Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday defended the economic reforms undertaken by her government and said they cut the corporate tax rate not just for “good headlines, PR or atmospherics” but because it is a good reform. She attacked the Opposition in Rajya Sabha for calling the Bharatiya Janata Party government elitist.
Earlier in the day, Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu condemned the attack on a rape complainant in Uttar Pradesh. He said the government should send a signal to the country by taking prompt, strong action against the guilty.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram attended Parliament after getting bail in the INX Media case. The Rajya Sabha sent the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to Lok Sabha.
Here are the day’s updates from the two Houses:
8.00 pm: Rajya Sabha adjourned till Friday 11 am.
7.37 pm: Subsidies in Parliament canteens are likely to rise after members across party lines agreed to Speaker Om Birla’s suggestions, reports PTI. “It was decided in the business advisory committee after Speaker’s initiative,” says BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who is a member of the business advisory committee. “MPs are of the view that it is not appropriate.”
7.30 pm: The Ministry of Home Affairs asks state governments to suggest changes in the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Penal Code, reports PTI.
6.30 pm: Rajya Sabha has been adjourned for the day.
6.06 pm: The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is returned by the Rajya Sabha to the Lok Sabha.
6.01 pm: Sitharaman refers to former Union minister P Chidambaram’s statements in 2012, where he had said: “when the urban middle class can buy a bottle of mineral water for Rs 15 and ice cream for Rs 20, why do they make so much noise”. She questions why the Opposition was calling her elitist.
5.55 pm: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman responds to criticism over the Indian economy in Rajya Sabha. She says it is wrong to say this government is elitist.
5.46 pm: “Cutting down corporate tax is not just good for headlines, not just good PR, not just good atmospherics, it’s good reform,” says Nirmala Sitharaman in Rajya Sabha, adding that the government is committed to taking reformatory steps.
5.45 pm: Ministers meeting over rising onion prices begins in Parliament, according to ANI.
5.30 pm: As onion prices have touched an all-time high, Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan says “what is the compulsion to eat it” in Parliament, reports ANI. “Our Jain brothers don’t eat,” he says. “Stop eating onions, stop eating garlic, stop eating meat, everything will be saved. A Queen had once said ‘if they don’t have bread then let them eat cake’.”
5.25 pm: Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informs Rajya Sabha that as many as 4,000 passports were delivered in Jammu and Kashmir since the region lost its special status in August, reports PTI. “There was no suspension of postal services in Kashmir post August 5, 2019,” he says. “Rather India Post has done a commendable job including delivery of 4,000 passports.”
5.20 pm: BJP MP Virendra Singh Mast says in Lok Sabha that Opposition claims of auto slowdown are being made to “defame” the country, reports PTI. He says there are many households in India that have multiple cars and cites traffic jam on stress to substantiate his statements.
5.15 pm: Government is committed to protecting the fundamental right of its citizens to privacy and reports of surveillance of citizens are completely misleading, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tells Rajya Sabha.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has claimed that Indian journalists, human rights activists and civil society organisations were not only targeted through the Pegasus spyware but also through email malware.
5.02 pm: Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu announces that a 14-member informal group will study matters related to pornographic content on internet and social media platforms, reports PTI. “After studying the matter and discussion with members, I have decided to give one month time to an informal group to look into the issue,” says Naidu.
4.45 pm: Reddy says there is no point in criticising the government, according to The Hindu. “Why is the industry not growing,” he asks. “There is no investment. Investment comes either by borrowing from banks or by capital markets. I draw the attention of the finance minister to see how best we can raise the capital markets. Even though we feel proud of our honest banking system, there are some incidents where things went wrong and shattered the entire banking system. I suggest the finance minister to give them courage to be cautious and courageous.”
4.40 pm: Rajya Sabha discusses the state of Indian economy. Congress leader T Subbarami Reddy says he appreciates Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s initiative to seek views of the members. “Indian economy depends on all sectors,” he says. “Infrastructure is highlighted everywhere in speeches by heads of state. Continue the tax exemptions on infrastructure for some more time.”
4.30 pm: Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader AM Ariff says government policies are aggravating the farm distress, reports The Hindu. “Inflation, electricity charges make their lives hard,” he says in Lok Sabha. “4,000 Maharashtra farmers have killed themselves. The government is fooling the farmers. Most powerful goons are the middlemen. The price of onion has touched a high, but no farmer is going to receive that money. In 2018 and 2019 Kerala had to face two floods.”
4.10 pm: Union minister Ashwini Choubey when asked about onion prices says in Parliament: “I am a vegetarian. I have never tasted an onion. So, how will a person like me know about the situation [market prices] of onions.”
His comments came amid an ongoing row over Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s “I-don’t-eat-onions” comment.
3.47 pm: “The assumption of the Bill is fundamentally flawed,” says Jairam Ramesh.
3.45 pm: Congress leader Jairam Ramesh says there are significant differences between the ordinance that was issued and the Bill, according to The Hindu. “We are living in an era of QSQT [referring to the movie Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak], not qayamat se qayamat tak; It is quarter se quarter tak,” he adds. “I am not a believer in QSQT. Because economies grow in long term. But when you have 6 consecutive quarters of GDP decline, it is cause of worry.”
3.40 pm: Rajya Sabha discusses Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019. Opposition parties raise objections regarding the Bill.
3.35 pm: Naidu says prompt action needs to be taken so that such incidents do not happen again. “What is needed, is not mere arrest in one case,” he adds. “We must send out a signal to the entire country & society that in such incidents action should be taken promptly, swiftly, & adequately, so these things are not repeated again.”
3.33 pm: Rajya Sabha Chairperson and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu speaks about the 23-year-old rape survivor who was set on fire this morning, reports ANI. “This entire House condemns the incident,” he says. “I got in contact with the chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, he has explained to me that the culprits have been arrested.”
12.02 pm: P Chidambaram takes a jibe at Nirmala Sitharaman’s remark that she does not consume onions: “Finance Minister said yesterday that she doesn’t eat onions, so what does she eat? Does she eat avocado?”
11.40 am: The Rajya Sabha is adjourned till noon.
11.01 am: Congress leaders, including P Chidambaram, protest over onion prices.
10.55 am: Indian Union Muslim League gives adjournment notice in Lok Sabha over Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, reports ANI.
10.45 am: Former Finance Minister and Congress veteran P Chidambaram reaches Parliament.