The Week in Parliament
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE monsoon session of Parliament began on July 18, with obituary references to departing leaders including Md. Amin of the CPI(M) who passed away on February 12. New CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP Elamaram Kareem took oath on the first day of the session.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was taken up for discussion in Rajya Sabha. In his maiden speech, Elamaram Kareem opposed the Bill and said that in the name of ‘road safety’, there is some hidden agenda behind this. Except the provisions for higher penalty for drivers and operators, there is no mention of any measures to prevent accidents. There are several other factors too, like road condition, traffic discipline, over-congestion, growing number of vehicles. None of these have been addressed in this Bill. The Road Transport Corporations record the lowest accident rates in the country. By the proposed amendments, all the State Transport Undertakings in each state would come under severe financial crisis. So, it is anti-constitutional and encroaches upon the powers of states. The Insurance Regulatory Development Authority has enhanced the third-party insurance premium by almost hundred per cent in these four years but it has no details. I oppose this and demand withdrawal of this Bill.
T K Rangarajan said in Rajya Sabha that the provisions of the Bill would lead to collapse of state-owned passenger transport corporations that function with the objective of providing affordable transport service to the people. The Bill basically aims at promoting large private corporations to reign the transport market. The responsibility to register vehicles is proposed to be deregulated and vested with car dealers. It would lead to corrupt practices of manipulated invoicing by the dealers and cheat the government of its revenue.
The State Bank (Repeal and Amendment) Bill 2017 was passed in Rajya Sabh. Speaking on this, K K Ragesh pointed out that this particular Bill seeks to repeal two Acts. This is inevitable because five associate banks have already been merged with the State Bank of India. Firstly, I want to know whether any reduction in the staff strength has taken place. I have seen a media report that staff strength of 10,584 has already been slashed after the merger. What is the reason for that? Secondly, I want to know as to how many employees had opted for VRS. Yes, banking sector is facing a severe crisis due to NPAs. But why should we try to resolve those issues at the expense of the poor? You are saying that you have generated employment. But the secured, permanent employment is getting reduced due to these policy decisions in the form of merger. I want to know how many branches have already been closed due to merger. Media reports say that more than thousand branches of associate banks have already been closed. These associate banks were treated as the banks of the states concerned. State Bank of Travancore was playing a vital role in the overall development of Kerala. In case of farmers' loans, students' loans, SBT was at the forefront. But SBI is mainly concentrating on the richer sections, the corporates. SBI alone has got Rs 1.89 lakh crore of NPAs, of which 90 per cent is due to the corporates, the big companies. They are not ready to pay back the loans. You have to penalise them. But even the SBI is imposing a penalty on poor account holders who are not in a position to maintain monthly average balance.
Lok Sabha passed the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2017. M B Rajesh said that we demand strong action against fugitive economic offenders and supports measures if they are sincere and not a mere eyewash. After wasting four-and-half years, this government has come out with a Bill with many controversial and inconsistent provisions. This is an eyewash. It is not sure whether most of the provisions of this Bill would survive legal scrutiny. What is lacking is not a Bill but political will. This government clearly lacks political will to strongly deal with fugitive economic offenders and also to fight corruption and loot. In April, when this Ordinance was promulgated three more economic offenders left the country including the promoters of SRS Bank. So, this government allowed them to flee. It was admitted by the Minister of State in Ministry of External Affairs in this house that 31 economic offenders had left the country since this government came to power. It was said that Rs 8,040 crore had been declared NPA and the amount recovered was a mere Rs 155 crore.
The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) bill, 2017 was passed in Lok Sabha. A Samapth said that this Bill is unconstitutional as it violates the provisions of Article 20 of the Constitution. This is a very important Bill and should have been examined by the Standing Committee of Parliament.
The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013 was passed in Rajya Sabha. K K Ragesh pointed out that the issue of corruption has become a major public concern after the exposure of repeated scams. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the Lokpal. Let alone executive and legislature, even the judiciary is not spared. According to a report, judiciary in India has emerged as the most corrupt segment. Judicial corruption needs to be addressed very seriously. Why despite so many laws, corruption is constantly increasing in our country? The reason is that we have failed to address the root cause of corruption which is the unholy nexus between ruling parties, bureaucrats and the big companies. Various provisions of the Bill are really diluting the provisions which already exist in various anti-corruption laws. As per the 1988 Act, no prior sanction for investigation was required. Now, if a complaint is registered against a public servant or a bureaucrat, no police or authority can go in for investigation. Prior sanction for prosecution is okay. But, for investigation, why is such a provision being made?
Lok Sabha passed the National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017. P K Biju said that the NCTE coordinates the development of teacher education system throughout the country. The NCTE also ensures the maintenance of norms and standards in our education system. Now, the number of teachers training institutes has increased. That is a reason for erosion of standard. The education system has changed across the world and we have to achieve that level.
Rajya Sabha passed the Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill 2018. While supporting the Bill, K Somaprasad said that this would rectify one of the major defects of the existing laws. This Amendment is for the simple and speedy enforcement of the contractual obligations. It is supportive of the real parties. Violation and non-fulfilment of contractual agreements are increasing every day. This Amendment will put an end to such a phenomenon. This Bill will help a lot of infrastructure projects. In several cases, we see the misuse of discretionary powers of the court. This Amendment will put an end to it.
T K Rangarajan raised the attack on social activist Swami Agnivesh in Jharkhand and said the House should condemn it. He was attacked allegedly by a group of Janata Yuva Morcha, Bajrang Dal and ABVP activists in Pakur, Jharkhand. The Supreme Court has condemned the activities related to cow protection, lynching, love jihad, moral policing and gang rape. So, I request the House to condemn these types of atrocities which are going on and the activists of Janata Yuva Morcha, ABVP and Bajrang Dal should be arrested and put in jail.