Funds diversion, price rise angers opposition in parliament (Roundup)

New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) The diversion of funds meant for Dalits to Commonwealth Games projects and spiralling prices generated much heat in parliament Tuesday, with the former forcing three adjournments of the Rajya Sabha before the house finally took up the issue and the Bharatiya Janata Party taking on the government in the Lok Sabha on the price rise.

‘It shows the real mentality of the government which pretends to be pro-Dalit,’ Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Satish Chandra Misra said while raising the funds diversion issue in the Rajya Sabha in the post-lunch session, adding: ‘Instead of using the funds meant for making schools, health centres and other amenities for the scheduled castes, the government put their money in the Commonwealth Games. It is shameful.’

Responding to the discussion, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan said: ‘It is a serious matter, I will apprise the (Delhi) government (of the concerns raised) and the government will come back with the information shortly.’

According to information given in reply to an RTI application, nearly Rs.744.35 crore from Delhi’s Special Component Plan (SCP), which is meant for improving the standard of living of Dalits through various government schemes and programmes, was diverted to Games projects.

The issue also figured in the Lok Sabha with BSP members staging a walkout.

After the BSP’s Dara Singh Chauhan raised the issue in the house,

Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav supported him and said the issue should be discussed.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the allegations were based on media reports, which he said were baseless.

Earlier, the Lok Sabha was adjourned for half-an-hour after MPs from Maharashtra and Karnataka gathered near Speaker Meira Kumar’s podium over the dispute relating to Belgaum district.

The house also took up a discussion on price rise with the Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj launching a scathing attack on the government, saying it had betrayed the common man.

Moving the motion: ‘That this House do consider the inflationary pressure on the economy and its adverse impact on the common man,’ Swaraj said that poor people were finding it hard to make their ends meet due to the spiraling prices.

Finding fault with government’s argument that the hike in petroleum products had resulted in only a marginal increase in prices, she said that cumulative effect of the hike was heavy.

‘Women in villages, who had begun using LPG (cooking gas) cylinders, are talking of using firewood again in their kitchens,’ she said.

Swaraj said that the government’s argument that it needed money for social sector schemes was flawed. ‘The people at whom these programmes are directed are finding it difficult to meet their basic food needs,’ she said.

She said the centre was seeking to pass the buck to the states by asking them to reduce taxes on petroleum products. Swaraj said the the government should ask the Congress-ruled states to take the lead in this direction.

She also attacked the government for ‘mishandling’ the storage of foodgrain.

Communist Party of India MP Gurudas Dasgupta said that the government was labouring under the myth that inflation was required for growth.

‘Government does not care about inflation,’ he said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Basudeb Acharia said that the July 5 shutdown against price rise had seen a spontaneous response from people.

The government is expected to reply to the debate Wednesday.

In the Rajya Sabha, the BSP’s Mishra also demanded a parliamentary panel probe into the diversion of funds for Dalits.

‘A special parliamentary committee should be constituted and CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) should come up with a report,’ he said.

Backing the BSP demand, Bharatiya Janata Party leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said the diversion of funds was ‘atrocious’.

‘This is not acceptable, the government of India should intervene, order an enquiry and take action,’ Naidu said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist member Brinda Karat described it as ‘economic oppression’.

‘They have robbed a major chunk of the money meant for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, it is not Commonwealth Games, it is Lootwealth games,’ Karat said.

She also alleged that the diversion was done with the permission of the Planning Commission.

‘Planning Commission is headed by the prime minister, it happened with their permission,’ she maintained.

Bhalchandra Mungekar (Nominated) said that diversion of funds was against the rules.

‘The diversion of funds is indefensible, the funds earmarked for Special Component Plans and tribal sub-plans is non-divertible and non-lapsable,’ he said.

Replying to the debate, Chavan said he will get back with the reply after collecting information.

An agitated opposition, however, demanded a timeline from the minister.

‘The matter concerns the state government and we will have to get information from the state government,’ Chavan said, assuring he would get back as soon as possible.

The minister also added that there was ‘no question of diversion of money’ meant for the scheduled castes and tribes.

The issue saw three adjournments of the Rajya Sabha, the first for 10 minutes when the house assembled at 11 a.m., the second till 12 noon and the third till 2 p.m.

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