THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
The Rajya Sabha had a discussion on India's foreign policy and engagement with strategic partners. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury took part in the discussion and stated that the discussion was being held at a very crucial time. Our pursuit should be of an independent foreign policy. India's security, international borders' security and the defence can't be compromised. The government is turning India into a subordinate partner of the US foreign policy in the world. Privatisation of sectors like defence procurement, Railways and Air India will not be in our interest. There should be statements in this House regarding agreements entered into with other countries. Economic policies, demonetisation and GST are meant to profit multinationals. The government needs to seriously ponder over the standoff with China. Good neighbourly relations should be the bedrock of our foreign policy. I appeal to the government not to cement any US-Israel-India axis in world affairs as it would not be in our country's interest, he said.
The Lok Sabha took up a discussion on the situation arising out of reported incidents of atrocities and lynching in mob violence in the country. Speaking on this, Md. Salim there should be an amendment in the IPC for the enactment of a new law to include mob lynching and the state governments should be directed to ensure the arrest of criminal within 24 hours after the crime and punishment should be meted out at the earliest possible. The cover or the philosophy which is resorted to or which promotes lynching is wrong and it is not merely an issue of law and order. The prime minister has condemned it but merely condemnation will not serve any purpose. There has to be concerted efforts to ensure that peace prevails.
The Lok Sabha discussed the Demands for Supplementary Grants - General and Demand for Excess grants (General). Speaking on this, leader in the Lok Sabha P Karunakaran said the farmers are the backbone of the economy. Now the backbone is broken. The main issue is that when the government came to power, they said that they were ready to implement the recommendation of the Swaminathan Commission, i.e., 50 per cent more to the cost of production. The BJP also said that it would give 150 per cent more with regard to the cost of production, but nothing has materialised. As a result, there is a big gap in the cost of production for the farmers and the actual earnings they are getting.
The Lok Sabha passed the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2017. Speaking on this, P Karunakaran said the bill seeks to replace the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 promulgated to empower and authorise the Reserve Bank of India to issue direction to any banking company to initiate insolvency resolution process. For the last four to five years, non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks have increased. NPA is bad not only for the banks' health but also for the health of the economy and thereby the health of society. Only 12 large defaulters' names have been made public. There is every reason to doubt that the RBI will be highly selective in identifying the defaulters. This will defeat the very purpose of the bill in addressing the problem of NPA. Banks should be given total autonomy in identifying the defaulter companies for invoking the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
The Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Third Amendment) Bill, 2017 and the National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017. Speaking on this, T K Rangarajan said the state government shall have the powers to identify socially and educationally backward classes. The bill has a welcome and positive feature beneficial to socially, educationally backward classes. At the same time, in the interest of the OBCs, it is necessary to rectify the features that create apprehensions, and clarify areas of ambiguity. C P Narayanan said the newly-constituted National Commission for Backward Classes must ensure that good education is given to women and the most backward, among the backward classes and they are made socially forward so that the reservation is not for all periods.
The Lok Sabha passed the Central Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir) Bill and Integrated Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir) Bill.
The Lok Sabha passed the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Amendment) Bill. Speaking on this, Jitendra Chaudhury said that the reason as to why I appreciate the Bill is that the amendment has been proposed to increase the authorised capital from Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 30,000 crore. If we see the crises and the demand from the farmers' community, the proposed amount is not adequate. The present scenario is that credit from nationalised banks and from financial institutions is not available. That is why there is a crisis in the agrarian economy. So, NABARD should come forward with new credit and interest policy so that more farmers could avail of the loan. Even though NABARD has a mechanism for disbursing loan, yet a major portion of the loan is flowing to urban areas. There are hardly any rural bank branches in North-Eastern States, even though there are regulations in this regard. Even in my own State of Tripura, I have seen that though some loans are disbursed for building bridges and creating infrastructure, but loan is not forthcoming for the small and marginal farmers of the state through cooperative societies.
The Lok Sabha passed the Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy Bill, 2017. Speaking on this, P K Biju said that we have a lot of institutions under the Petroleum Ministry but the functioning of such institutions is not good. He requested the government to set up one such institute in Cochin.
The Rajya Sabha passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017. While supporting the bill, Jharna Das Baidya said that 11 lakh elementary teachers are untrained. They should have got trained by March 2015. Their training is very important to raise the quality of teaching. The funds for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan should be increased. School education has been totally neglected in this year’s budget. The government should also inform this House about unqualified teachers who had been barred from teaching since 2015. Allow the respective states to take decisions, especially as this is the right-based law.
The Rajya Sabha passed the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2017. Speaking on this, Ritabrata Banerjee siad that our IIITs are very important because of the question of spending in education. The government is spending only 1.2 per cent of our GDP on higher education. Without public spending in education, the situation cannot change. The educational infrastructure concerning information technology in our country is not handled in a proper way, particularly, in the private sector. Majority of private colleges lack a proper IT Department. They don't even have the computers. A national course for all IT courses in public as well as private sector should be enunciated so that standardisation of IT education can be ensured.
The issue of political violence in Kerala was raised in the Lok Sabha. The BJP attacked the CPI(M), taking the name of the Kerala chief minister, the party state secretary and other left leaders. CPI(M) MPs gave a letter to the Speaker, noting that as per rule, the BJP MPs cannot name or attack those who are not present in the House. Later, the Speaker did not allow CPI(M) MPs to speak on the matter. After protest, the Speaker allowed P Karunakaran to speak. He said that the Kerala chief minister has been holding meetings with members of RSS, the Left and other stakeholders to end violence and that many Left workers have also been killed over the years.
In the Rajya Sabha, Tapan Kumar Sen said that the government was attempting to privatise Indian Railways in phases. Already, cleaning, catering and maintenance have been outsourced. Locomotives are now being ordered from the US and France, thereby paving the way for closure of loco production units in Chittaranjan and Varanasi. The government must refrain from the privatization move, he said.
K Somaprasad raised the matter regarding the alleged malpractices in the selection of India’s squad for the World Athletics Championship. P U Chitra, who won Gold medal in the women’s 1,500-metre race in the Asian Athletic Championship, has been expelled and she was not included in the Indian squad. The whole selection process was orchestrated based on a planned drama. It is evident that more than half a dozen members are not related to sports directly or indirectly. It is shame that eligible and talented athletes are expelled, while a number of unauthorised and ineligible persons are selected.
P K Biju raised in the Lok sabha the issue regarding the employees of Life Insurance Corporation of India. GST is being imposed on LIC which is done nowhere in world, he said. There is no welfare fund for these employees. Pension should be introduced for 11 lakh agents who do not come under any category of employees now. The recommendations made by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority were implemented in private insurance companies but not in the LIC. K Samoprasad made a demand to amend the Constitution to give the national status of Scheduled Castes to people engaged in manual scavenging.