THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE Rajya Sabha passed the four GST Bills -- The Central Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017, The Integrated Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017, The Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Bill, 2017 and The Union Territory Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017. CPI(M) MPs moved several amendments and asked for division but was defeated. Speaking on this, Sitaram Yechury said the fundamental problem with the GST is that it concerns the federal structure of the Constitution. The government refused to heed our request and brought this as a Money Bill. Any regime that restricts the federal structure of the Constitution is of concern to this House. We have very serious concern about the whole concept of 'one nation, one tax' and 'one nation, one grid'. So, if the GST Council takes a decision, that is affecting the powers of the states or the rights of the states according to the Constitution, it has to come for parliamentary approval. It is a very serious lacuna in this Bill, which has to be corrected. The CAG must be the competent auditor for this GST Council and all the things connected with it. The states have no independent power for indirect taxes except for alcohol and petrol. A higher level of indirect tax means greater burden on the consumer. If you want to contain this thing, the proper consideration of the tax structure is extremely important. We should have a four-tier rate structure instead of a two-tier rate structure. The government must ensure that luxury goods do not get tax exemptions, otherwise the prices of essential goods will rise and that would be a greater burden on the common people. The minister must consider a 12 per cent State GST rate and an 8 per cent Central GST rate. All tax concessions are going to be removed, then, how will you promote or protect handlooms, khadi products, coir products and traditional crops? The budgetary support can't solve this problem. Any turnover beyond Rs 20 lakh is part of a state's tax net now, at least that limit will have to be raised in order to allow concessions for such traditional producers. The GST will take away the right of the state governments to collect the tax directly for a turnover of Rs 1.5 crore or below.
C P Narayanan said that very little has been done with regard to the consultations with large sections of population that they are going to be hugely affected in various areas. The private sector is going to have a big say in matters and they will be trying to have their control over various things which perhaps the government have not thought of. The government needs to take a lot of care about these things. Taxation on petroleum and petroleum products could affect the people which has been well proven in the last two years. The government must take care of lakhs of beedi workers and those who collect tendu leaves. There is centralisation of power. Now, under the GST Bill, all taxes have been brought under the control of a GST Council. What kind of taxes need to be introduced and collected in states, must be reported to the Parliament and Parliament should have the final say. Otherwise, it would become a private affair of the rich people.
The Lok Sabha passed the Footwear Design and Development Institute Bill. While speaking on this, Md. Salim said that to resolve the issue awarding degrees to the students and trainees, this Bill is necessary. We have earned fame worldwide in the field of footwear industry. We are the third biggest economy in terms of footwear and leather industry and we have to march forward from here. When I was the chairman of the Standing Committee on Tourism, we had recommended that the government should award degrees not diplomas to the students. Because the private colleges and universities were awarding degrees, not diplomas. We should not confine ourselves to trained human resources only but the availability of basic raw material i.e. hide and skin is also of utmost important for this sector which we should resource from the entire Asia. A branch of this institute should also be opened in Panjipada, which is a long-pending demand of the people there.
The Lok Sabha passed the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill. A Sampath expressed certain reservations about the delegation of powers as it is not of normal character. The delegated powers are unchecked powers and if this august House does not take cognisance of the matter, then it will be a Financial Frankenstein. Along with other states, the State of Kerala is also suffering in the name of international treaties. If we are talking about cooperative federalism, the Government of India should take into confidence all the state governments. Having compared the international prices of crude oil to the prices of domestic LPG cylinder, the consumers are bound to feel that they are being pick-pocketed. Apart from addressing these issues, the Government of India should take initiatives to fill up around one million vacancies including two lakhs of vacancies in the Railways also. Lastly, I would beg the government to give adequate loans to the traditional sector for their sustenance and livelihood.
The Lok Sabha had discussion on Sustainable Development Goals. Jitendra Chaudhury took part in the discussion and said the SDG has targeted 17 goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators. Unless, in totality, our economy or social environment does not change, these goals cannot be achieved. Only 28 per cent of our countrymen have access to tap water, both safe and unsafe, 47 per cent have access to sanitation. As regards nutrition, it is 38.7 per cent of our population. 70 per cent of our women are suffering from anaemia. Until and unless each and every citizen of our country have access to food, food security cannot be achieved and you cannot maintain the level of health. The budget for food security, agriculture, education, etc. are not being enhanced.
In the Lok Sabha, P Karunakaran raised the issue of EVM tampering. He said it is not only a big threat to our democracy but also a fraudulent act with the sentiments of the voters also. Due to the tampering with EVMs, people’s right to choose their representatives, has widely been shattered as they are feeling duped by these machines.
In the Rajya Sabha, T K Rangarajan opposed the move of the Government of India to make retrograde amendments in the Right to Information Rules, 2012 vide DoPT circular dated 31st March, 2017. These amendments aim at drastically weakening the right to information of the people. The proposed amendment in Section 12, sub-Section 2 says that the proceedings pending before the Commission shall abate on the death of appellant. In 2017 only, there have been more than 375 recorded cases of attacks and assaults on RTI activists and of these 375 cases, 56 are murders. In such a horrible background, the provision of abatement of the proceedings on the death of the appellant would act as an allurement to hidden criminals to eliminate the concerned RTI activists.
Jharna Das Baidya raised the need for repatriation of tribals sheltered in Tripura to Mizoram. There were several initiatives to repatriate the refugees from Tripura to Mizoram but those failed due to lack of proper political will of both the central and the state governments. About 35,000 Reang tribals are sheltered in seven camps located in North Tripura for 19 years. About 5,000 Reang tribal refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years. A permanent solution to this ethnic issue is needed so they can enjoy a better life.
P K Sreemathi Teacher raised the issue related to handloom industry which is one of the traditional industries of Kerala, but today this sector is in doldrums because of various factors forcing weavers to shift to other jobs to earn living.
Ritabrata Banerjee raised the misuse of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on women, religious minorities and tribals. In several cases, like incidents of Malegaon, Ajmer Dargah, Samjhauta Express etc. no harsh words were used by the Judiciary and several accused have been acquitted. Recently, in West Bengal, we have seen how the organisations have used open arms to take possessions of a part of land.
Jitendra Chaudhury in the Lok Sabha said the Centre should give relaxation to Tripura in appointment of teachers. In Tripura, unlike most of the states in the mainland, 100 per cent enrolment is there up to secondary level. The dropout rate is negligible. Every child has access to school within two kilometres of his home. That is why every year we have to open a number of schools and now we have to recruit more teachers. The candidates having the qualification of BEd or BT are not available. Hence, the government should allow relaxation. All Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan teachers should be regularised.
M B Rajesh raised the matter that the government is aggressively pushing linking Aadhaar with various government schemes and services, leakage of Aadhaar data has become a serious issue. This has serious implications for individual privacy and national security. Even a former Indian cricket captain's wife has come out against the leakage of Aadhaar data recently. A scientist with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEIT) has admitted the data leakage and has cautioned the State Chief Secretaries against it. The government has completely failed to ensure the security of personal data collected under Aadhaar.