Friday, May 5, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

LS passes Finance Bill amid walkout
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, May 4 — The Lok Sabha today passed the 2000-2001 Finance Bill as the entire Opposition walked out after the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, did not concede to the demand for a rollback of the hike in PDS prices.

The Finance Minister, who was under pressure even from allies in the coalition to roll back the prices of items issued under the PDS and restoration of fertiliser subsidy, must be relieved as the Lok Sabha passed by a voice vote his Budget of the new millennium.

Strongly defending the government’s Budget proposals, Mr Sinha took a dig at the Congress stating that during 1985-89, the Congress government raised the prices of fertilisers on four occasions.

The Finance Minister also announced that the newly constituted Expenditure Commission had been asked to go into the issue of better targeting of subsidies, which, he said, at present stood at 14 per cent of the GDP.

He said the commission had been asked to give a quick report for better targeting of subsidies in food and fertilisers. This came in reply to a clarification sought by a Telugu Desam leader, Mr K Yerrannaidu, on the assurance of the Finance Minister that the sentiments of the allies would be kept in mind.

The entire Opposition walked out in protest as their demand for a rollback found no reflection in the minister’s speech. The Lok Sabha passed the Finance Bill after incorporating amendments moved by the government to give certain direct and indirect tax concessions, especially to the knowledge-based industry.

Meanwhile, unhappy over the government’s refusal to budge on the demand for a rollback of the increase in prices of foodgrain supplied under the PDS, BJP’s allies today sent a terse note to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in the Lok Sabha saying that they felt isolated.

“All allies feel ignored and isolated,” the note sent by TDP leader Yerrannaidu in consultation with other allies, including the TDP, Trinamool Congress, JD(U) and the Samata Party, said, according to NDA sources.

The note was sent to the Prime Minister as the clause by clause consideration of the Finance Bill was in progress in the House.

The sources said the allies were “very unhappy” with the government’s stand on the issue.

The allies have been pressing for their demand within and outside Parliament and even submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister during the first phase of the Budget session.

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