File photo: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
New Delhi: Hailing the Prime Minister's decision to force the agenda for poverty-based reservation as the single greatest pro-poor step, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday accused the Congress of grudgingly supporting the bill for 10 per cent reservation for poor among the upper castes.
"The Prime Minister's decision to force an agenda for poverty-based reservation is the single greatest recognition/concern for poor across the general categories and the need to eliminate poverty.
"The principal opposition party showed only lip sympathy for the measure and grudgingly supported it while poking holes in the same," Jaitley said in a Facebook post.
The Minister said poverty as a criteria for the 10 per cent reservation would neither contravene the basic structure of the Constitution nor would it be restricted by the 50 per cent reservation cap placed by the Supreme Court.
"Poverty, however, is a secular criteria. It cuts across communities and religions. Poverty as a criteria for a carve-out does not in any way contravene the basic structure of the Constitution... It is an aid to the interpretation of what constitutes the basic structure," he said.
Listing the pro-poor and pro-middle class measures taken by the Modi government, he said the method for economically empowering the poor was to improve their purchasing power, which, he claimed, his government has achieved.
"This is the first five-year tenure of a government where India has consistently remained the fastest growing economy in the world. This indeed helps every Indian - the poor, the neo-middle class, the middle class and, of course, the large business community," he said.
Jaitley said the government is building about 50 lakh houses per annum in rural India and that every poor family will have a house by 2022. Most Indian villages have been connected by a pucca road and each village has been electrified.
"State funding has been increased from Rs 9,000 crore annually (pre United Progressive Alliance) to Rs 27,000 crore during National Democratic Alliance... Rural sanitation has moved up from 39 per cent to over 98 per cent," he said.
He also said that schemes like Ujjawala and MGNREGA had benefited the poor, while Ayushman Bharat would provide health cover to 40 per cent of India's poorest. For farmers, the government has promised Minimum Support Price for their crops at 50 per cent higher than the input cost.
"For the India's middle class, in the last five years, not a single tax has been increased. Indirect taxes have been merged into one in the GST... the single most important ‘consumer friendly measure' in India.
"Taxes of most commodities have been brought down. Commodities have been made cheaper, even though the revenue sacrificed now after the rates revision would be close to Rs one lakh crore," he said.
Jaitley added that the government had also benefited the employees by giving them a standard deduction of Rs 40,000 which cost the exchequer almost Rs 97,000 crore per annum.
Inflation during the five year tenure has been kept between three-four per cent as against 10.4 per cent during UPA-II, he said.