THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
IN the concluding week of the Budget Session, Parliament passed some important bills. The Lok Sabha passed the National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill and the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Third Amendment) Bill. Speaking on this, P Karunakaran said certain communities in the country have been suffering from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness. Giving the OBC Commission the constitutional status is a welcome step. The government should ensure that posts of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Members of such commissions do not remain vacant. We give reservation to a caste in one state, but the same caste is not awarded reservation in other states. Every state has its own mechanism to decide the category of castes. Now, according to this Bill, the rights of the states for inclusion or exclusion from SC to OBC or from OBC to ST are being taken away by the Centre. It is a herculean task to get any caste included in or excluded from the lists of SC, ST or OBC. The rights of the states are being taken away. It is really the question or the basic principle of the federal setup. Hence, this clause must be taken away and there should be clarity on this issue. In the Rajya Sabha, the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Third Amendment) Bill was referred to a Select Committee of 25 members, including CPI(M) MP T K Rangarajan.
The Lok Sabha passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016. It was passed by voice-vote, and several amendments moved by the opposition were rejected. While discussing the bill, M B Rajesh said the most contentious issue is that of putting a cap on the compensation amount for injured and deceased. This cap will only serve the interest of insurance companies but not the interest of the common people. In the Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury said the bill has a lot of complications, because of which there is a need to "seriously deliberate" on the matter.
The Collection of Statistics (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha. While supporting this bill, A Sampath said that this bill has one part connected with other states of India; and the other part is for Jammu and Kashmir. The government should come out with the socio-economic data of 2011 Census. In a nation where we are all bound to know what is happening, we are in oblivion of the 2011 Census. Similar is the case of the Below Poverty Line figure. These things are for the benefit and welfare of the people. Our statistics should be reliable. Estimates of poverty lines by various agencies differ but the poverty remains. We should make legislation for a universal basic income. I would like to know whether the below poverty line statistics is arrived based on the income of the family, per capita income, per capita consumption or calorie consumption per person per day. He also questioned the government’s decision to stop the Pravasi Suraksha Yojana.
The Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2017. While supporting this bill, K Somaprasad said more and more depressed communities want to be included in the list of Scheduled Castes to get constitutional protection and more chances for a better life. Now with the help of constitutional protection, they are trying to get into the mainstream. But the neoliberal policies, especially privatisation, curtailed their existing development chances. In certain sectors, like judicial service and defence there is no reservation at all.
The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was taken up in the Rajya Sabha, but the discussion did not conclude. While opposing this bill, Tapan Kumar Sen said that extra overtime hours would prove to be injurious to the health of workers. It is not only against the interests of those workers who have jobs but also against the interests of the unemployed youth. The parliamentary standing committee on labour had also unanimously rejected the increase in the limit of overtime. But despite this, the same bill is being pushed through without considering anything. This bill needs to be reconsidered in view of its impact on the employment generation. The government has put at stake its credibility by bringing in this bill. It is dangerous for our democratic system. So, please refrain from this. Today, there are twelve hours' working in most of the private factories located in Delhi and its adjoining areas and 80 per cent of them don't get any extra remuneration. In some places, they do get some remuneration, but not at the required rate, as per the Factories Act. The government is not addressing that. The labour community is not your priority, because they are not donors to political parties. In view of the tremendous increase in the productivity of the labour because of the technological development, the need of the hour is to reduce the working hours. Of course, the GDP is increasing, but the employment is not generating. In such a situation, increasing the overtime limit is just not permissible.
T K Rangarajan also took part in the discussion on the bill and said it was an anti-labour legislation. He requested the minister to withdraw the bill.
The Lok Sabha passed the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill. P K Biju said this is a very important subject. I do not find the financial memorandum and the Statement of Objects and Reasons in the bill. The Supreme Court has directed the central government to give ART medicine to all HIV patients. The government has said that the ART medicine for each patient would cost around Rs 28,500. If we cannot give that much of amount, how can we cure the patients in this country? We have seen 50 per cent reduction in the number of new HIV infection. The total estimated HIV affected persons in our country are 2.08 million as per a report of 2011. What steps have been taken in our country to manufacturer generic antiretroviral drug in our country? It is a good bill. The state and central governments should ensure prevention of spread of HIV and AIDS and anti-retroviral, and access to welfare schemes, especially for women and children.
The Rajya Sabha discussed the Aadhaar and its implementation and implication under a short duration discussion. C P Narayanan took part in the discussion and said the government is making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits under various schemes. We should ensure the social benefits meant for children or women or dalits or adivasis or old-age people or disabled people should reach to them. We have got a data of 100 crore people. We are storing this data in private stores with private companies, and we have got reports that this can be misused. So, Aadhaar is finally going to create a lot of data which the interested parties will be making use of for their own profit. We must ensure that at any cost, Aadhaar should not be made a compulsory precondition for availing benefits. P Karunakaran raised the issue that a large number of MNREGA workers was not getting their wage in time.
Tapan Kumar Sen raised the matter regarding the workers of three steels plants under SAIL -- Alloy Steel Plant, Durgapur; the Salem Steel Plant, Tamil Nadu; and the Bhadravati Steel Plant -- going on strike. The workers of Dredging Corporation of India Limited, who are keeping our water channel navigable, are also going on strike. They are protesting against privatisation. These three steel plants which are being privatised cater to the need of different sectors. This move of privatisation is destroying the manufacturing capability of the country under the camouflage of ‘Make in India’ slogan.
Inclusion of all events of freedom struggle in light and sound show of Andaman's Cellular Jail was raised by Ritabrata Banerjee. He said Andaman Cellular Jail represents the death defying heroism of the brave hearts of the Indian people's struggle against the British Colonial yoke. Unfortunately, the Cellular Jail, even today, is not a National Monument and the Government seems to have no record as far as the jail is concerned. In this matter, Sitaram Yechury said he had seen that light and sound show and had written saying that there is a total distortion of Indian history that is being portrayed in that. That script is only one individual-centred, and the whole history of our revolutionary martyrs, hundreds of them, is all reduced to deification of one.
C P Narayanan said salt is an essential requirement for our health. So, making available good quality salt at reasonable price is the prime duty of the government. A major part of salt-production is under the control of monopolies. The only salt testing lab in Kolkata is also being closed, putting the salt factory in Contai in East Midnapore district under the supervision of the Regional Office in Chennai. This is being done at a time when further strengthening of the test lab in Kolkata has been recommended by the National Productivity Council.
Sankar Prasad Dutta raised the problem of transportation faced by people of Koyla, Sheher, Kamalpur, Khoai and Mohanpur -- the four important towns in Tripura. The government must construct new lines covering all the four districts and towns and start the survey work immediately much before the start of the rainy season.
Joice George said those working under the National Rural Health Mission including doctors and nurses are not being paid properly. Their salaries are meagre compared to the salaries of their counterparts in the central government services and the state government service. The government should increase the salaries of nurses and doctors to bring them at par with the salaries of nurses and doctors working in the same category in the central and state government services.
On April 12, both the Houses were adjourned sine die.