The Week in Parliament
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE Lok Sabha took up discussion on the prevailing flood and drought situations in various parts of the country. CPI(M) leader P Karunakaran began the discussion by paying homage to the innocent people who have lost their lives due to flood and heavy rainfall throughout the country, and said flooding has affected Kerala, Maharashtra, Assam and some parts of Tamil Nadu. Intense rainfall has caused a significant damage to life and property. Out of 1033 villages, 965 villages have been affected in the hilly areas of Idukki in Kerala. About 119 people have lost their lives. Total crop loss is around 21,197.76 hectares. Over 413 houses have been fully damaged and around 11,403 houses have been partially damaged. The total estimated damage is about Rs 1,384 crore. Cyclonic storms have caused huge damage to fisheries and agriculture sectors in Kerala. The total loss is estimated at over Rs 2,200 crore. The state and central governments have to come together to deal with these issues. The government of India is not ready to go beyond the laid down norms under the NDRF. So, the state is not getting the actual amount of compensation. The state government has to bear a huge financial burden for providing relief to disaster victims. The government of Kerala has requested for a comprehensive special package of Rs 7,340.40 crore for the victims of Ockhi Cyclone. This request was made four months ago but the state got a very meagre amount. Army unit in Kerala and the Air Force are not equipped well to carry out effective relief work. Functioning of the Indian Meteorological Department is not at all satisfactory. Karunakaran requested the government to increase the amount of compensation to Kerala. As far as Ockhi Cyclone relief is concerned, the state had asked for a central assistance of Rs 7,340 crore, but got only Rs 4,000 crore. So, it is difficult for the state government to meet all the expenditure relating to relief. The norms have to be changed. The centre should send a special team and discuss with the government of Kerala, he said.
Joice George, representing his constituency in the Western Ghats where landslide took place, said a lot of people have lost their houses, crops and all their savings. Unfortunately, in our disaster management system, especially in SDRF, landslide has not been classified as a disaster. As a result, people who have lost their properties are not in a position to get any kind of relief from the government either under SDRF or NDRF.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 was passed in the Rajya Sabha. Speaking on this, Elamaram Kareem said the existing laws are inadequate to stop economic offenders from fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts. This bill aims to strengthen banking sector and thereby strengthening the economy. Non-performing asset (NPA) accumulation is a major threat. Today, the total NPA is around Rs 10 lakh crore. So, stringent measures should be taken and new rules framed to bring back such economic offenders to India and recover the entire bank dues from them. The neoliberal policy that the government is adopting is only responsible for such economic offences. The insolvency law committee is studying the feasibility of introducing cross-border insolvency provisions. It is looking at adoption of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law model to deal with cross-border insolvency. The existing code provides only to enter into agreement with foreign country, which is considered insufficient and time taking. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is still toothless on high value corporate. On the other hand, writing off NPAs of large borrowers cannot prevent such offences and bring back money which they have looted from our banks. The government has to take stringent measures.
The Lok Sabha passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill. Md. Badaruddoza Khan said that we are against corruption but want to know from the minister how corruption will be stopped. Another question is that in this Lok Sabha, the Saradha scam was raised by certain members and instantly it was referred to the Ethics Committee. But three-and-a-half years have passed and nothing has been done. Again, why is the government not appointing the Lokpal? A huge number of cases are pending in our courts. The government can make a good Bill, but there is no chance of getting justice immediately in our country. In section eight, bribe-takers and bribe-givers are equalised in punishable offence. But they are not equal. It will discourage the victims from lodging any complaint.
The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was discussed in the Rajya Sabha. T K Rangarajan said this bill is not a correct one and said that they have wasted four years. It shows the inefficiency of the ministry and the government. The government has failed here. Hence, he requested to defer the bill and send it to the Select Committee.
The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed in the Lok Sabha. A Sampath said that this bill is an unconstitutional one as it violates the provisions of Article 20 of the Constitution. This bill proposes to provide 20 per cent of the amount in question as compensation to the complainant. This is not fair. This is a very important bill and should have been examined by the Standing Committee of Parliament. If the accused is filing an appeal after conviction, then depositing 20 per cent of the sum is all right. But it is not fair to make the payment at the beginning of the trial, because the accused may be acquitted after trial.
The Rajya Sabha also passed the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, 2018. Opposing the bill, K Somaprasad said that the new clause could be misused very widely and it is also against the principles of natural justice. A speedy disposal of the cases related to offences of dishonour of cheques is very essential. For this, we should strengthen the existing courts and open new courts. The government is not ready to recruit even judicial officers against the existing vacancies.
The Lok Sabha passed the National Council for Teachers Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017. Speaking on this, P K Biju said 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 big market. That is the main reason for erosion in the standard of our teachers. It is a fact that we have to strengthen our education system, then only we can strengthen the health sector and our economy, etc. The education system has changed across the world and we have to achieve that level accordingly. Similarly, the government must strengthen the state-level institutions.
In the Lok Sabha, the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill was passed. While supporting the bill, Md. Badaruddoza Khan requested to refer this bill to the Standing Committee for improvement. Trafficking of human beings is the third largest organised crime in the world. If we want to stop trafficking, we should try to eradicate poverty and illiteracy. The biggest lacuna in the bill is the absence of a comprehensive definition of trafficking. Trafficking for the purpose of a forced marriage is not included in this bill. The responsibility of anti-trafficking unit at the district level and the officer in-charge of the police station concerned is mentioned, but some of the officers misbehave with the victims and do not want to register the complaints initially. So, in this bill, there must be some provision of instant punishment to such police officers. So far as protection and rehabilitation is concerned, the system of licencing the protection homes, special homes as well as placement agencies has been placed most casually. Sometimes, these homes are the sources of trafficking and immoral work.
P K Sreemathi Teacher supported the bill and expressed some differences of opinion and said the biggest lacuna in the bill is the absence of a comprehensive definition of trafficking, which should not only include trafficking for the purposes of labour and prostitution but also for forced marriage. The provision that the rescued person has to be first produced before the Member Secretary of the proposed district committee unnecessarily complicates matters. Hence, she requested the government that the bill be sent to the select Committee.
In the Rajya Sabha, discussion was held on non-implementation of provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. T K Rangarajan said that it is a very important discussion and not connected to a state only. The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act should be implemented in toto. Promises and assurances made to the people of Andhra should be fulfilled.