THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
In Rajya sabha, this week the rail budget was discussed. Lok Sabha discussed the general budget.
While discussing the matter regarding the losses of crops due to unprecedented heavy rains and hailstorm, CPI(M) leader in Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury said the situation of the agricultural farmers is very serious. In this last 20 days, in West Bengal, almost 20 farmers who have been producing potatoes committed suicide as the price of potatoes declined. The government must have to take some concrete measures to protect our agricultural farmers. It should announce some concrete relief to the farmers to protect them. A big investment must be done. The farmer loans must be waived off, he said .
On March 17, leaders of 14 opposition parties marched from Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhawan against the bill to amend the 2013 Land Acquisition Act. On the same day, there was an uproar by the opposition in Lok Sabha on the vandalism in a church in Haryana and controversial statements of a VHP functionary and BJP national executive member Subramanian Swamy. On the issue of rape of a nun in West Bengal, Mohammad Salim expressed shock and termed the incident "shameful" and demanded that the whole House condemn it.
Speaking on general budget, CPI(M) leader in Lok Sabha P Karunakaran pointed that the rich corporates, both foreign and domestic, have been highly benefited through this budget. The corporate tax has come down from 30 per cent to 25 per cent. The government has cut down on many of the social welfare schemes. He opposed the abolition of the Planning Commission. The government has completely failed to bring back the black money deposited in foreign banks.
During the discussion on budget in Rajya Sabha, P Rajeeve said the government is reducing direct tax, which is already low in comparison to many other countries. Our tax-GDP ratio is also very low among the G-20 and BRICS countries. The Government should review the international parity pricing of petroleum products. The custom duty exemption on gold and diamond is double the money allocated for MNREGA. Though states' share of taxes and loans to the state have been increased, central assistance to the states has been drastically decreased. The central government has transferred the burden of several central schemes upon the state governments.
Speaking on the rail budget in Rajya Sabha, KN Balagopal pointed that decrease in the crude oil prices has not been reflected on the expenditure side of the railways. Relying upon PPP would mean totally selling out the land of the railways or some part of it. It is a partnership for private benefits. There is a shortage of railway police.
P Karunakaran, under the short duration discussion initiated the discussion on the agrarian situation in the country. There are two main reasons which have to be considered when Indian agriculture is facing a deeper crisis. First, long term growth in agricultural production is declining. Second, there are growing economic and social disparities between agricultural products and rest of the economy. During the last five decades, the agricultural production has increased at an annual rate of 2.5 per cent. We are also witnessing economic disparities between agriculture and non-agriculture sectors and also the rural and urban areas. The slowdown of agricultural sector is widely attributed to the slowdown of investment, especially public investment. Besides, there is a failure on the part of the government with regard to the use of land, use of water, fertilisers and also other inputs.
On the discussion on the working of the ministry of women and child development, TN Seema participated and said the major programme of the ministry is ICDS and fund allocation for it has been reduced this year. Lakhs of women who are working as anganwadi workers and helpers are the backbone of this scheme. But they are not considered as full time workers and do not get minimum wages even.
P Karunakaran in Lok Sabha called the attention of the House on the situation arising due to use of harmful pesticides, especially endosulfan in the country and their adverse impact on human life. Many of the pesticides which are banned in foreign countries are still being used in India. It may be due to the pressure of multi-national companies for their benefit and profit. They do not care about our environment and health, he said and demanded the government to take measures to curb such pesticides.
The government, by managing the support of smaller parties, on the last day of the first part of budget session before the parliament goes into month long-recession, passed two crucial legislations after voting amidst protest by the Left and the Congress – The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill. Both these Bills were already been passed by the Lok Sabha where the government enjoys a comfortable majority.
MPs from the Left parties strongly opposed the Bills and asked for a division. The MMDR Amendment Bill was passed with 117 votes in favour and 69 against, while the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill got the support of 107 members and 62 opposed it.
P Rajeeve brought a motion and wanted the House to refer the two Bills to the Select Committee once again as sufficient discussion had not taken place. But his resolution was rejected.
Tapan Kumar Sen on MMDR Bill pointed that this Bill relates to the new blocks that would go for auction. No serious study has taken place even in the Select Committee. This Bill has taken away the rights of the states. The mines are the property of the states. How the states will get the money as they do not have any right even to put it on auction, he questioned. The people who have the right of traditional occupation on the land on which the mine is situated also must be compensated. The MMDR Bill was then taken up in Lok Sabha with some amendments and discussed and passed.
Opposing the Coal Mines Bill, Tapan Kumar Sen pointed that we oppose this because the government is altering the basic structure of the 1973 Coal Mines Nationalisation Act. After a long experience of private mining, the coal mining sector was nationalised, and thereafter, the coal production in the country got more than quadrupled and coal conservation improved. Accidents in coal mines could be reduced. The government is trying to reverse these in this Bill. Out of 240 coal blocks allotted to the private sector, only 40 could be made operational. This clearly exposes the mining competence of the private sector.
Lok Sabha passed the Repealing and Amending Bill. Speaking on this, Joice George pointed that this bill seeks to repeal as many as 36 Acts. They have become obsolete or redundant.
Lok Sabha passed the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2015. While supporting this PK Biju pointed that this inclusion of new socially and educationally backward communities in the Constitution List will definitely help the poorest of the poor sections of this country.
Lok Sabha passed the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Amendment Bill, 2015, which provides for raising the number of members of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council from 50 to 58. A Sampath pointed that the promises showered by the government of India, both during the time of the UPA-II as well as the present day NDA should not remain as mere words. They should be converted into deeds. Once the state of Andhra Pradesh was a revenue surplus state, now the state of AP and state of Telangana have become revenue deficit states. We should have a comprehensive strategy in regard to the development of all the states, he said .
Sampath also asked that why is the judiciary still hesitant to hold the Supreme Court Benches outside Delhi, when there are constitutional provisions to have the benches of the Supreme Court outside Delhi.
Lok Sabha passed the Warehousing Corporations (Amendment) Bill, 2015. While opposing this bill PK Sreemathi Teacher pointed that there are reasons to feel apprehensive about this Bill. As far as Kerala is concerned, we had to carry out protest marches on several occasions. Though the FCI was intended to protect our farmers, often grains have not been procured, by ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers. FCI and CWC godowns have not been well maintained. Many godowns are affected by water seepage. This government is following the same privatisation policy of the UPA government. This is going to encourage the private monopoly. The 1962 Act was envisaged to protect our farmers, and also strengthen our public distribution system. All those objectives will be done away with, if the amendment is passed. The PDS system will collapse, the farmers will be badly effected, she said.
In Lok Sabha, finance minister Arun Jaitley introduced the Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets (Imposition of Tax) Bill, 2015.
The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha adjourned for a month long-recess on March 20. Now the second part of this budget session will start on April 20, 2015.