August 24, 2014

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

DURING the discussion regarding the spread of Encephalitis in some parts of the country, A Sampath pointed out that our country is in the grip of many diseases. There is an old saying that prevention is better than cure. What measures have we adopted for preventing these diseases? It is because of the water-logging in vast areas that these diseases are there. So, the main cause is water. We are not able to distinguish between safe drinking water and the water that has been polluted and where mosquitoes breed. Another issue is solid waste management. We are still experiencing the lack of technology. Unless and until we get the cooperation of the people, we will not be able to eradicate this curse of mosquitoes. We have to wage a war against mosquitoes. Secondly, if it is a wrong diagnosis, what will happen? Diagnostic facilities should be there. Unless and until, we have adequate diagnostic facilities, the poor people will be at the mercy of the corporate medical professionals including the multi-nationals. Adequate treatment facility should also be there. We need more coordination among the Centre, state governments, primary health centres, ICDS units and so on. When many of the developing nations are able to eradicate many of the diseases, why are we still suffering from them? During the discussion on the working of the Ministry of Home Affairs in Rajya Sabha, T K Rangarajan requested the minister to ensure that security forces behave properly with the civilians. He said today crime against women is a daily affair. Kerala reported the highest crime rate. There has been an increase in cyber crimes. Out of total juveniles involved in various crimes many are illiterate. Families of many of them are living below the poverty line. The reasons behind suicides are unemployment, drug abuse and other factors. In communal clashes in different states, many Muslims lost their lives, lost their properties. When communal clashes take place, very poor people are attacked. During the elections, in Uttar Pradesh alone 247 such incidents took place. After May 16, a number of communal incidents took place throughout India. Our Prime Minister was evasive in greeting the nation on the occasion of Eid. Between 1983 and 2012, about 3,04,297 Sri Lankan refugees entered into India. These people are living in inhuman condition in refugee camps in Tamil Nadu and Odisha. Taking part in the discussion on the working of Ministry of Power, C P Narayanan pointed out that 47.5 per cent of our rural folk and 7 per cent of our urban folk do not have electricity connection. It works out to about 37.5 per cent of our population which is bout 43-44 crore people. In spite of the great strides that we have made in the field of electricity, we lag very much behind in ensuring electricity supply to a very big section of the masses. Similar inequality is there in average availability of electricity to different states. We have installed capacity of 2.5 lakh MW power. But we are able to achieve only 65 per cent of it. There are more than 30 per cent transmission and distribution losses. If we are able to reduce it to half, we will be able to save tens of thousands of megawatts of electricity. We have got very good institutions like NTPC, The National Power Grid Corporation, etc, and we have got very good public sector institutions at the national level but in many states the state electricity boards are not up to the mark and are in very bad shape. The government has been laying more emphasis on promoting the private sector. We are not against this, but they are concentrating more on urban areas, not on rural areas. While encouraging privatisation, we have to ensure that corruption, mismanagement and wastage are not there. The central government, both under the NDA as well as UPA, had given coal blocks to the private sector during the last one or two decades, but how many of them are using for power production. Coal is our national wealth. We have to develop our research field to make use of this wealth efficiently. Research, not only in this but also in other fields like hydel, solar, atomic and wind is necessary. On the issue, Jharna Das Baidya pointed out that in her state of Tripura, there are two power plants. In Platana National Project, earlier about 500MW electricity was being produced, but due to lack of gas, only 350MW electricity is being produced in the plant now. The Monarchak Nipko Project is shut due to non-supply of gas by ONGC. The government must ask ONGC to supply gas to the projects in sufficient amount. LEGISLATIVE BILL In Lok Sabha, while supporting the Securities Laws (Amendment) Bill, M B Rajesh pointed out that giving more powers to SEBI will further strengthen the regulatory provisions and will help protect the interests of investors. As far as imposing penalties is concerned, I have certain reservations in this area. According to the proposed amendment, while imposing monetary penalties for certain offences, the adjudicating officers will have discretion to impose minimum penalties, which has been fixed at Rs 1 lakh. I feel that instead of giving discretion, there should be a slab on the basis of quantum of money involved in the offence. Compared to the crimes being committed in the financial world, the quantum of five seems to be very insufficient. The government should enhance the upper limit of the