Vol. XLII No. 02 January 14, 2018

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

IN the concluding week of Winter Session of Parliament, Md. Salim raised the issue of mounting non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks while taking part in a discussion on the Supplementary Demands for Grants in Lok Sabha. No one can deny the fact that money needs to be pumped into the banks because there are capital adequacy norms. But the question is why the NPAs have risen after the NDA government assumed office. The government maintains that the corporate profitability is on upswing. Then why the recoveries are not being made? You will have to fix accountability and for that the House must discuss this issue here. A number of chairmen of the public sector banks have retired on January 1, but the government has failed to make fresh appointments. This process should have been started three or four months ago and appointments should have been made. The government is recapitalising the banks through public funds. This is a type of indirect subsidy. Whereas, the interest rate for the common citizens have been reduced and levies are being charged if they don't maintain minimum balance. The government says that the corporates will finance the political parties and it will also bring electoral bonds for ensuring transparency. The government says that because of the agreements with foreign countries, it will not make public the names of the individuals who have deposited their ill-gotten wealth in foreign banks. But why the government is not making public the names of those 10-12 big corporate houses who owe 25 per cent of the total NPAs? Their names are not being disclosed. This issue does not involve any foreign country. The government should come in the House and disclose the reasons behind the NPAs to enforce accountability.

Rajya Sabha members across parties condemned the violence and atrocities against Dalits in Maharashtra's Pune district. CPI(M) leader T K Rangarajan said that what is happening now is not only the Dalits but the minorities and women are also the targets in all parts of the country. Some action must be taken. He demanded a judicial inquiry into the Maharashtra incident by a sitting Supreme Court judge so that the culprits are brought to book.

In Rajya Sabha, during a discussion on the State of Economy, Investment and Job Creation in the country and the need to address the challenge of rising unemployment, Rangarajan said the economy is in a shambles. The government is shouting about ‘ease of doing business’, but India is actually going down in the rankings on global hunger. The world record says that your rank on Global Hunger Index is going down. The country’s advancement, returns on investment and prosperity must be measured by productivity and employment generation. Thousands of employment opportunities generated have been completely wiped off. It was promised that two crore jobs would be created every year. But we are not able to create even 50 lakhs. Agrarian crisis is the worst crisis which we have suffered. There is no help from the Centre. The M S Swaminathan Committee report is not being implemented. The only gainers are the corporates. Demonetisation and GST have only helped the corporates. Sixty-five per cent wealth has gone to only one per cent people. Looting the majority and benefiting the handful has become the order of the day. The government is corrupt. The government policy has affected the economy and it is actually a policy of corruption. The entire policy regime must be reversed to save the people and save the country.

Legislative Bills

The much-hyped Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, aimed at criminalising instant triple talaq, got stranded in Rajya Sabha. On this bill, the standoff continued in Rajya Sabha in the concluding week of Winter Session. The Opposition demanded that before any other legislative business, the House first take up an amendment for referring the bill to a select committee.

