THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE NDA government managed to push through the land acquisition bill in the Lok Sabha this week while a united opposition made it clear that the path of the contentious bills, especially those resulting out of ordinances, would hardly be smooth in the Rajya Sabha and would required to stand the test of parliamentary scrutiny. In the Rajya Sabha, the government moved motion for discussion on the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015. P Rajeeve of CPI(M) moved an amendment demanding that the bill be referred to a select committee and insisted on a voting on his motion. The bill to replace an ordinance was passed by the Lok Sabha the previous week. The opposition was united on its demand that key pieces of legislation which have not gone through the scrutiny of the standing committee have to be sent to the select committee. After over six hours of debate on the parliamentary procedure, the government agreed to send the mines and minerals bill to a select committee comprising 19 members including T K Rangarajan. The government also agreed to refer the Coal Mines Special Provisions Bill, 2015 to another select committee consisting of 19 members including K N Balagopal. There was uproar in both the houses of Parliament on the issue of release of separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat from jail by the Jammu and Kashmir government. On this, the Minister for Home Affairs gave a statement. Seeking clarification on the statement in the upper house, P Rajeeve said it was stated in the Lok Sabha that the central government was not consulted and in Rajya Sabha, the minister stated that they sought explanation from the state government. The Centre got the explanation and it was not satisfactory. While the minister asserted that they would not compromise on security and national integrity of the country, this act is clearly a compromise on the national security. As per the article 75 of our Constitution, the government works with collective responsibilities and it means the responsibility for the act lies not only with PDD but with BJP too. It clearly shows that political opportunism of BJP forced them to compromise on national security and integrity of the country. In the Rajya Sabha, the BJP-led NDA and the Congress joined hands to pass the Insurance Law (Amendment) Bill, 2015. The bill aims to raise the FDI limit from 26 per cent to 49 per cent in the insurance sector. P Rajeeve moved some amendments and insisted for a ‘division’ whereas opposition SP, BSP, TMC, DMK and JD(U) members staged a walkout. While opposing the bill, Tapan Sen said this bill aims at hiking the FDI cap and paving the way for gradual privatisation of public-sector insurance companies. The more the FDI cap is being upped, the more the dominance of private insurance companies is growing whereas the insurance penetration is going down. These private companies, with foreign partnership, have made a scam wherever they have touched in the domain of the poor people's insurance. With 100 per cent FDI coverage, the US's insurance penetration is 3.1 percent while in India it is 3.17 percent. Insurance is a business whose main capital comes from savings, premium-related savings contributed by the consumers and clients. Bankrupt companies need not be given additional bail-out at the cost of poor Indian consumers as it is against the national interest. No benefit would be gained by calculating a foreign company's net worth on the basis of a property outside India. Despite General Insurance Corporation (GIC) of India having huge reserves and credibility as a financial institution and having no dearth of resources, its shares are going to be disinvested to raise resources from the market. Private companies do not stand anywhere when compared to our Indian insurance companies regarding efficiency as their policies often get rejected and lapsed. Thus foreign investors are not in the interest of the whole insurance sector of the country. He demanded that the issue of privatization of the insurance sector be reconsidered. The Lok Sabha passed the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015. Under fire from opposition, the government relented a bit and decided to drop an amendment that allowed acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions. While nine amendments have been made in the bill that replaces the ordinance, no concessions have been made on the consent and social impact assessment (SIA) clauses that are the main demand of the opposition parties. By opposing the seven amendments, moved by the government on the bill, Jitendera Chaudhury said it hurts the interests of the farmers, agriculture, tribal people and the poor. Since Independence, the condition of agriculture and farming community has been worsening constantly. If they are further attacked in such a scenario what will happen to them? The farmers are already not getting their essentials for farming. There is a provision to seek consent from the tribals living in the scheduled areas and ADCs but not from those who are out of such areas. What is the percentage of our total tribal population of 11 crore who live in the schedule areas. Most of tribals in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra live out of scheduled areas. There is no provision of consent from them. Tribals are connected to their heritage. If their land is acquired, they will have no option but to commit suicide. This is against the spirit of the forest rights act. Joice George made a point that every attempt is being made, through the provisions of the bill, to grab the land from the hands of the farmers which will affect their livelihood. The government also proposes to take away the provisions for consultation and social impact assessment, thus the very purpose and purport of the 2013 Act is sought to be nullified. DISCUSSION ON RAIL BUDGET Speaking on the Demands for Grants on Account (Railways) 2015-16 in the Lok Sabha, M B Rajesh said the Railway Minister had made attractive promises and set very high targets. Indian Railways today needs bold steps to strengthen its public sector character. The old focus on PPP, FDI and BOT is not going to take Indian Railways forward. Certain intentions spelt out in the Railway budget are without the support of necessary resources. Traffic growth has come down. Passenger earnings also fell by Rs 968 crore. The government has increased the freight charges. This will only fuel rise in inflation. The allocation for railway safety fund is meager. A rail coach factory in Palakkad was promised way back in 1980. This should be completed. A railway medical college was announced for Thiruvananthapuram. A bottling plant was announced. A wagon factory was also announced. Many other projects were announced but nothing has happened. As far as suburban railway is concerned, there is no mention but that was one of our big hopes and expectations from this budget. Electrification work has not been completed. Enhancement of fund for gauge conversion is required. The state of Kerala has been neglected in this railway budget. Subsequently, the Lok Sabha passed the Rail Budget after a long debate and a reply by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. In the Rajya Sabha, T K Rangarajan during the Railway Budget discussion pointed out that every year when the budget is presented there is a situation of inadequate funds for development. There are some projects which are very old but still have not been completed. Funds