THE second phase of Budget Session began on March 9. The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day on the first day without transacting any business as a mark of respect to sitting member Haji Abdul Salam who died recently. Salam represented Manipur in the Upper House.
Sitaram Yechury raised the matter regarding alleged attack on academic freedom in Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University and pointed out that these universities have been established by law enacted by Parliament. Attempts are being made to decry Indian nationalism in the name of Hindutva nationalism, and this is something which cannot be allowed. Organisations are taking upon themselves the right to decide who is wrong and who is right. Let the law of the land take its course. T K Rangarajan made an appeal to condemn the attitude of the goondaism.
P Karunakaran raised the matter regarding an RSS leader making a public statement that he would give Rs 1 crore if anyone came forward to kill the chief minister of Kerala. We have a federal set-up; we have our Constitution which provides fundamental right to each and every citizen to express free views ad to go anywhere and to read any book or to see any other issues. It is shocking and unfortunate that such things happen in our country. Whether it is the policy of the government to attack the chief minister of other parties? He asked.
Md. Salim in the Lok Sabha participated in the discussion on the killing of Indians in the United States. He condemned these attacks.
P Karunakaran in the Lok Sabha also raised the matter regarding Ezhimala Naval Academy, Kannur where the people of the area have given their land for the construction of the academy. A waste treatment plant was constructed near this academy. People are not aware of the danger it posed. The Pollution Control Board has examined it and the Environmental Studies have found E. coli bacteria in the wells and ponds nearby this Academy, which is known for causing kidney failure. Though we are fully supporting the Naval Academy, but at the same time, the health of the people must be taken care of. So, the government should see to shift this wastage treatment plant from this place.
The Lok Sabha passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 by which the women workforce in India's organised sector will get paid maternity leave up to 26 weeks, up from the existing 12 weeks. Speaking on this, P K Biju pointed out that every year, we discussed many issues, and we found that the Ministry of Women and Child Development has allotted a huge budget for reducing malnutrition in our country. In this regard, I would request the government to discuss this issue with all the ministries and to come out with a solid proposal to deal with the situation and increase the allocation to ICDS for proper implementation and to reduce the percentage of malnutrition in our country. In this Bill, one of the amendments brought by the Ministry of Law states that an employer may permit a woman to work from home if the nature of work permits her to do so. It may lead to misuse of this clause in future. Nobody should be allowed to misuse such a clause if maternity benefits are allowed and directs the mother to work for the company from her home itself. Again, a rule is there in the IT companies and banks which does not allow pregnant women to apply in the respective company or bank. The companies are not ready to recruit pregnant women in their companies. That will reduce job opportunities for women in this country. The very important point is, the Bill does not include the unorganised sector. The Law Commission has directed that adequate measures should be adopted to pass on these benefits to employees in the unorganised sector too. So, I would request the government to include sufficient measures to support the workers in the unorganised sector by extending the benefit of maternity leave to them. I would also request the government to make it mandatory for the private sector to provide 26-week maternity leave to its women employees.
The Rajya Sabha passed the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016 with just 31 members present in the House. The Bill to amend a 49-year-old law to guard against claims of succession or transfer by heirs of property left behind by those who migrated to Pakistan and China. This was passed amid a walkout by the opposition members. While registering protest, T K Rangarajan pointed said the Bill can be passed after discussion the next working day. But the government did not agree to this proposal and the Bill was passed without any discussion.
The Lok Sabha passed the admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bills, 2016 to allow mattes of admiralty to be adjudicated in the high courts of coastal states, ending the colonial era practice of allowing these cases only in the high country of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. A Sampath said this Bill should be renamed as the Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2017. This concerns certain questions of the federal character of this nation. There are still quite a lot of disputes between the states regarding the territorial waters. At least, the Standing Committee on Law and Justice should have gone through the Bill and take evidence and submit a report. Based on the report of the Standing Committee concerned, a fruitful discussion should take place. I agree that more than 95 per cent of the trade takes place through sea. What percentage of the trade India has in the global trade scenario? Nowadays, the merchant ships engage armed guards. Armed guards for the security of seafarers are boarded from various convenient ports well before the high-risk areas are reached but they are not allowed to leave the ship from Indian ports. These guards are from different nations. So, the ships have to keep them till the next port outside India. It costs quite a lot of financial burden upon the merchant ships. This creates inconvenience for the merchant ships. I hope the government will look into the matter. In this Bill, there is a provision for fine. The fine for pollution should match the international standards. There have been complaints against our customs officials from our own shipping companies as well as foreign shipping companies. This should be avoided. Corruption at the customs point and immigration point should be checked severely. The Anchuthengu fortress is protected by the Archaeological Department, but the government has not taken any initiative to put it under Sagar Mala project. My humble request to the minister is to put Anchuthengu under Sagar Mala project.