THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THIS week too both Houses of Parliament began with an uproar on the issue of religious conversion. In Lok Sabha, during the Zero Hour the House saw uproar with the Congress and the Left parties protesting against the government’s decision to keep schools open on Christmas to observe ‘Good Governance Day’. While Rajya Sabha saw a washout with a united opposition demanding a debate on religious conversion. CPI(M) Leader in Rajya Sabha Sitaram Yechury pointed out that we are not a “talking shop” where we go on talking which is meaningless. We want the discussion to be followed up with some action. We want an assurance of action from the government. That can only happen if the Prime Minister comes and gives that assurance because there is no other authority in this government except the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister earlier also assured the House that this kind of things would not happen. But immediately after that again Members of Parliament of his party continued to make very extremely inflammatory and provocative speeches. Now what is the meaning of such assurances? No other minister is able to give an assurance. So, we want the Prime Minister to come and give the assurance to the House. In Rajya Sabha, the deadlock continued for another three days where the Opposition led by CPI(M), Congress and SP forced repeated adjournments over its demand for the Prime Minister’s reply on the issue of forced conversion. In Lok Sabha, the Congress, CPI(M) and some other opposition parties staged walkout during the Zero Hour after heated exchange with parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu over the Christmas holiday issue. On the fifth day, the Prime Minister came to the Upper House as it was the Prime Minister’s question day. But he remained silent and Venkaiah sticking on his stand that the government was ready for any discussion after which the “minister concerned” will reply and subsequently the House descended into a chaos. Yechury pointed out that there is an agreement for a discussion. All we are saying is that let the PM be present, listen to us and answer. In the end of this week, Lok Sabha passed a resolution condemning the bail granted by a Pakistani court to 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. Rajya Sabha remained disrupted for the fifth day seeking the Prime Minister’s statement on forcible conversion. Government Bills The Lok Sabha passed the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2014. Sharing the Party’s views, P K Biju pointed out that this Bill was placed in the House in May 2012 and was sent to the Standing Committee. The Committee recommended that the government should make a provision for summary trial before the Estate Officer with respect to unauthorised occupation. The Committee was also satisfied with the safeguards provided with the guidelines and convinced that the provisions of the Bill will not allow the Estate Officer to exercise his/her powers arbitrarily against the genuine tenants. Regarding allotment of accommodation to Members of Parliament and the ministers, we should ensure that this power is not arbitrarily used by the Estate Officer against the tenants. Besides, we are making such laws but these laws are enforced only on common people. These laws have not affected high class people in our country. Today, we are giving 90 percent of our budgetary allotment for urban areas of this country. But what is happening is that rural people are being evicted from metros and cities. So, we should not enforce this Bill arbitrarily because this will affect the common people. Our government land is going into the hands of the corporate houses. They not only take lands on lease but they are even encroaching upon some land. Whether the Ministry has any data about how many acres of land has been taken away by the corporate houses, he asked and said necessary action should be taken to bring that land back and those lands should be distributed amongst the landless people. The National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed in Lok Sabha. Speaking on the Bill in Malayalam, A Sampath said that if the Bill’s intention is to let the helpless poor to continue to live in their slum clusters for three more years then we support it but if the intention is to allow the real estate mafias and farm house owners to thrive under the pretext of helping the poor, and also to allow them to possess and keep in safe custody unaccounted wealth, then we oppose this Bill. The objective of the extension of the time is not only to protect certain forms of unauthoritsed developments from punitive action in the National Capital Territory of Delhi but also provide for opportunity to the government agencies to finalise the norms, policy guidelines and feasible strategies as well as the orderly implementation of the plan. It is not proper if the government is buying more and more time under the pretext that the squatter settlements dwellers will be protected. Women and children in slums of Delhi are living in unhygienic conditions. Successive governments have failed in providing even the basic facilities to those who live in Delhi. Potable water and shelter houses are becoming unattainable. More money has been spent on rehabilitations and resettlement of slum dwellers than on the cleaning of the river Ganga. Whether the government intends to implement the Master Plan entirely? The plan should help the homeless poor in the city; and in its pretext commercial interests of corporate should not be unlawfully protected. Speaking on the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2014, CPI(M)-supported Independent MP Joice George pointed out that the very purpose and purport of this Bill is to increase the ‘ease to do business’ in our nation. In certain contexts, it may be true. But most of the frauds are committed by the corporate entities. The poor investors are affected the most. We will have to bring more transparency and more accountability. Instead of doing so, we are relaxing certain provisions. What is the purpose of this particular amendment that has been brought forward to clause 2 proposes to omit the minimum requirement of having paid up share capital. Such is the case with the provisions regarding the ‘related party transactions’. There also the interest of the shareholders has been given a go-by. What is the purpose that is sought to be achieved by permitting a company to keep its entire strategy secret and simply permitting them to cheat the people? We should give serious considerations to that provision also. By amending Section 143, the minimum responsibility of the auditor to report the fraud to the companies and the government has been taken away. That is also an objectionable amendment. The Bill was passed. Lok Sabha also passed the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill 2014, which seeks to enable operators of e-rickshaws to have licences. Speaking on this Bill, Md. Badaruddoza Khan said that the government brought this Bill on sympathetic grounds for the poor rickshaw-pullers just because the election is coming in Delhi. But if the government is seriously sympathetic to the poor people, there are lakhs of motorised mechanical tri-rickshaws driven by diesel as the fuel. These are run by diesel engines. They are only the cheap mode of rural transport for passengers and goods. In West Bengal and some other parts, such tri-cycles are running in the rural areas. Also they are carrying a load of one tonne and more carrying 12 to 15 passengers. They have not been covered under this Bill and in fact they are poor. Sometimes, the police are harassing them. These e-rickshaws also be included in this Bill. Secondly, in the Statement of Objects and Reasons, it was stated that it will provided employment to innumerable people who have upgraded from the manually-pulled rickshaws to the electric-powered three wheeled vehicles. If the government is limiting the licence then what would happen to others who are engaged in this. So the government must provide some rehabilitation to these poor rickshaw-pullers. Finally, Badaruddoza had suggested sending this Bill to the Standing Committee. Both the Houses of Parliament witnessed stormy days in the concluding week with the opposition creating uproar about alleged forceful conversions. There were multiple adjournments. During this uproar in Lok Sabha, A Sampath felt uneasy and had to be rushed to a dispensary in Parliament and was diagnosed with exertion and discharged later. During this Winter Session, opposition parties including the Congress, CPI(M) and JD(U) remained united and cornered the government. The government had listed many crucial Bills in the agenda to pass but failed due to continuous disruption on the issue of black money, derogatory remarks made by the Union ministers and forced religious conversion for which the united opposition played a crucial role with a demand to get the statement from the Prime Minister. The government agenda was derailed particularly for not passing the two “important” Bills - the Insurance Bill and the Coal Mines Bill. During this third session of 16th Lok Sabha we have seen a very different trend of the RSS/BJP led government. They have passed a number of Bills without any scrutiny by the Parliamentary Standing Committee which is really a breach of the normal practice of rules of procedure of Parliament. On 23 December, both the Houses were adjourned sine die.