Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday continued his cross-examination of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the government's Rs 20-lakh crore stimulus package for the coronavirus-hit economy.
He pointed out that two of the measures announced on Friday evening - Rs 500 crore for beekeeping and Rs 13,343 crore for vaccination of domestic animals, were part of the Expenditure Budget that the government presented in February, and for which allocation of funds has been confirmed.
“Finance Minister may please clarify whether the sums she announced yesterday (Rs 500 crore and Rs 13,343 crore) are subsumed in the Expenditure Budget numbers or additional sums of money,” Chidambaram tweeted.
On Friday, Sitharaman presented the third tranche of economic measures meant to help sectors of the economy hit by the coronavirus lockdown; the tranche focused on agriculture and allied activities.
She said provisions had been made for beekeeping and animal husbandry, to which Chidambaram replied this morning: "We will begin a new series on research and dialogue (the new R&D). Expenditure Budget 2020/21 has already provided for beekeeping under National Horticulture Mission and allocated Rs 2,400 crore."
Likewise, under Animal Disease Control Programme the fight against foot-and-mouth disease has already been launched with a five-year outlay of Rs 13,343 crore and allocation of Rs 1300 crore in 2020-21, Chidambaram added.
The former Finance Minister took a swipe at the current Finance Minister on Friday as well, highlighting apparent contradictions in statements by Sitharaman and Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises).
The Congress, as a whole, has been sharply critical of the Rs 20 lakh crore package announced by the government, questioning its on-ground impact.
“One thing is clear... the so-called Rs 20 lakh crore economic package has proved to be a jumla package. It reflects the 'voodoo' economics being followed by the Prime Minister and Finance Minister,” party spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala was quoted as saying..
The big-ticket announcement in Friday's briefing was a Rs 1 lakh crore fund for farm-gate infrastructure and proposal of laws to ease restrictions on trade of farm products and enable better prices for farmers.
The first two announcements dealt with MSMEs, the middle class and the migrant labourers crisis.