August 31, 2014

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

IN Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury, while participating in a discussion on the working of the ministry of home affairs, pointed out that during 2013, as many as 823 incidents of communal disturbances took place in the country and out of these, 247 took place in Uttar Pradesh alone. And during the general elections too, the incident of Muzaffarnagar took place. During the second quarter of this year, 149 such incidents have taken place. In Maharashtra also where elections are due such incidents are happening frequently. Even after the new government assumed office, 605 incidents of communal nature took place in Uttar Pradesh. Similar incidents are taking place in Bihar also where by-elections are due. Nobody can expect such situations during elections, so the home minister should take this issue seriously. In Cuttack, the RSS chief said that all the inhabitants of Hindustan be known as Hindus like English, Germans and Americans etc. This is a disturbing report. India is a secular democratic country. After a long discussion in the constituent assembly we adopted that “India that is Bharat shall be a Union of States”. In parliament, the word Bharat is defined several times which does not belong to any one religion or caste. It is advancement of civilization where every culture comes into contact with each other and so the idea of India is produced. The home minister should take a serious note of this matter. Some ministers are talking about Article 370, Uniform Civil Code, Ram Temple in Ayodhya etc. Let discussions be held on these items but these should not come forward. Tension is growing in Northern Kerala which is claiming innocent lives. It should not happen. India wants to be an emerging economy. If our internal unity and integrity is not maintained, India will be ruined. Muslims and Hindus are the future of India; the government should ensure equality irrespective of caste, creed and sex. On August 13, M Thambidurai was unanimously elected as deputy speaker of the 16th Lok Sabha. Felicitating the deputy speaker, P Karunakaran, CPI(M) leader in Lok Sabha, expressed happiness and supported the motion. In Lok Sabha, speaking on the issue regarding need to evolve an effective mechanism to deal with incidents of communal violence, Md. Salim pointed out that several laws had been enacted but the Bill has not been brought to enact a law to prevent communal violence. During the past few years, the incidents of communal violence have been on the rise. The situation could be controlled by putting in place law and order enforcing machinery. In the society, there should be no place of intolerance. Religion, caste and language should not be used as weapons. He said there should be communal harmony in the country. In Rajya Sabha, while taking part in discussion on the working of the ministry of women and child development, T N Seema said the functions of the ministry include promotion, survival, protection, development and participation of women and children in a holistic manner. Does the ministry hold a holistic approach to the issues of women and children in this country? Unfortunately, it is ‘No'. The problem is with the basic approach itself since the first Five Year Plan, when women have been considered as only mothers and homemakers. Women are equal citizens playing important roles in the development of the society. So, the ministry should have a holistic approach. We know that ICDS has a major share in the budget of the ministry of women and child development. Does the ministry have any plan to expand the ICDS programme and make it universal? Centres must be set up in SC and ST population concentrated areas because we know that the condition of malnutrition is very dangerous, especially, in tribal areas. Many crucial posts are vacant in ICDS. Millions of women working under ICDS, NRHM and Mid-Day Meal programmes are under acute poverty and they always expect that, today or tomorrow, they will get decent wage. We have heard many times that these are voluntary social services. I wonder that why only women are for voluntary work. Are men not interested in social work? Last year, in the National Labour Conference, the central government, state governments and trade unions came to a consensus that women working under ICDS, NRHM and Mid-Day Meal programmes will be considered as workers who are entitled to decent wage and other labour protection. My question is that will the minister consider implementing the decision of the last National Labour Conference? National Commission for Women at the centre and the State Commission for Women in the states have a crucial role to play in ensuring rights and justice to women. We have seen that these days anybody can come up with ‘fatwas’ or make derogatory statements against women. Why can't we ban the khap panchayats? They are denying democratic and constitutional rights to women in this country. So whenever the constitutional rights of women are questioned, it is the duty of National Commission for Women and State Commissions too, to make sure that these kinds of regressive forces are stopped. Child sex ratio is deteriorating day-by-day. So please look at the implementation of PC & PNDT Acts. Rashtriya Mahila Kosh has very less fund reserve. This scheme is to provide credit to the poor women through SHGs. This Kosh would give funds to NGOs at the rate of 8 per cent interest and then the NGOs give credit to the poor SHGs at the rate of 18 per cent interest. She requested a reformulation of this scheme so that the poor women, especially women belonging to SCs/STS/Minorities, avail credit at the rate not higher than 2 per cent per annum. LEGISLATIVE BILL The railway minister in Lok Sabha introduced the Railways (Amendment) Bill, 2014 with changes in the provisions of Section 109 and Section 123 of the Railways Act, 1989. The amendment to Section 109 seeks to prevent multiple filing of compensation claims for train accidents, and Section 123, wherein the definition of ‘accidental falling’ needs to be made clear. While speaking on this, Md. Badruddoza Khan expressed his disagreement with the theory of multiple claims concerning railway accidents, saying how multiple claims are possible when with the advancement of science and technology, we are using computers. Therefore, this amendment is not necessary. Another thing which has to be taken serious note of is the insertion of clause 124 (b). There is no need of such clause. If clauses are inserted in this manner, no passenger or his family will get the compensation in any case especially in case of accidental falling from passenger trains. In the last five years, most of the railway ministers used railway for their political purposes and cheap publicity. They do not care about safety and security. So many level crossings are there on national highways but no underbridges are there still now. In these death traps, so many lives have been lost till