are required for implementing the safety measures in railways as derailment is one of the causes for major accidents. He requested the government to reconsider the decision to run premium trains instead these services, he said, could be run as special trains with normal fare. For implementation of national projects in North-East Region, the CCEA has approved creation of a non-lapsable fund. This issue must be taken up with the Finance Minister. There is multiplicity of unions in the Railways and the unions that secure more than 10 per cent of votes from their members in the election for recognition may be allowed a place to function from and to represent employees before the General Manager and Board level. P Rajeeve raised the issue of the plight of rubber farmers due to fall in prices. Rubber is one of the crops that make a major contribution to the present economy of Kerala. Out of the total rubber production in the country, Kerala's contribution comes around 80 to 85 percent. Around 12 lakh farmers in Kerala depend on rubber cultivation. Another six lakh labourers also depend on the sector. Therefore, a fall in the price of rubber directly affects the lives of 18 lakh families and also the fall in the price of rubber has its impact on general condition of the economy. Farmers find it difficult to survive and as a result the state is witnessing suicides by rubber farmers. In 2008, farmers used to get Rs 1 lakh profit from rubber cultivation on a one-hectare plot, but now they are losing Rs 1 lakh for one hectare. The prices have gone down by 32.7 percent from 2011-12. While the share price of many tyre companies is on the rise the rubber producers are not getting appropriate price for their production. The prices are falling and farmers are forced to cut down rubber trees. We should give more incentives to the rubber industry. We demand that the government increase the import duty on rubber and give compensation to the farmers. K N Balagopal quoted that major rubber producing countries like Thailand have already allocated 1.8 billion dollars for supporting the farmers which is a 'Stabilisation Fund'. Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have already decided to refrain from selling the natural rubber below the current prices to control the market. We are producing nine lakh tonnes of rubber and price reduced by Rs 150 per kilo and if we calculate it, it is Rs 1,35,000 crore that the farmers are losing and this amount is going to the tyre manufacturers. They are getting this profit. Tapan Kumar Sen requested the government to ensure substantial increase of the subsidy and strengthening other supporting network to take care of and protect the people working in rubber plantation and also to ensure that no tyre industry, the major consumption of rubber, is shut. Jharna Das Baidya said not only the state of Kerala but Tripura also is affected due to the fall in rubber prices. The unemployed youth are depending upon this rubber cultivation. Tripura has only rubber plantation and on this the economic growth depends. Rubber wood is very important and it is a quality wood for making any furniture. Many families depend on this for survival. The Rajya Sabha passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2015. While supporting this bill, K N Balagopal said there should be proper rules and regulations for driving these vehicles. Proper education should be given to drivers about traffic laws. There should be some subsidy given to rickshaw-pullers for moving to the e-rickshaws. Proper care should be taken to develop roads also. Speaking on the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, P Rajeeve said it is true that the Tamil Nadu government, as the pioneer of the protection of transgender community, in 2008 constituted a Transgender Welfare Board. The earlier central government had constituted an expert committee to examine the suggestions and table them after examining the Supreme Court judgment. The suggestions have already been submitted to the government. But the government is not ready to do that and that is why hon. Member has brought this Private Member Resolution. In most of the application form there is no specific column for the transgender community. Then, they are compelled to fill either 'male' or 'female' while they do not belong to any of the groups. It is not their fault that they were born as transgender. It happens because of some hormonal problem. First, they are isolated in their own family. If they are admitted in a school, they are isolated by their fellow students. Gradually, they are forced to stop their studies at a very early stage. This is a very serious issue. The Constitution of India guarantees Fundamental Rights to everyone but here, in their case, there is a serious discrimination on the grounds of sex. We are the custodian of the Constitution. The Parliament should make an effective law to ensure equal rights to the transgender community. At least, in the hospitals, there should be a special ward for transgender. There should be some mechanism to treat them in at least in medical colleges. Sex education should be there. There should be a special cell for transgender, and their civil rights also be taken into consideration. The government should give some subsidy for the sex reassignment surgery. My request is that the central government should come out with a proper legislation to ensure social welfare for this community. While supporting the Senior Citizens (Provision of Geriatric and Dementia Care) Bill, 2014, P K Sreemathi Teacher said this bill gives importance to geriatric and dementia care. Geriatric is becoming a great challenge for our society. Two sections of our country deserve utmost consideration. One is our children, and the other is our aging generation. Both need care affection, love and protection. In earlier times, there was the family system and all over the country the trend now is to become nuclear families. Therefore, there is no one to take care of the elders. There is a law that protects the dignity of the aged. But atrocities against the aged are perpetrated in secrecy. In developed and socialist countries, the consideration they show to their children is also extended to the aged. These countries give food, entertainment facilities, and medical and social support to the aged. It is not that we haven't given our aged any facilities. But it is not enough. We need a dedicated legislation. Just as the children are protected by law, the senior citizen's right, to get care and protection should be also ensured by law. The government should also monitor old age homes, and see what care the aged gets there. Therefore, we should make this bill more inclusive by adding other aspects of pain and palliative care and pass it as a government Bill. The Rajya Sabha also unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the remarks made against Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose by Justice (retired) Markanday Katju. OTHER ISSUES P Rajeeve raised the matter regarding the non-implementation of the Wage Board's recommendations for journalists. Tapan Kumar Sen raised the matter of unilateral decision of the Finance Minister regarding change in the investment pattern of Employee Provident Fund. Jharna Das Baidya raised the matter regarding the increasing cases of minor tribal girls becoming pregnant in Odisha schools. T N Seema said while the cases of rape are increasing, the conviction rate in such cases is decreasing because of insufficient proof.