Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reiterated that retail inflation is now stable and within the notified tolerance band of 2 to 6 percent. Replying to the discussion in Lok Sabha on the Interim Union Budget 2024-25 and Interim Budget for Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir 2045-25, the Minister said retail inflation has declined from an average of 6.8 percent in April-December 2022 to 5.5 percent in the corresponding period of 2023. 

She stressed that as a result of steps taken by the government, the prices of essential items like atta, dal, onion and rice have come down.

Finance Minister said the labour force in the country has increased from 49.8 in 2017-18 to 57.9 percent in 2022-23. She added that the unemployment rate has decreased from 6 percent in 2017-18 to 3.2 percent in 2022-23. She also said that the labour force of youth has also increased from 38.2 percent in 2017-18 to 45.5 percent in 2022-23.

Responding to concerns about India's debt to GDP ratio, the Finance Minister assured that the government's external debt is negligible. She added that the government's measures towards debt structuring and bringing down core debt are reassuring.

She said the Central government will provide the government of Jammu and Kashmir 41 thousand 751 crore rupees in 2023-24 and 37, 278 crore rupees in 2024-25 as assistance to the UT. She said their Supplementary Demand for Grants is seeking 8713 crore rupees primarily for repayment of debt.

After the Finance Minister's reply, the House approved Demands for Grants on Account for 2024-25. Besides, Supplementary Demands for Grants - Second Batch for 2023-2024, Demands for Grants on Account of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for 2024-25, and Supplementary Demands for Grants of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for the financial year 2023-24 were also passed. In addition, the Appropriation Bills 2024, including for Jammu and Kashmir, were also passed.

Earlier, initiating the discussion, Shashi Tharoor of Congress hit out at the government over the issue of employment saying the country is witnessing unprecedented levels of unemployment which is currently highest in the last

45 years. Mr. Tharoor also raised questions over the demonetization and GST saying it was badly designed and implemented. 

He also talked about raising inequality in the country and raised questions over the government's claim of pulling out 25 crore Indians from Multidimensional Poverty. He also criticised the government over the issue of rising inflation saying that prices of essential commodities have gone up in recent years. Mr. Tharoor said, the government is imposing centralized cooperative federalism and democracy is suffering under their regime.

Participating in the discussion, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey lauded the achievements made under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He accused the Congress of trying to divide the country by promoting North vs South debate for vote bank politics. He alleged that there was rampant corruption during the UPA rule from 2004 to 2014. He said, due to the consistent efforts and policy initiatives, the poverty in India has reduced significantly. He lauded the Interim Budget saying that it has mentioned that a committee will be formed to look into the issues related to rising population and demographic changes. He said the government abrogated Article 370 and Article 35-A from Jammu and Kashmir.

Intervening in the discussion, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani hit out at the Congress for failing to provide facilities like toilets, drinking water, housing and banking facilities in the last 48 years in Amethi Parliamentary Constituency. Mrs Irani, who is an MP from Amethi said, the constituency falls under the Sultanpur District and as per census 2011, over 83 per cent of the population was deprived of electricity. She said, the first Krishi Vigyan Kendra was made operational only under the Narendra Modi government. 

She informed that 10 lakh Jan- Dhan Accounts were opened in Amethi Constituency and over one lakh 8 thousand families were provided houses only under Modi government. She questioned the Gandhi family as to why justice was not done with the people of this Constituency whom they represented for 48 years.   

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