Budget details leaked to Cong for demanding farm waiver: BJP

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New Delhi, Feb 29 (UNI) Charging Finance Minister P Chidambaram with leaking the Budget to the Congress for ''political upmanship'', the BJP today claimed that the Centre had used the information to demand for the farmers' loan waiver after the Budget details were in print.

BJP Vice-President and former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, reacting to the Budget 2008-2009 presentation in Parliament by Mr Chidambaram, said the government was a ''silent spectator'' when thousands of farmers committed suicide as they were unable to repay their debt. However, the UPA government in the fag end of its term was now coming up with farmers' loan waiver to be implemented by June 30.

''The timing of the implementation gives clear indication that the election is round-the-corner and the government was playing to the gallery without extending help when the farmers needed it the most,'' he said.

Mr Sinha said the Finance Minister had ducked the most important question -- where are Rs 60,000 crore coming from? Will the banks bear the cost or the government do it? There is no such indication in the Budget proposal, he said.

''The BJP would like to warn that the FM should not take the route of issuing long term bonds and pass on burden to the future governments as he has done in case of subsidies,'' Mr Sinha said.

The former Finance Minister said 26 per cent of the farmers were out of the banking net and had borrowed money from private lenders and the Budget had not included this subtantial section of farmers, susceptible to suicides, he felt.

He said the banks were likely to face problems regarding the extent of land holdings as only Revenue Department has information on the holdings and they were in quite ''bad shape''. ''As a former Revenue official myself, I foresee problems in this front,'' he added.

Mr Sinha said the Budget could have been used to reduce interest rates on farm loans. But, that was not done despite the BJP's demand.

Any government measure would be inadequate if the crop losses were not covered by an insurance scheme. And unless this loophole was plugged, the government would have to resort to loan waivers every five years, he remarked.

''The Budget is woefully indequate when it comes to infrastructure and there are no new major projects announced,'' he claimed.

On the income tax relief, Mr Sinha said the IT slabs could have been more liberal and the FM would have abolished the Fringe Benefit Tax and Banking Cash Transaction Tax.

Alleging that the govenment had ''done nothing'' to contain the fiscal deficit, Mr Sinha charged the Finance Minister with postponing the targets of the Fiscal Responsibility Budget Management Act (FRBM) twice in four years. On the first occasion, the government sought exemption because the Act was notified and now for the second time, he added.

Mr Sinha further said the government had also made no provision for the implementation of the Pay Commission recommendations.

UNI MCN/KAS HS HS1742

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