THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE budget session of the parliament in which the BJP led government placed its first full-fledged budget began on February 23, 2014. This session has almost 20 days of sitting.
The parliament began with the president’s address to the joint session of both the houses of parliament. After the president's address, both the houses were adjourned for the day after the tabling of the address and making the obituary references.
In the upper house, CPI(M) leader in Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury expressed views on the motion of thanks on the president's address and said that the president's address is supposed to be a balance sheet of what the government has done and what it will do for the next year. He said what the government promised in the president's last address, and what it has done or what it will do, there is no mention of those things. During the debate on the motion of thanks on president's address, finance minister Arun Jaitley defended the amendments that the government has proposed to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. He also quoted the word corruption had gone out of circulation during the nine months of NDA rule. Sitaram Yechury and other opposition members attacked the government for allowing incidents of attacks on minorities to happen.
Speaking on this in Lok Sabha, Md Salim pointed out that in the name of new economic policy, liberalisation and globalisation, the government has resorted to privatisation and opening up the economy to FDI. He reminded the government to ponder over its manifesto. Earlier we had labour intensive economy, but during the last nine months, capital intensive economy has been promoted and labourers have been not accorded their right. Through the Land Acquisition Ordinance which facilitates real estate, land of small farmers is being snatched away. National property like coal mines, minerals and mines are being handed over to capitalists. National property is being plundered through the ordinances brought during the last nine months. During the discussion on the motion of thanks to the president for his address, the alleged insults by Venkaiah Naidu, minister for parliamentary affairs, led to the opposition parties walking out of the Lok Sabha in the second half.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu presented his maiden budget for 2015-16 on February 26, which was high on hyperbole and low on content and certain ideas were spelt out with scarce factual details about funds, which will enable them to materialise. This Railway Budget is against the poor, contrary to what the PM said about the railways being an instrument for 'eliminating poverty'. The discussion on this will take place during the next week. In the afternoon, the government withdrew the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2014 from the Lok Sabha saying that a fresh legislation will be brought soon.
In Rajya Sabha, the government failed to act on their plans to withdraw three bills. The government had to retreat after the numerically stronger opposition demanded a division of votes while objecting to the motion to withdraw the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008 and the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2014. The government had issued ordinances to introduce these in the Lok Sabha. Sitaram Yechury had a lengthy exchange with the finance minister and subsequently Arun Jaitley announced the government was willing to defer the motion to withdraw these bills for the time being. While making the point, Yechury questioned the government's intention to bring in the ordinances. He also pointed that the government lacks majority in Rajya Sabha, and is seeking to use the tyranny of majority in the other house.
On February 28, the finance minister the general budget which favours the rich, and both foreign and domestic corporates. This budget only carries forward the agenda of earlier UPA government more aggressively. The discussion on general budget has been listed for next week’s agenda.
The Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 and Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Amendments Bill, 2014.
While supporting the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 TK Rangarajan pointed out that even after 65 years, the government is still identifying some mechanism to include the rest of the SCs and STs in the list. Though the number has been increasing but the reservation stands as it is, so, some way should be found out to resolve this, he said. Sub Plans are not implemented properly. The money allotted for SCs and STs should be spent only on them for their development. Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims should also be included in the SC and ST list, he said.
KN Balagopal in Rajya Sabha moved the motion to amend the Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2013. Supporting this, P Rajeeve pointed that it is the duty of parliament to update the existing legislation considering the prevailing objective and realities in the country. The major threats to the economy are: corruption, black money and NPAs. This bill tried to strengthen the existing legislation, through an amendment. We have seen several ordinances by the government. But we have never heard about an ordinance or any initiative to bring in legislation to bring back the black money to our country while that was their election promise. We expected that the government would come forward with such an ordinance but that has not happened. The existing system should be strengthened for attachment or recovery of the property amassed by use of unfair means along with the punishment specified in the law. The corruption and big scams are the outcomes of the neo-liberal policies of the government. The policies have given enough space for the culprits to commit all the evil acts. The gold jewellery firms are collecting money through monthly installments. Does any law of the land allow the gold jewellery firms to collect the money from the consumers? This is a new method of cheating. The government should accept this Private Member's Bill. It has a good intention and is meant for the benefit of the country, he said.
The bill was later withdrawn with the assurance by the minister that the ministry of home affairs is taking steps to make the Cr PC and IPC more comprehensive and Section 206 and 207 of IPC are very much appropriate and sufficient to deal with such cases and also that the government will take appropriate measures to bring back the black money.