The Week in Parliament
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
IN the second week of this session, the Rajya Sabha witnessed a serious debate on the Augusta Westland chopper deal. Speaking on this, Tapan Kumar Sen said that a blame game is going in this matter. In many cases, nobody has yet been convicted. CBI is having the regulator in its hands and regulates the case as per the situation. It is very unfortunate in our society. Instead of making political postures, it should be taken to a logical end. The whole system is economically polluted and is in a state of crony capitalism. There is failure in maintaining the pace of the probe. It should be speeded up. Let the enquiry be carried out by the CBI under the supervision of the Supreme Court in a foolproof manner.
Rajya Sabha passed the Rail Budget after discussion, where several MPs emphasised the need to ensure safety and dignity of passengers, maintain cleanliness in the system and improve the quality of food served on trains. Speaking on this, CP Narayanan said that a large number of vacancies are lying unfilled in railways. It is affecting the railways and the country. The minister must see that vacancies are filled up as early as possible. If we require better services then employees should be trained properly. So far there is no public sector establishment related to the railways in Kerala. This is great injustice to Kerala. An assurance was given regarding a wagon factory in Cherthala, a water-bottling establishment in Trivandrum and various other things. He requested the minister to look into it. Frequency of passenger trains on the stretch from Parassala to Manjeswaram is very less. If it can be increased then it will be of great help to the daily commuters. Drinking water should be made available in all the trains. Practice of vendors distributing tea, coffee or water has been stopped. This also should be looked into.
DISCUSSION ON DEMANDS FOR
GRANTS FOR VARIOUS MINISTRIES
Lok Sabha debated demands for grants for ministries of civil aviation and tourism. Speaking on this, Sankar Prasad Datta pointed out that the allocation for civil aviation in this budget, is less than last year's allocation. Department had declared that from April 1 this year for all the routes covered within one hour Rs 2,500 would be the fare but everywhere we are seeing it is more than that. So, he strongly demanded that this declaration should be implemented as early as possible. The Agartala airport is the second busiest airport in the North-Eastern region after Guwahati airport but still modernisation work has not been stated. With regard to tourism, he said that in Tripura there are a number of beautiful sites. He proposed that a ropeway may be constructed connecting Shipahijala, Nirmahal and Tripureswari Mandir so that the tourists from outside may visit and enjoy these tourist places. For creating jobs for the people of the country, the matters which he has raised should be taken into consideration, he said.
Md. Badaruddoza Khan gave some suggestions and proposals for the improvement of tourism industry in West Bengal and help in generating employment and foreign exchange. He emphasised the need to allocate funds to set up a new tourist circuit naming 'Nawab Circuit' at Murshidabad district and for development of tourism in 'Sunderban' (West Bengal). There is also need to allocate some grants for development of tourism in North Bengal, specially places in Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri. He proposed that fund be allocated for development of world heritage toy train, the major tourist attraction in Darjeeling.
In Rajya Sabha, discussion was held on the working of ministry of health and family welfare. Speaking on this, CP Narayanan said the data says that we spend less than one sixteenth of the total expenditure on health. This has to be changed. On an average, the expenditure on treatment is more than four times in a private hospital compared to a government hospital. We find that less than 30 percent of people seek public health system. In such a situation, we are handing over the responsibility of public health system to insurance. We find that because of the way in which treatment is given at the government hospitals, because of the lack of doctors, nurses and other employees, particularly in rural hospitals, more than 70 percent of our patients depend on the private hospitals. ASHA workers are ill-paid. There should be proper payment of wages to them. In our medical health system, right from the MCI to local hospitals, corruption is rampant. This has to be dealt with.
On the discussion on the working of ministry of human resource development, CP Narayanan pointed out that there is an attempt being made to change the curriculum and the content of education. Something new can be added to the curriculum and syllabi but it cannot be changed entirely. As far as primary education is concerned, out of the total children only 72 percent complete their education; only 48 percent of those who enter the secondary education complete their course and only 33 percent complete higher secondary course. This is happening because facilities, trained teachers, educational materials and even classrooms are lacking. The children coming from backward families can be retained by giving nutritive food through mid-day meal programme. The expenses for it should not be curtailed and the salary of the people preparing these meals should, at least, be doubled. The third thing is 131 PISA report, which says that 74 percent of our primary class children do not know mathematics and science. This is happening because there is a great divide. We have to make a fundamental change towards having universal pre-schooling. Our adivasi students can compete with any children. We need fund for their betterment and for their food. We have created learning houses in Kerala. Many children live in these houses. The panchayat arranges room there for adivasi children. These children study in the evening. In this way their quality of learning process has improved. The government has expressed that 50 million youngsters should be trained as good workers or good graduates. Only 72 percent, 48 percent and 33 percent in respective categories complete their courses. In this regard the fund should be increased. In higher education, congenial atmosphere for learning and teaching should be ensured. In colleges and universities we should promote discussion between teachers and students on their subjects. If there are some problems, they may be settled by the concerned authorities and not by using police or other suppressive measures. There are 700 universities and 38,000 colleges but they do not have competent teachers, well furnished libraries, laboratories etc. These should be ensured. Massive open online courses cannot create or train competent people who can handle our things. Companies Act collects Rs 20,000 crores for distribution in higher education. But should we run it as a private company for profit making or should we run it for universities, UGC, RUSA and other bodies; the question is whether we should have such companies or we should use government's other methods. The government should seriously think on these lines.