now. He said, “If you go to Murshidabad and Sealdah stations (in West Bengal) during peak hours, you will see many local trains running with over-loaded passengers hanging in door-steps like bats. No sufficient trains are there. Is it their carelessness? I suggest that the Bill may be examined by the Standing Committee.” Joice George, CPI (M)-supported Independent MP from Idukki, pointed out that there are so many ambiguities in section 124 (b). For dependent of a passenger, it will create a lot of problems. As we all know, the dependents do not include all the legal heirs. All the legal heirs are not dependents of a person. If a person dies and nobody is dependent on him because of several reasons, there will not be any compensation for the legal heirs also. So, it is a matter to be cleared. The power is given to the subordinate legislation for fixing the quantum of compensation. There should be some mechanism in this enact itself to fix the quantum of compensation. Section 124(b) is a draconian enactment because here the burden of proof is on the persons who met with an accident or the poor to prove that the entire accident has occurred not because of his fault and it is the fault of the Railways. How can it be proved? He said this piece of legislation will go against the railway commuters. The government withdrew the UPA’s Bill on judicial appointments in Rajya Sabha and introduced a fresh one in the Lok Sabha, The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, and Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty First Amendment) Bill (Insertion of new Articles 124A, 124B and 124C). During discussion, Sitaram Yechury raised a point and said that it is true that the government and the law minister had written to the chiefs of all the major political parties and elicited their opinions. The process has been done. But now, the government feels that a mere amendment on the basis of Standing Committee’s recommendation is not sufficient. So, they want a new Bill. We have always argued that it is not only a question of judicial appointments. There should be larger judicial commission, where acts of omission and commission against the judiciary which come up, and which is often a very contentious issue and an unnecessary blot on our constitutional schemes of things, these matters also must come under the ambit of a new legislation and suggested to replace the name of Judicial Appointment Bill with ‘National Judicial Commission Bill’. Speaking on this in Lok Sabha, A Sampath said that one of the judges of the Supreme Court should be nominated by the collegiums of all the judges of the Supreme Court and the other person from the judicial side may be the chief justice of one of the High Courts nominated by the collegiums of the High Court chief justices. It is, because, our High Courts are not below the Supreme Court. It has a separate entity. Both of them have the constitutional status. One among the eminent persons to be nominated by a collegiums consisting of the prime minister and leader of the main opposition party in Lok Sabha should be a jurist. Similarly, there should be a nominee of the Bar Council as well. Women and the persons belonging to the SC, ST and OBC category should be given due representation in the judiciary. When we speak about decentralisation of powers, decentralisation should happen in judiciary also. This commission is a statutory body, and it should have its own mechanism and its own officers. The High Courts and the Supreme Court should be under jurisdiction and powers of this commission. Tribunals should also be under its jurisdiction. Adding his suggestion, Joice Georce stated that among the three persons – the prime minister, the chief justice of India and the opposition leader, there should be a unanimous decision between all the persons while selecting these persons. That clarity should be made in that section. In selection of the High Court judges, there is a provision to consult with the eminent advocates of the High Court also. There should be some provision to select these eminent advocates of the High Courts also. The Bar Association should be taken into confidence. In Rajya Sabha, P Rajeeve pointed out that instead of the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission, we want a Judicial Commission. The accountability should be incorporated in the legislation which deals with the National Judicial Appointments Commission. Seventy per cent judges of the Supreme Court are coming from 132 families only. Representation of women in the upper judiciary is very minimal. There is no judge in the apex court who belongs to SC/ST community. Out of the six members in the Judicial Appointments Commission one should be a woman. KN Balagopal also suggested that there should be provision for notifying the vacancies and the people who are eligible should get the chance to apply for the post. Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the Constitution Amendment Bill for setting up the National Judicial Appointment Commission and National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014, which sets the procedure for appointment and transfer of judges in higher courts. The amendments moved by P Rajeeve and KN Balagopal were deferred. While speaking on the Apprentices (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha, MB Rajesh pointed out that private employers are not taking up the responsibility of imparting training to the new entrants in the labour market. They are only interested in recruiting trained labour force in their quest to maximise profits. In the entire history of our country, not a single employer has been sent to jail or imprisoned due to violation of labour laws. Rajesh suggested to link the incentives given to corporate industry to employment. Why is proper training not happening? It is because these employers are not interested in giving training. They are more interested in recruiting cheap labour. If they are recruited as trainees, they will not come under any Act; no labour laws are applicable; no minimum wages are to be paid; and no other benefits are to be given. This is nothing but blatant violation of Apprentices Act. This Bill is giving free hand to employers. It says that the hours of work and leave will be as per the discretion of employers. Before bringing such an important Bill, you should have discussed it with stakeholders such as various trade unions and youth organisations. You might have uploaded this Bill on the website, but there was no detailed discussion. This Bill should be sent to the Standing Committee for detailed scrutiny and discussion, he said. The government referred the controversial Insurance Bill to the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha consisting of 15 members. The panel has been asked to look into the Bill and submit its report on the last day of the first week of the next session. On August 14, the parliament was adjourned sine die after completion of the budget session with 27 sittings.