A day after CBI arrested TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay, his party colleague and West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra on Wednesday walked out angrily from a pre-budget meeting saying there was ‘financial emergency’ and ‘political environment of fear’ in the country.
Mitra, who was in full attendance at the two-day meeting of the GST council chaired by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley that ended on Wednesday, said the Union budget had become a “meaningless” exercise after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation on New Year’s eve, made announcements similar to a budget presentation.
He said that before walking out, he made the Union finance minister, who had called the meeting, hear the expectations of states on his fourth budget to be presented on February 1 and also make him aware of the “financial emergency” imposed by demonetisation and the job losses it has led to.
“I wanted the finance minister to hear the reality on the ground, the financial emergency in the country, the political environment of fear all around,” he told reporters after emerging from the meeting.
Bandyopadhyay was arrested by the CBI in Kolkata on Tuesday in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund scam -- a move that promoted West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to allege that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was using central agencies like the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and income tax department against his political rivals who were raising their voice against demonetisation.
The Trinamool Congress, he said, is today demonstrating against “the political emergency that seems to have happened at every nook and corner on every matter”.
Mitra also said currency demonetisation has led to closure of small industries and left hundreds jobless across the country, including the BJP-ruled States.
While the leather industry in West Bengal has completely collapsed, closure of 12 lakh powerlooms in Maharashtra had led to workers returning to their native places in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana.
In case of Maharashtra, the red chilly industry has collapsed, falling by 30-40%; while in Nagpur, oranges industry has collapsed, he said.
“There is a financial emergency that is not being talked about. Even the data that honourable finance minister gave on his receiving taxes, none of the media got the facts as he gave it from April to end of November, not after November 8,” he said.
Mitra said he wanted Jaitley to hear the truth.
“I would like to say to you today with a very heavy heart that I have walked out of the meeting after making my presentation...,” he said.
The budget, he said, has “become meaningless for the first time in the history of India. Budget has already been announced by the honourable prime minister. It doesn’t happen anywhere else. Given this perspective, I had to protest it and I had to walk out in protest.”
Mitra asked who was responsible for the financial crisis caused by demonetisation and derailing of the economy? What goes into Budget has already been announced by the Prime Minister. “What is the finance minister there for now?,” he asked.
The West Bengal finance minister said his submission at the pre-budget meeting primarily focused on demonetisation and “what it is doing to the economy as a perspective of the budget.”
“Budget needs a perspective. 1.26 lakh crore has been sacrificed according to CMIE,” he said, adding diamond workers have returned home from Gujarat.
“In Maharashtra, there are 24 lakh powerlooms, 12 lakh of those powerlooms are closed and workers from there have gone back to their States. But nobody is bothered in the central government,” he said.
Leather industry in West Bengal has completely collapsed.
Stating that 70% of India’s exports of gloves and handbags are from the state, he said small and medium enterprises and unorganised sectors are starving.
“You make a budget on the (basis of) reality on the ground. There is a financial emergency that is not being talked about,” he said.
He said Jaitley had talked of buoyancy in tax revenue for April-November period while defending demonetisation but he did not give numbers after November 8.
“I also told them that the tax collections in December in West Bengal last year (2015) was 11% higher..., it is a negative growth of 2% (December, 2016) since Bengal has lost 13% of potential taxes,” he said, adding states were faced with 30-40% decline in their Budget revenues.
He asked how could the States fund their social programmes, health, water, physical infrastructure, schools, colleges, roads.
“So financial crisis of derailing the economy. Who is responsible for that?,” he asked.