The Week in Parliament
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
RAILWAY BUDGET Speaking on the railway budget in Rajya Sabha, T K Rangarajan said the government has announced a lot of trains, especially for Tamil Nadu. Premium trains and express trains have been announced. He questioned whether the government has the necessary coaches, enough power to supply and adequate staff for this. Freight charges have been increased. But the traffic is declining. The share of Railways total freight traffic has declined from 89 per cent to 30 per cent over the past sixty years. As far as Railways are concerned, every developed country incurs losses. In the past twenty years, Japan never increased the freight rate or passenger fares. The government of Japan and the government of United Kingdom subsidise the increased cost. He said in the 2012-13 budget, the Southern Railways was allocated Rs 2,160 crore for all projects, including gauge conversion, new lines, track renewal, etc. It is being reduced every year. In the interim budget for 2014-15, this was Rs1,780 crore. It has been further reduced to Rs 1,694 crores. Because of this meager allotment, the work on Villupuram-Dindigul doubling of lines is delayed. The gauge conversion of Pollachi-Coimbatore and Madurai-Bodi will be delayed further by ten years. The allocation for Chennai-Cuddalore line is meager. The government is giving very little for staff quarters in the Southern Railway. He urged the government not to depend on FDI and PPP. Adding views on this, K N Balagopal said that the railway budget has not treated all the states equally. Disinvestment in this sector will affect the system. In the name of PPP, we are handing over the land to the private players, he said and added, “I am not against the concept of bullet trains. But whether India is capable of running the bullet trains now? There is a need to improve the speed of the existing trains and the existing facilities. Shuttling of more MEMU trains for shorter distance is very important. Automatic signaling system is also an important proposal. No new train has been announced for Kerala. There should be an upgradation of the railway stations in Trivandrum, Ernakulum and Calicut. Palakkad coach factory project is pending. We also request for doubling of railway lines, electrification and conversion of metre gauge to broad gauge on Kollam-Chenkotta-Thirunelveli route”. In Rajya Sabha, Ritabrata Banerjee said that in this budget, Railways has been treated as a commercial entity. There has been greater burden on common man as a result of fare hike. Interests of Railway employees, who toil day and night, have been forgotten. No attempt has been made to fill up large number of posts lying vacant in Railways, thereby jeopardising maintenance and safety. Plan expenditure for Railways is almost negligible. In spite of resources, desired development has not taken place in the North-East and because of this the problem of insurgency is there. There are several places in the region which are not connected by rail. Funds allocated for the purpose are almost negligible. The funds allocated for metro railway in West Bengal are almost negligible. What is the status of different factories in West Bengal, mentioned in successive rail budgets, he questioned. GENERAL BUDGET Speaking on the general budget, P Rajeeve, said that we could not find any change of policies in the budget. It is as same as of the UPA Government. The corporate world welcomes this budget. He said public investments should increase which will create employment by which the dynamics of economics will get more momentum. Had the government collected tax arrears, there would have been no fiscal deficit. This budget is intended to protect the interests of the corporate world. It is proposed to follow FDI in different sectors. By allowing FDI in defence sector, foreign companies are getting a controlling stake in the defence production enterprises. It will be detriment to the national sovereignty. On the agricultural sector, we could find nothing in this budget. Education and health are the most neglected areas in this budget. Jharna Das Baidya in Rajya Sabha while speaking on general budget pointed that there is nothing new for Northeast in this budget. There is no railway network in Northeast till date. She said that a new package should be given for the northeast and natural resources of the area should be utilised. She said this budget gives only 100 crores for the women. There is no provision for ASHA workers in the budget. The sub-plan allocations for SC/STs should be increased. In Lok Sabha while discussing the Finance (No. 2) Bill, 2014, A Sampath said in this budget also the tax revenue target looks ambitious as has been the case for the last several years which will result in less capital expenditure thereby having deleterious effect on the economy. With the plethora of tax concession offered to the corporate, how is it that the government is assuming it would be able to meet the revenue targets? Centre should devolve more funds to the state governments and it should give rights of collecting TDS on land transactions to states, he said. Adding more points, P Karunakaran, CPI(M) leader in Lok Sabha said some of the decisions taken by the Reserve Bank of India and the central government have adversely affected the cooperative sector in Kerala State. He