Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma came under constant fire of a united Opposition in the Rajya Sabha on Friday as he tried to defend government's policy to bring FDI in multi-brand retail. Sharma had a tough time in warding off Opposition barbs.
Sharma not yielding to NK Singh to clarify what the JD (U) legislator termed as a “selective” quote from a report of a committee he had chaired during NDA-rule led to the adjournment of the house as well.
Sharma in his speech reiterated the there was a 30 to 35% wastage of vegetable and fruits in the country and said he was basing his facts on the annual reports of the agriculture and food processing departments.
Jaitley had said the Central Institute of Post Harvesting Technology in Punjab has had figures even lower than that and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar spoke in the Lok Sabha on May 8 and agreed with these figures.
Jaitley wanted to know which figure is right. “The quantum of wastage is a matter of fact. There is a situation where there are two different versions,” the leader of opposition in the house said.
Jaitley also challenged Sharma’s assertion that all stake-holders were consulted before government deciding to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. Sharma’s reference to NK Singh’s report when he chaired a panel on FDI in retail during the NDA rule kicked up a row.
The minister said that Singh, who was principal secretary to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee from August 2001-June 2004 under the NDA government, had “chaired a committee on FDI in multi-brand retail.”
The Opposition was immediately on their feet protesting. BJP’s M Venkaiah Naidu and Jaitley protested while Singh got up to make an interjection. Opposition charged Sharma was misleading the House. With Opposition sticking to its demand, the House was adjourned.