August 10, 2014

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

IN Lok Sabha, the flood and drought situation was discussed under the Calling Attention. Speaking on this, M B Rajesh pointed out that our country is having diverse climatic condition just as we have diverse culture. As predicted, this year’s monsoon has been weak and there has been a decline in the accumulative rainfall for the country as a whole as compared to the last year. The decline is 43 percent. It is an alarming situation. Out of 617 districts, 434 districts have received deficient rainfall. The Central Water Commission’s data shows that 85 reservoirs in our country are having 66 per cent less storage as compared to last year. This will have serious implications for agriculture. There is almost a 50 percent decline of area shown under Kharif crop cultivation. There is a danger of sharp fall in agricultural production; there is a danger to our food security and there is also a danger of further worsening of the inflation rate in our country. The government should enhance agricultural extension services and make seeds, fertilisers, and other things available at affordable prices. They should ensure cheap agricultural credit and institutional credit to farmers. The National Commission on Farmers headed by famous agricultural scientist Dr M S Swaminathan had recommended that agricultural loan should be made available to farmers at not more than four per cent rate of interest. The government has not yet accepted that recommendation. Instead, the government is moving in a wrong direction. The ministry of consumer affairs has recently issued a guideline forbidding the states to give bonus over and above the minimum support price. The government should withdraw that guideline and not prevent the states from giving bonus over and above the MSP. Kerala is having a peculiar geographical pattern and landscape and because of this, we experience sudden floods followed immediately by severe drought situation. Kerala is one of the few states which receive both South-West Monsoon and North-East Monsoon. This aspect also should be taken into account. Kerala is a state which is having the longest coastline in our country. The groundwater level there is increasingly depleting and we experience frequent landslides especially during monsoon. I would like to request the minister to have a relook into the guidelines and criteria for the central assistance given as compensation for damages due to natural calamities. Since Kerala is very sensitive to natural calamities and we are lacking trained personnel and mechanism to address natural calamities, the government must take steps to set up a unit of National Disaster Management in Kerala. Adding to this, P Karunakaran pointed out that we are experiencing both drought and flood in different parts of the country. We can say that is a natural calamity, but at the same time it is a man-made calamity to some extent. For example, exploitation of natural resources, exploitation of the forest wealth and illegal activities of the sand quarry mafia that we see in various parts of the country are some of the reasons for this man-made calamity. The government should take strong steps to prevent such illegal activities. As far as flood and drought situation is concerned, the government should formulate a long-term plan that is the perspective aspect. Perspective aspect would reduce the damage in the long term. As far as Kerala is concerned, every year the Kerala government approaches the central government for financial assistance. In the year 2013, a package request was submitted but the government was not ready to give adequate compensation to the state. The compensation prescribed by the central government or the Planning Commission for the loss of agricultural crops, cash crops has to be seriously reviewed. Some major incidents like lightning, sea erosion and landslides should be included in the list of natural calamities. PRIVATE MEMBERS’ RESOLUTIONS Speaking on the Private Member Resolution on continuous shortage of power and its adverse impact on economic development of the country, K N Balagopal, while supporting the resolution, stated that recently there was 8% increase in power tariff. Everybody knows that this hike is not proper. When the Electricity Act was passed, there was a talk that if we privatise the power sector, it will become more efficient, there will be more power generation, and the tariff will come down. But actually tariff is not coming down and generation has also not increased. It is very clear that power and technology is very important for the development of any society. We have to increase the present capacity by three to four times. How are we going to increase the capacity? We are very pathetically behind in technologies and we have to increase our capacity. We have to do something more in the field of solar energy. We are losing 23-25 percent power. But privatisation without any checks and balances will not help. Proper audit should be there. Speaking on the issue, T K Rangarajan pointed out that we are a developing country and we must explore every way of developing this country in the power sector. But, having said that, don’t believe in the multinational company, Enron. That would be suicidal. There is an urgent need to strengthen southern grid and bring a national grid. Unless the power production is planned and power goes to multinational companies, ordinary people will suffer and farmers in the villages will not get power. So, the Government must plan in such a way that we can have full energy within a short period. LEGISLATIVE BILL FINANCE (NO. 2) BILL, 2014 In Rajya Sabha, speaking on the Finance (No.2) Bill, 2014 Tapan Kumar Sen pointed out that, in real sense, budgetary exercise and the Finance Bill of the new government reflect a faithful continuity of UPA-II regime. ‘Low tax regime for whom?' It is for three percent of the populace who are paying direct tax. What about the others? If the government takes into account their exemptions on customs and import duty, what