THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
ON the occasion on International Women's Day on March 8, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed all women MPs to speak during both question and zero hours while Rajya Sabha gave its women MPs the first right to speak during zero hour. Women MPs were unanimous in seeking passage of the Women Reservation Bill which proposes to reserve 33 percent seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies at the earliest.
In Rajya Sabha, while speaking on motion of thanks on the president's address, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said there are very serious omissions in the president's address, about which we have moved concrete amendments. There is no mention about the serious situation in institutions of higher education in our country. There is no mention of what happened in Hyderabad Central University or JNU. There is no mention of the incidents that have occurred in IIT-Madras or FTII, Pune or whatever is happening in Allahabad University. He also referred to the sort of intolerance that is being witnessed in the country. The thrust of the philosophy that is given both in the president’s address and the budget is that there is a slowdown of the global economy. If the global economy is slowing down, our thrust in India should be to expand our domestic market. Instead, what the budget proposals and what the speech contain are the exact opposite. Instead of expanding people’s purchasing power, the government is contracting it. Subsidies for the poor are continuously being cut. The linkage of any subsidy delivery with the Aadhaar card would create a lot of problems.
Then the prime minister replied to the motion of thanks on the president's address. It was followed by passing of an amendment on curtailing of right to contest election in wake of charge in laws in states of Haryana and Rajasthan. It was supported by CPI(M) and other opposition parties.
Speaking on the discussion on general budget in Lok Sabha, P Karunakaran said the finance minister is committed to controlling the fiscal deficit. There are two methods – one is to reduce the subsidy given to the corporate sector and the other is to increase the rate of direct taxes. But the government is reluctant to take such steps. Fiscal deficit is sought to be controlled at the cost of the common people. There is a global recession. The government has decided to sell the shares of public undertakings. It really means reduction in employment of the youth. Under MNREGA, they have to give 100 days work to the rural people but, now, they are given work only for 40 days. The government has given concession to higher income people. There is a loss of Rs 1,660 crore in the direct tax revenue; but there is a gain of Rs 20,670 crore in the indirect tax revenue. He spoke about the plight of the rubber farmers in Kerala and demanded increase in import duty, but the government is not ready to do it. The cooperative sector is a model movement in Kerala. But some amendments made to the Cooperative Act have made it very difficult for the cooperative sector to function effectively. He requested the government to set up an AIIMS in Kerala.
Speaking on Women's Day, P K Sreemathi Teacher said one of the main yardsticks to measure the development of our country is to assess the status of our women. In fact, they are socially, educationally, economically and politically backward. We have several women stalwarts about whom we can be proud, like Jhansi ki Rani, Captain Lakshmi, Unni Archa. But 68 years after Independence, when we analyse the status of women in society, it is not a matter of pride, but one of shame. Look at this Lok Sabha itself. We have only 12 percent representation. African and Latin American countries have higher representation of women in their legislative bodies. The Women's Representation Bill, which has already been passed in the Rajya Sabha, can be passed in this house as well. On this International Women’s Day, the parliamentary affairs minister should give us an assurance to introduce the bill for passing.
Rajya Sabha took up the issue of prevailing agrarian crisis in the country. Speaking on this, C P Narayanan said we are having discussion on the plight of farmers in every session in the last two or three years. After the NDA government assumed charge, we find that there is 26 per cent rise in suicide by farmers. Why is it happening? It is happening because of floods sometimes, drought sometimes and other kinds of problems due to which agriculture, including commercial crops has failed. There has been no solution either during the period of the UPA or during the period of the NDA.
T N Seema took part in the discussion on the railway budget in Rajya Sabha and said there is a big gap between the claims and the reality. All the points highlighted in the budget like infrastructure development, safety and quality of service are important matters. But the budget does not offer sufficient concrete projects to address all these issues. A number of projects have been pending for a long time. Safety of all passengers and women passengers is of great importance. She requested the minister to tell how the number of women personnel in RPF will be increased. In the last year, many rail accidents have taken place. But when such things happen the railways put the entire onus upon the loco pilots. But many other factors like the rest time of the loco pilots, their duty time and other things also matters. In railways, the number of women employees is abysmally low. Re-designating 'coolie' as 'sahayak' is not sufficient to improve their social status. Social security measures for them should be enhanced. Kerala has been facing continuous neglect from the part of the railways. Total outlays for Kerala has been cut short. There has been a consistent demand for forming a Peninsular Railway Zone for Kerala. Even the new trains announced fail to get started. I wish to bring to the notice of the minister the issue of development of Nemom and Kottayam terminals.
Rajya Sabha passed the Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015. Speaking on this, T K Rangarajan said BI Standard mark be made on products whether they are manufactured in this country or imported, so that a standard is ensured. Despite the introduction of hallmark standard fifteen years ago, only 30 percent jewellery in India is hallmarked. We are not manufacturing agarbattis (incense sticks). Today, agarbatti is imported from Vietnam and Cambodia. What have we done for the past 50-60 years to develop these small-scale industries into a quality industry?
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2015, which intends to protect home buyers, ensure transparency and plug the flow of unaccounted money into the sector, was passed by Rajya Sabha. While supporting the bill, Ritabrata Banerjee said this is a very important legislation that needs to be passed. He said the definition of 'allottee' needs to be improved. Currently, the Bill excludes land below 500 square metres or apartments with eight or fewer units from its purview. The provision would result in the exclusion of bulk of the urban, middle and lower class homebuyers from the protection of the Bill. Therefore, all projects should be brought under the purview of the Bill.
Lok Sabha passed the Bill to amend the Enemy Property Act, 1968. The Bill, moved by home minister Rajnath Singh to replace the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance promulgated on January 7, proposes to deny legal heirs any right over enemy property. It gives the sole right of disposal of property to its custodian. The opposition demanded this bill to be sent to the standing committee. Adv. Joice George raised apprehensions on the legality of certain provisions of this Bill. "An enemy subject" includes his legal heir and successor whether or not a citizen of India. Why should the persons who have opted to be here in India and continue as Indian nationals be stamped as 'enemies'.
The Lok Sabha passed Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 by voice vote after a brief discussion. In order to avoid any obstacle, the government introduced this bill as money Bill. The opposition derailed the government’s plan to table this Bill in Rajya Sabha. Sitaram Yechury, while raising this Aadhaar Bill issue, asked about the assurance given by deputy chairman P J Kurian that he will ask for certification of the Bill as money Bill. The parliament breaks for recess and this bill was already passed in Lok Sabha and if this is introduced in Rajya Sabha on last day, what will happen? After 14 days, it would be deemed as passed. Further, there is a provision which says that if any person living in the country for 182 days, he is entitled to have Aadhaar Card. We are opening up the Pandora’s Box. By this anyone may come and claim for these benefits and subsidies, which will be credited to his account. So, it requires proper scrutiny. Yechury said that instead of hurrying it up, this Bill may be sent to the standing committee for further consultation.
Rajya Sabha passed the National Waterways Bill, 2015. Speaking on this Ritabrata Banerjee said that inland waterways are a very important mode of transport in which the financial institutions are eager to invest. In Assam and West Bengal, CIWTC had huge stretches of land which the private players are targeting. With regards to technical feasibility of the proposed waterways, no sufficient water-levels are there at various levels. Various rivers proposed for national waterways are non-perennial rivers. Along with the 101 proposed inland waterways, priority needs to be given to existing five waterways. Proper consultation with states is required as many state governments have some objections.