Wrong choice of words can create big news: Arvind Panagariya

Vice-Chairman of Niti Aayog Arvind Panagariya
In an apparent dig at NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy, the think tank’s Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya said on Thursday that “wrong choice of words can create big news”. The comment came against the backdrop of a controversy generated this week over the remarks by Debroy on taxing income from agriculture. The NITI Aayog had earlier distanced itself from the comment, saying it was Debroy’s “personal views”.

Panagariya made the comment at a workshop on Smart Cities, where Debroy was the first speaker. The event was also attended by Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu. 

During his interaction, Debroy said: “We are greatly privileged that we have Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu. Those from Australia may not know that the honourable minister is known for coining very apt acronyms at the drop of a hat.”

Panagariya responded to his remarks, saying, “Acronyms that Naidu coins are also meaningful. Few wrong choice of words in a speech can lead to big news.” Earlier this week, Debroy’s comment that agricultural income should be brought under the tax net had created a flutter in government circles. “On the personal income tax side also exemption should go... on expanding the base on the personal income tax side, other than elimination of exemptions, is to also tax rural sector, including agriculture income above certain threshold,” Debroy had said.

His remarks on a politically sensitive issue prompted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to issue a statement that the government did not have any plans to tax agriculture income.

Panagariya, who also attended the same press conference had avoided making any comment on the exact nature of the recommendations or also on the suggestions made by Debroy.

A day later, NITI Aayog said there was no proposal in the three-year action agenda to tax farm income.

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