Adding views, Tapan Kumar Sen said that the mid day meal workers are being treated very inhumanly. Mid Day Meal scheme is the foundation of elementary education system in our country. In most of the states, the cooks are women. Their honorarium must be increased, he said.
Lok Sabha discussed the demand for grants for the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation. Speaking on this, Sankar Prasad Datta pointed out that in this year's budget, it shows that money has been increased by 176 percent. But in real terms, in the case of revised estimates or actual expenditure, the money has been decreased. In the year 2009-10, actual utilisation was 68 percent, in 2010-11, it was 96 percent and in 2011-12, it was 86 percent. But in the year 2014-15, the expenditure of the ministry had decreased to 45 percent. Under the central assistance to Rajiv Awas Yojana, it has been shown that in the case of the North Eastern Region and also for the Special Category States, it is only 80 percent of the project cost. He demanded the minister that in the case of the North Eastern Region and also for the earlier Special Category States, this ratio should be 90:10. Actual allocation under the Prime Minister Awas Yojana (Urban) and the National Urban Livelihood Mission have decreased. The government should release funds for housing projects under RAY for Kumarghat, Khowai, Sabroom and Amarpur of the state of Tripura. There is a need to provide funds for slum housing at Dharmanagar, Tripura under 10 percent lump sum. There is also a need to provide funds for Town Halls at Belonia and Sonamura, Tripura under 10 percent lump sum. There is a need to conform to the funding pattern for Smart City Mission as declared by the finance ministry circular as 90:10 for North East States in general and for Tripura in particular.
Tapan Kumar Sen in Rajya Sabha called the attention of the minister for home affairs regarding the repeated incidents of violence against the cattle traders in various parts of the country.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved amendments to the finance bill in Lok Sabha, which was passed by the house.
Later the house discussed and passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. Speaking on this, Md Badruddoza Khan said India has the world's fastest growing big economy. Unfortunately, this big economy is not creating enough jobs for our crores of unemployed youth. On the other hand, non-performing assets are growing day by day due to the willful defaulters. The recovery of huge amounts of NPA has become a never ending process because of the loopholes and complications of Indian laws. So, it was necessary to introduce the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. All the provisions of the bill will help the banks to reduce the stress on their balance sheet.
Lok Sabha passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015. By supporting the bill, Jitendra Chaudhury pointed that it will unlock Rs 41,000 crore for not only afforestation but also for the development of our ecosystem. As per the bill 90 percent of total fund will be returned to the states and 10 percent will remain with the centre. He suggested that single criteria should not be followed for all the states. In North Eastern region and some other states where the forest cover is more than 50 percent, 100 percent funds should be released. Secondly, today in our country around 172 or 173 districts still have forest cover and ecology. The people who live in those areas are adivasis, tribals. These sections of people are managing the forests through their lives and culture. Hence, while framing the rules, some provisions could be made for enhancement of their livelihood. According to the ministry for tribal affairs, 47 lakh applications were received, out of that only 17 lakh have been disposed and 30 lakh applications have been rejected. That means less than 25 percent people were provided with this right. Empowering these people is something that revenue department and tribal welfare department alone cannot do unless the forest department, which is very much powerful, supports them. This should be linked to the Act. Thirdly, neither the nodal officer nor the CEO of CAMPA has been made a member. Then who will represent the state? There should be a mandate that at least the relevant officer should be a member and should be allowed to attend the meetings. The state of Tripura has very little fund of Rs 131 crore. That may be released so that we could make a plan for enhancement of livelihood of the forest dwellers.
Rajya Sabha passed the Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014 after brief discussion. This bill provides for the death penalty even if ground handling staff and airport personnel are killed during such acts. It also provides for an enhanced punishment to the perpetrators as well as the area of jurisdiction.
Rajya Sabha passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016. Speaking on this, Tapan Kumar Sen pointed out that the mineral resources in a developing country like ours are not for trading but for value-addition. But unfortunately, during the tenures of successive governments, these minerals are being extracted and traded at a very high price in the international market. In the domestic sector, the industries which are using them are being subjected to heavy burden. Till now a number of public sector undertakings transferred to private hands got closed; and their resources are being utilised for different trading purposes only to mint money. If this kind of transfer arrangement is there, is there any guarantee or is there any protection that this will not open the door for the trading of mineral resources, he questioned. He also urged upon the government to ensure that the interests of the workers' stand protected even in the matter of transfer of captive mines.
The brutal rape and murder of a 30-year-old dalit woman in Kerala's Kuruppampady village has once again shocked the whole nation. CP Narayanan in Rajya Sabha raised about the gruesome atrocities against SC girls in the country, particularly in Kerala. This case has drawn comparisons with the December 16, 2012 gang rape that shook the national capital. Seeing the seriousness of the issue, MPs from all the other parties associated and also the chair said that the entire house is one in condemning this most heinous crime. The house expects that stringent action should be taken against the culprits. They should be booked, and exemplary punishment should be ensured and awarded to them. Also this is not a state specific issue, the central government can also intervene, he said.