asked the finance minister to make an amendment exempting the agricultural cooperative societies from the purview of the 80P because the farmers in the rural areas fully depend on the cooperative societies. The second issue was about a decision of the Reserve Bank and the government to scrutinize the accounts of the individuals in the banks whose deposits exceeds Rs 5 lakh and above. He said the limit should be raised from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh. The other issue with regard to the cooperative sector is the collection of TDS. It is not applicable to them and that aspect also has to be taken into account. The online trading is not guided by any rules and regulations. There has to be some restrictions and it has to be reviewed, he said. DEMANDS FOR GRANTS ON VARIOUS MINISTRIES Ministry of Road Transport and Highways: Speaking on this, Sankar Prasad Datta said that though the government has proposed a 21 per cent increase in the budget for this year but in the case of North-Eastern States, only Rs 3000 crore has been allocated. The government has proposed that this year, 8500 kms of road would be constructed. He asked the government to consider the case of North-East as the roads in the north-East are not in a good condition. Extremism is a problem in the Northeast which can be attributed to lack of connectivity. So, the issue should be looked into seriously. The State of Tripura did not get a single penny for construction of National Highways during the last three years. He asked the government to fulfill the demand of the people of Tripura. There are 21,000 km of four-lane roads in our country but not even a single km of four-lane road is there in any of the five states of North-East. He said 3,331 kms of National Highway should be constructed and necessary money for this should be provided by the central government. “Kukital to Sabroom is the fag end link road of our state. During rainy season, due to incidents of landslides, the people of Tripura suffer a lot. So, on behalf of the people of Tripura, my first demand is that the National Highway from Dharmanagar to Sabroom and the National Highway no. 208, from Kukital to Sabroom, should be constructed,” he said. Joice George (CPI(M) Independent MP from Idukki) while making his speech on the demand for grants, ministry of environment and forest began with an endorsement that there is need to conserve nature, environment, ecology and also the need to have a sustainable development. He said, “We are facing a very difficult situation in our constituency because we are not in position to undertake the bare minimum developmental works under the local self-government institutions for want of raw materials like granite. We are not for any mining activities in the Western Ghats. But these the local development needs. Under High Range Mountain Landscape Development Project in Idukki district, 11,600 hectares of farmland is to be converted into a protected area. Our only request is that this cannot be protected. Conservation of environment should be with our participation and consultation otherwise, it will be counterproductive”. LEGISLATIVE BILL In Rajya Sabha P Rajeeve moved the Private Member Bill ‘The Endosulfan Pesticide (Prohibition) Bill, 2011’. He said more than 10,000 people are suffering from the side effects of Endosulfan in Kerala. Kerala had banned the use of Endosulfan one decade ago. The agriculture ministry has always taken a stand in favour of the MNCs who produce this Endosulfan. Twelve villages in Kasargod district and Hosdurg Taluk are much affected. Hundreds of deaths and disorders have been reported. The use of Endosulfan has adversely impacted humans, birds, butterflies and also fishes and frogs. The Kerala government banned its use in 2002. The Stockholm Convention decided to ban Endosulfan, and 81 countries have already banned the use of Endosulfan. On a Public Interest Litigation, the Apex Court also banned the use of Endosulfan through an interim order. But the agriculture ministry is not ready to impose the ban. Farmers of Kerala and Karnataka are still using this pesticide. He urged that the use of this chemical should be banned. Similarly the import of Endosulfan and its alternatives should also be prohibited. He requested that the family of any person suffering from the adverse effects of Endosulfan be considered as a BPL family and given financial assistance. The government should constitute a tribunal to govern the matters relating to the use of Endosulfan pesticide. OTHER ISSUES P Rajeeve raised the issue regarding delay in delivery of passports in the country. Tapan Kumar Sen in Rajya Sabha spoke on Disinvestment of Shares of Profit Making Public Sector Units by the government. He said that the trade unions of the country have been opposing this retrograde move of disinvestment of the shares of profit-making public sector units. In the name of containing fiscal deficit, the government is losing on having a recurring flow of income in the public exchequer in lieu of one-time gain in selling the shares. It is like selling the family property for consumption expenditure; Moreover, all these disinvestments are being made in the most strategic sectors of economy like ONGC, Coal, Steel Authority, etc. Ritabrata Banerjee in Rajya Sabha spoke on the grave situation arising due to spread of Encephalitis in North Bengal and Assam.