penalty. This should be based on the quantum of money involved in the fraud. Currently, SEBI rules make it mandatory for any company to release at least 25 per cent of shares for trading in the market. It is nothing but forcing those companies to disinvest their shares through backdoor. This aspect should also be looked into. Finally, we have seen a series of frauds being committed by chit fund firms. These funds are not covered under effective regulatory framework. So, the Finance Minister must address this issue, and put the chit fund firms under some effective regulatory framework. While supporting the Endosulfan Pesticide (Prohibition) Bill, he said nearly 80 countries have banned it. The USA, the major producer of endosulfan, has also banned it. Now because of a court order, it is banned across the country. In Kerala, it was being used in cashew plantations. Seeing its ill-effects on human health, it was banned in Kerala some years ago. It is still illegally being used across the country. It is my request that endosulfan and similar pesticides should be strictly banned by the government. Speaking on the National Minimum Pension (Guarantee) Bill, Sankar Prasad Datta pointed out that the entire working class in his state of Tripura is employed in the unorganised sector. There is no major industry in Tripura. In the medium sector, a total of 1,000 workers are employed. Apart from this, there are about 6 lakh workers in the state. There are about 40 crore workers in the country’s unorganised sector and only 7 per cent are in the organised sector. Had the government been serious, this Bill instead of being a Private Member’s Bill would have been introduced by the government. The workers in the unorganised sector work in misery. Maid servants who work in 2-3 homes earn not more than Rs 400-500 per house which comes to Rs 1000-1500 per month. Similar is the case of construction workers, beedi workers and rickshaw-pullers. I as well as my party fully support the Bill introduced. This Bill should be introduced as a Government Bill and after its passage everyone should get a pension of Rs 5,000 per month. Speaking on the discussion on natural calamities in various parts of the country and the government’s relief measures, T N Seema pointed out in Rajya Sabha that we have witnessed a terrible tragedy in Uttarakhand last year. Those wounds still bleed. But that is not an isolated accident. Is there any plan to consider the proposal for river zone problems? Is it a fact that the problems of non-procurement of equipment, deficient training etc. are hampering the functioning of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)? In Kerala, sudden landslides cause heavy damage to houses, crops and even to lives. Properties worth millions are damaged in the state annually due to lightning. We have a very high population density in Kerala. So, rehabilitation is a very big challenge for us. Relief measures and compensation are being allocated as temporary steps but we need permanent solutions. I would request the honorable minister to include sea erosion and lightning in the list of natural calamities. OTHER ISSUES P Rajeeve raised during Zero Hour in Rajya Sabha the issue of arrest of Rajesh Kumar. Kumar was arrested and remanded for his social media post, criticising the Prime Minister. Every citizen in our democratic country has the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression as per article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. But this arrest was done as per the draconian Rule 66A of the IT Act. Earlier a naval ship engineer was arrested in Goa as per this Rule 66A for criticising the Prime Minister on Facebook. Just posting a criticism on Facebook is a crime as per this Act. I request the government to reconsider Rule 66A of the IT Act and not to use this as a weapon against innocent youths who make democratic intervention through the social media. He also raised the matter regarding demand for framing policy for common pricing and proper allocation of natural gas to all states. Tapan Kumar Sen raised the problems being faced by Mid-Day Meal Workers. Referring to the Mid-Day Meal Workers’ protest on August 5 in the national capital, he pressed the government for responding to some burning issues concern them. A Sampath while raising the matter regarding stray dogs during Zero Hour said that in India, about 15 billion people are bitten by animals, mostly stray dogs. The largest number of rabies death happens in this nation. More than 80 per cent of the rabies deaths that occur in the whole world are in our nation. Of the total dog bite victims in India, more than 42 per cent are children. Every hour, two persons die because of rabies. It is very curious to see that before 1998, our local bodies were having the power to eliminate ferocious dogs which have been infested by rabies and street dogs which have become dangerous. But now it is pity to see that this is not happening. So the government should amend the law giving the power back to the local bodies. Also free treatment and vaccination should be given to all the Public Health Care Centres. M B Rajesh raised the matter regarding the need for expeditious completion of gauge conversion of railway lines between Palakkad (Kerala) and Pollachi (Tamil Nadu). Ritabrata Banerjee raised the matter regarding Centenary of Komagatamaru – an integral and inseparable event in India struggle for freedom.