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Bulk of additional spending to go towards people-centric schemes, says Finance Minister

Replying in the Lok Sabha after discussion on one of the highest supplementary demands for grants in the Indian history, the minister laid out details for the additional expenditure of over 2 lakh 35 thousand crore rupees with net cash outgo of nearly 1 lakh 66 thousand crore rupees.

Lok Sabha approved the first batch of the supplementary demands for grants in its sitting yesterday which lasted till late in the night. The supplementary funds will mainly be utilised by the government to meet expenses for combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Sitharaman informed that the government will be pushing in additional 40 thousand crore rupees in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme to help sustain the demand driven employment scheme amidst the viral pandemic. She said, with the fresh addition the total outgo towards the MGNREGA scheme would surpass 1 lakh crore rupees.

Additional demands to the tune of 20 thousand crore rupees for capital infusion in public sector banks and over 33 thousand crore rupees for direct benefit transfer under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and National Social Assistance Programme has also been sought by the government. The Finance Minister said because of the digital initiatives of the government under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it has now become possible to send money directly into the accounts of the poor people. She emphasised that with this, every single rupee sent by the government reaches the beneficiary leaving no room for middlemen or corruption.

Responding to the opposition’s charge that Centre was reneging on its promise of paying GST compensation, Sitharaman emphatically stressed that the government is not thinking of reneging on any commitment to the states. She added that the flow of funds to the state governments has increased despite revenue shortfall on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finance Minister  said that unlike some other countries, the government was not planning to increase taxes to raise revenue.

Taking heavily on opposition members who made comments on her remark that COVID-19 is an act of God, she said, people like to use Latin expression of ‘force majeure’ for expressing extraordinary situation in courts but when a common terminology is used for general understanding by a woman finance minister, the same is being sarcastically attacked. The Finance Minister said that attempts to twist her statement to imply that the Centre was reneging on its responsibility is a completely irresponsible comment towards a responsible government. Making a reference to the current border tensions between India and China, she said that despite the situation in Eastern Ladakh, the government is not cutting down on devolution of taxes to the states. Sitharaman affirmed, the GST Council will arrive at a common ground on ways to compensate states for loss of revenue, amid opposition’s charge that the Centre is reneging on its promise of paying compensation.

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