is their extra gain on the indirect tax account? What is the share of direct tax? It is consistently declining of the total gross revenue. The burden of indirect tax is going up and still the government is claiming that it is a low-tax regime. On the other hand, the government is severely cutting the subsidy on the common people. The government has set up an Expenditure Management Commission to make subsidy more targeted. What is the target of reduction? The government has reduced the subsidy burden on petroleum which is having a cascading impact on the existing inflation. The relief that has been given to the salaried class is a welcome step. But, what is the share of wage earners and senior citizens whom you have given relief? What is the share of those who are pilfering the national exchequer by deliberate tax defaults and pilfering the public money in banks by creating NPAs. After all concessions, whatever tax is projected, that is not being collected. The Finance Bill must have targeted the pilferers. How can the government bring good days for the people unless they change their policy trajectory? If the Government is really concerned about the black money generation in the economy, a major part of which is coming from the illegitimate tax evasion, then, they have to bring back GAAR. If the government is really serious about black money, then, please impose a serious regulatory control on the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty. The Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies are catering to domestic need at a moderated price at the instance of the Government, and the private sector standalone refineries are exporting their almost entire product and earning a huge profit by rising price of petroleum products in the international market. Why does the government not put a windfall tax on their export earnings? The difference between last year's and this year's unrealised direct tax, which is not under any dispute, has increased by 40 per cent. Please do away with this perversion in this economic management. Speaking on the Budget (National Capital Territory of Delhi 2014-15 and The Delhi Appropriation (No.2) Bill, 2014 in Rajya Sabha, T K Rangarajan pointed out that in terms of population density Delhi is the 2nd largest city in the world, Budget allocation for the year 2014-15 is totally inadequate. Availability of clean water is a big issue in Delhi. The population of Delhi depends on water mafia to meet their basic needs. They sell water to desperate residents at very high prices. You have reduced the capital expenditure in the Budget. Why don't you break the backbone of the mafias and try to help the ordinary people? Subsidy to consumers through discoms will not be sufficient to neutralise the power tariff increase. Only 40 per cent sewage water is treated and the rest of the untreated water goes into holy river Yamuna. The estimate for bringing the entire city under good sewage system is more than 50 per cent of budget allocation. Our Capital city suffers from open defecation because enough public toilets are not available. The number of government and municipal dispensaries are woefully inadequate to cater to the huge population of Delhi. The existing dispensaries do not have adequate medicines and staff. A massive budgetary allocation for this is the need of the hour. The Budget allocation for education is highly inadequate. The higher education is out of the reach of the poor students. There is no proposal to increase the number of government colleges in Delhi. The Delhi government has identified 895 colonies for regularisation in 2013. It is still not clear whether these colonies had the Budgetary support for providing basic amenities. Considering the SC population in Delhi, the allocation made for Schedule Caste Sub Plan is very low. It is unfortunate that in the 2014-15 Budget Estimates of the eleven Departments, only six have allocated funds for SC welfare. Even what is being allotted is not spent for the welfare of the Dalits. Please see that the allotted amount is spent. If it is not spent, it has to be carried forward to the next year. I am totally disappointed with the Budget for NCT Delhi. I still hope that our Finance Minister can rework certain things and give some cheers to the ordinary people of this State. In Lok Sabha, Jitendra Chaudhury spoke on the Delhi Budget and stated that a sum of Rs 36,766 crore has been allocated in the budget for Delhi. This amount is less than the last year’s budget. There is a shortage of drinking water in Delhi. The Finance Minister has promised to provide subsidy on electricity but before the budget the power tariff had been raised by 8.32 per cent on residential and 9.5 per cent on commercial use. I would also come to the issue of sanitation. Even now women have to go in open for defecation. In this way the dream of making Delhi a world class city can never be converted into reality. Even now people sleep in the open on footpaths. I come from the North-East. People of that area come here for education and jobs. They face accommodation problem. There is a need to construct housing complex for them. OTHER ISSUES In Rajya Sabha, P Rajeeve, while raising the matter regarding the need to establish an All India Institute of Homeopathy in Kerala, stated that Kerala is the first state in India which recognised homoeopathy as a system of medicine in 1928. In 1943, Homoeopathy got included in the Travancore Medical Practitioners Act. In 1953, this Act was extended to the Malabar area through Kerala Adaptation Rules. A separate Directorate of Homoeopathy was formed in 1973. There is a Central Research Institute at Kurichy which was started in 1974. The Centre was declared as Homoeopathic Research Centre exclusively for behavioural disorders and epilepsy in 1988. As per the 12th Plan, the Government of India plans to establish an All India Institute of Homeopathy to cater to the emerging interest of scientists for research in Homoeopathy. So I urge the Government to establish an All India Institute of Homoeopathy in Kerala.