THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

THE week began with an uproar in the Lok Sabha over the recent incidents of lynching. Along with other opposition members, CPI(M) MPs gave adjournment motion notice, but it was disallowed by the Speaker. Speaker suspended six Congress MPs for five days after they stormed into the well of the House, tore papers and hurled them towards the chair. The House was disrupted on the second day on the same issue. Subsequently, the House decided to take up the matter for discussion next week.

The Rajya Sabha took up the discussion on farmers’ distress leading to rise in the incidents of their suicide in the country. Taking part in the discussion, K K Ragesh said that a lot of promises were made in the NDA's election manifesto. If, at least 20 per cent of these promises were met, we should have certainly avoided the present devastating situation so far as the agriculture sector is concerned. It promised ‘acchhe din’ for farmers. In 2015-16, there have been 12,602 farmer suicides. This is the highest figure ever in our country’s history. We have got a state minister saying that those farmers committing suicide are cowards and criminals. The NDA promised 50 per cent profit over and above the cost of production. Has it done it? The answer is an emphatic 'No'. Is the government concerned about the farmers who are committing suicide? We are talking about the price rise, on the other side, farmers are saying, we are not getting any prices'. It means that prices are there for the commodities but, at the same time those prices are not going to the farmers. These prices are being looted by the middlemen. Future trading and speculative trading pave the way for price rise, which ultimately denies the right of the farmers. At a time when there was a bumper production of wheat, why did the government allow the foreign players to import and dump wheat in our country? He asked. Unfortunately, the government’s policies are serving the corporates only, and not the farmers. This is one of the important reasons for suicide. Rubber farmers of Kerala are getting less price for their produce because of import duty and import policy whereas tyre manufacturers are making huge profits. The government is ready to write off non-performing assets of corporates instead of going in for waiving farmers’ loans. Hence, the government must see the agony of farmers and come with a loan waiver and a change in its policies, he said.

Legislative Bills

The Rajya Sabha passed the National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2017. While supporting the bill, Ritabrata Banerjee said that both the institutions which have already started are functioning from temporary campuses, with no proper laboratories, no libraries and no high-quality IT or engineering tools for training. There is an acute shortage of infrastructure in terms of accommodation as well. Aims of these institutions were to bring out brilliant professionals, to improve the quality of higher education and to ensure that poor and common people get an opportunity to have quality education in these centres of excellence in the country. These institutions were started with a long-term perspective. Even after 55 years of establishment of the IITs and ten years of the establishment of NITs, have we been able to achieve the goals. Employers are dissatisfied with the quality of our engineering graduates. The average spending by the government on engineering education per year is the lowest in India among the BRICS countries. In global rankings, IITs are doing god but not NITs. Recently, the annual fee of IITs has been increased. I urge upon the government that equitable access to quality education must be taken into consideration.

The Rajya Sabha passed the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Public Private Partnership) Bill, 2017. Speaking on this, K K Ragesh said that the bill declares the existing 15 IIITs as the institutes of national importance and also empowers these institutions to confer degrees to the students. We oppose the very concept of the PPP model in the field of education because it will amount to creeping privatisation in education. This bill provides the greatest say to the industrial partners in deciding the content of education and in governing the educational institution only by spending mere 15 per cent of the total expenses. The states have a lesser say in these institutions as per the formulation of the various clauses in this bill. Our country has made tremendous achievements in the field of education and, all these achievements are being made not because of the private institutions but because of the public-funded institutions in our country. A recent report has revealed that the quality, credibility and viability of our professional education is seriously affected due to the privatisation of education. The present bill is missing three important points -- reservation policy in admission, fee structure and whether it is the merit or the money which is being considered as a criterion for admission.

The Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017 was passed in the Lok Sabha. Speaking on this, M B Rajesh said the bill seeks to declare the IIMs as institutions of national importance and it is good that this bill will empower the IIMs to award degrees, which they could not do in the last sixty years. One of the major objectives of this bill is to give complete autonomy. Academic autonomy is not a bad idea and we support the idea of academic autonomy with adequate safeguards and accountability but still there are some issues related to this concept of autonomy. Who will appoint members of the Board of Governors? A day after tabling this bill in Parliament, the government appointed Directors to 10 IIMs. They will serve for the next five years. Why was it done so hastily? The government should have refrained from doing so. The IIMs are not only to be made autonomous but also to be made more inclusive, both socially and economically. If you can have reservation in teaching posts in the IITs and still maintain the excellence and standards, why cannot you have reservations in the IIMs? These IIMs should not be solely guided by the commercial principle of making money. No student, who is otherwise deserving, should be denied the opportunity to study in the IIMs only because he cannot afford the cost.

The Lok Sabha passed the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2017. Speaking on this, P K Biju said that the government is cutting down on spending in higher education. There is a gap in SC/ST and other socially backward sections in engineering education and higher education as a whole.

The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed in the Lok Sabha. Speaking on this, Md. Badaruddoza Khan said that this bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 16TH March 2016 and it was referred to the Standing Committee of Finance. All recommendations submitted by the committee are for improving the ease of doing business in India without many hurdles. The proposed amendments will help the corporates to expand their business in India. But I want to know about the small companies. The existing definition of small companies limits the scope of small companies having a turnover of Rs 2 crore. The limit is being increased to Rs 5 crore but the limit of paid-up capital still remains on Rs 50 lakh. I request that the situation be reviewed.

The Rajya Sabha passed the Architects (Amendment) Bill, 2010. Speaking on this, C P Narayanan stated that we have to start such institutes in large numbers. Central Leather Research Institute, Chennai has developed modern methods to avoid pollution and wastage. Those methods will be made use of in the footwear industry also. To have our market in the West, we will have to do a lot of research in this area. When we bring in modern institutes like this we have to ensure that the traditional people, who have been engaged in the leather industry, are not pushed aside. We are the second largest exporter of leather in the world, but due to the recent happenings in our country the availability of leather has come down, and so many institutions had to be closed. Unless we address that issue, such an institute will not be fruitful. It is also a fact that if we want our leather industry to grow, we will have to ensure that dead cattle and other things have to be made use of. As a lot of people are engaged in this industry, we have to train them and modernise leather industry and we should have more such institutes in the country.

The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2017 was passed in the Rajya Sabha. K Somaprasad, while supporting the bill, said it consolidates the existing four different colonial laws, related to the main subject, as a single comprehensive law. It would fulfil a long-standing demand of the maritime legal fraternity. This bill confers admiralty jurisdiction on the High Courts, located in all coastal states.

The Collection of Statistics (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed in the Rajya Sabha. C P Narayanan said that collecting data, statistics and appointment of nodal officers are good. In different offices, there are nodal officers who collect data and collection of data will be much better and it will help in getting reliable data. Recently, the corporate leaders have shown that they want the data. So far, we have been concerned with individual data, but for corporate, it is collective data. So, collection of data and keeping it, are very important. The data interpretation can be manipulated. When denominator changes, the entire statistics will change. If you don't follow data and statistics scientifically and if you don't put across the total statistics together, we can come to different conclusions. We have to deal with it scientifically.

Other Issues

In the Rajya Sabha, Jharna Das Baidya raised the concern over increasing incidents of rape of young girls in India. She referred to the recent rape of a 16-year-old national-level kabaddi player. She demanded demand strict action against the culprits and adequate compensation for the victims.

Md. Badruddoza Khan said that there was difficulty in implementing various schemes in his parliamentary constituency under MPLADS due to the reluctance of the district magistrate, who is authorized to release funds. The district magistrate was not releasing the fund properly in time and this causing the delay in the implementation of work, Khan said.

K Somaprasad requested the government to drop the proposal to divide Thiruvananthapuram Railway Division. This move will weaken the development of the Thiruvananthapuram Central Division and will lead to huge income loss. (END)

 

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