Will achieve fiscal deficit without cuts: Jaitley

New Delhi, Dec 16 (IANS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday the government will achieve its fiscal deficit target without any cuts in this financial year.

He made the statement in the Rajya Sabha after several members objected to the rise in excise duty on petrol after a supplementary list of business mentioning this was circulated.

The opposition parties, led by the Congress, said that the benefit of a fall in international oil prices was not being passed on to the consumers.

“It has caused anguish to all of us that in the supplementary list of business there is a seventh hike in central excise duty on petrol and diesel… When this government came crude oil price (in the international market) was around $100, while it fell to $35 on Tuesday. In the last financial year, the saving on oil import was $88 billion,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said raising the issue.

“You are profiteering and it not transferring the benefit to people,” he said.

“They have to save this money to cover up where they have failed,” he said, adding that Rajya Sabha does not have power to reject financial bills.

He also questioned more allocations sought for the external affairs ministry and questioned if it is for the foreign visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sharma was joined in by several opposition leaders including Tapan Kumar Sen of CPI-M, Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal-United, Bhupinder Singh of the Biju Janata Dal, K.P. Ramalingam of the DMK and D Raja of the CPI.

Ally Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the hike should not be on diesel, and the benefits should be passed on to farmers, as well as share shall be given to states.

Responding to the concerns raised by the members, Jaitley said that the benefits were being passed on to the consumer, but the money also needed to be used for development work.

Jaitley said that a subsidy is given on petrol and diesel, the money for which comes from the tax given by people, and to recover that for fiscal deficit, the money for development work used to be cut.

“Fiscal deficit was achieved by cutting amounts like Rs.1,20,000 crore in one given year. Today what has happened, the international price has fallen, the present government has a clear policy, that has been shared in three ways. One part of fall in prices goes to consumer,” he said, adding that so far prices of petrol have been cut 20 times and prices for diesel have gone down 16 times.

The minister also said that several states increased VAT (Value Added Tax) on Petrol as soon as center reduced prices.

“I am not complaining against any state India has to take utmost advantage of the fall in oil prices,” he said.

“First part of the fall goes to benefit of consumer, the second part goes to the central government when it levies excise. The states are getting 42 percent of this excise. Over and above every state has VAT,” he said.

“We not complaining because states also need money – a part of benefit goes for development work. We use all money for national highway and rural road” he said.

“This year we will achieve fiscal deficit without fiscal cut,” the minister added.

Soon after the minister replied, Congress leaders raised pitch demanding the sacking of Arunachal Pradesh Governor Jyoti Prashad, accusing him of “murdering democracy”.

The Congress has alleged that the governor has been interfering with the activities of the state government.

As the house witnessed protests over the issue, Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien tried to take up some zero hour mentions. Within minutes, it was time for question hour, and Kurien was replaced by Chairman M. Hamid Ansari.

The chairman tried to take up questions, but following protests adjourned the house for half an hour.

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