Lok Sabha passed the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill which ia aimed at increasing over two-fold the salaries of Supreme Court and High Court judges. While supporting this bill, A Sampath said that even during the scorching heat, the advocates are bound to wear the black robes. Why? A junior lawyer has to pray for time always. In the court, even an old man is forced to stand for long hours, if he is a witness. Court proceedings should be telecast. The Supreme Court made an observation that let it start from district courts. Why it should not start from the top? Why the Supreme Court does not have a Bench in South India, and in Western India? There are quite a lot of very senior Supreme Court lawyers who charge Rs 50 lakh per day. There have been criticisms that the judiciary has become casino judiciary. It has become a rich man's game. Our courts lack infrastructure. Even one per cent of the total Budget of the Government of India is not allocated to the judiciary. Approximately 6,000 vacancies are there in the lower judiciary. In Bihar, there are 45 per cent vacancies; in Uttar Pradesh 42 per cent vacancies; and in Delhi 40 per cent vacancies. India has the largest number of pending cases in the whole world. Regarding the National Judicial Appointments Commission, Parliament passed a very landmark constitutional amendment. It has been struck down by the Supreme Court. They should get the due share and their salaries and allowances should be increased. But, to whom are they accountable? Whether the provisions of the Right to Information Act are applicable to the members of the judiciary? I am proud of the Judiciary. Many of the judges might have worked day and night and are very brilliant judges. How many woman judges are there in high courts and the Supreme Court? What about the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes? This House should initiate some legislation for the Supreme Court judges. If the House is increasing the retirement age, it should also be decided that they should not take up any other occupation or any other engagement post retirement. We are not only increasing salaries and allowances of the Supreme Court judges but we are giving them with retrospective effect also. My request is that the judicial commission should come into effect and they should be accountable also. Executive is accountable to the Legislature and the whole Legislature is accountable to the people. I am not saying that the Parliament is supreme and neither is the judiciary supreme. The Constitution is supreme. There is no question of any clash of interest between Parliament and the judiciary.

Rajya Sabha passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2017. Speaking on this, Tapan Kumar Sen stated that within a span of one year we are discussing amendments of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. It reflects an over haste by the government and we should think on how to control the situation. We want unscrupulous persons not to be benefited at the cost of creditors. It is not thoroughly deliberated. An appropriate resolution applicant should not be ousted due to negative list. We will not lose the money. Banks are not getting back the public money. You cannot keep secret the list of wilful defaulters. Public money has been given and it should be taken back. Punishment must be there for defaulters but stalled ventures should be revived. A closed company affects employment and bank's money.

Lok Sabha passed the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill. A Sampath said we all join in supporting the intention behind this bill. But I want to bring to the attention of the minister concerned, the fact that the provisions of the existing bill are inadequate and the amendments suggested are also inadequate. My request to the minister is that the year 2021 will be the third centenary of the 1721 Attingal Revolt. I would seek the help and cooperation of the Government of India to appropriately commemorate the third centenary of the Attingal rebellion. A postal stamp, a coin, or a currency note, should be issued.

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed in Rajya Sabha. Speaking on this, Tapan Kumar Sen said that the central government is 100 per cent owner of NABARD. They should not put it on the track of disinvestment and strategic sale. It is very crucial for rural credit, agricultural developmental credit. NABARD is for rural infrastructural developmental credit. RBI's close association in NABARD management is of crucial importance. More than 50 per cent of the farming community are victims to private moneylenders. In one state only, three thousand farmers have committed suicide. The whole working of the rural finance and agricultural support needs major role of NABARD for doubling the income of farmers. More than 70 per cent of the agricultural credit is being disbursed by the urban branch of the commercial banks. Their reach in remote village areas is not taking place. The project of doubling farmers' income needs a reversal of this trend in the fund distribution. Authorised capital needs to be increased. The situation demands an apex bank associating with NABARD for separate distribution of only rural credit. NPA from the MSMEs represents less than 20 percent of the total NPA. The rest 80 percent of the NPA is stolen. The poor agricultural people and poor MSMEs are paying it back. Unless you separate the whole rural credit system and set up an apex agricultural or rural credit institution separately, directly under RBI, associating NABARD and network of RRBs, this perversion in rural credit distribution cannot be effectively addressed.

In Rajya Sabha, Tapan Kumar Sen raised the matter regarding the concern over closure of units of Government of India Press and Railway Printing Press and said that the government has decided to close down 12 out of 17 its presses and Indian Railways is closing down all its printing presses in different parts of the country. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development has termed this move of closure of the presses as extremely unfair and the ministry concerned has stated that all these presses are really working hard despite extreme shortage of operational manpower and they are managing their work well. The Standing Committee unanimously recommended modernisation and development of all the presses. The government must refrain from this retrograde move.

Both the Houses of Parliament were adjourned sine die on January 5, ending the Winter Session that began on December 15 and had 13 sittings over 22 days.