes [which are distributed to all — the poor and the rich] to the total tax kitty," she said.

Referring to the contentious issue of levy of 5 per cent service tax on health diagnostics, Ms. Karat said the government wanted to send across a message to the people of the country that 'do not dare to fall sick, even your sickness is going to be taxed.\'

On petroleum prices, she charged the government with giving selective and misleading data. "Rising petroleum prices are adding to the woes of the common man. The government earned tax revenue of Rs. 1,11,000 crore from this sector last year and tax revenue under this head is going to increase by Rs. 24,000 crore to Rs. 1,35,000 crore this fiscal," Ms. Karat said. She said that on the basic price of retail petrol at Rs. 51.64 per litre, 48 per cent was tax. On diesel, the tax stood at 32 per cent.

Ms. Karat also opposed direct transfer of cash to the poor, stating that in countries such as Brazil this was an additional benefit and did not substitute existing subsidies. She said the below poverty line (BPL) data, on which these schemes would depend, were dubious. The government had reduced subsidy on fertilizer, which would lead to increase in prices of soil nutrients. On direct cash transfer to poor families, Ms. Karat said it could not substitute or replace subsidies given by the government on food, kerosene and other products.

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