July 28, 2019

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

In Lok Sabha, P R Natarajan took part in the discussion on Union Budget 2019-20 and Demand for Grants, Ministry of Railways. He said Coimbatore to Pollachi rail gauge conversion work was done by the railways more than eight years ago. Even after completion of the work, the southern railway is not operating trains on the route. He requested the government to take steps for immediate restoration of train services, which is a long-pending demand of the people of Coimbatore and Pollachi. He also raised the issue of elephant deaths on railway tracks and said the railways should issue strict warnings to loco-pilots to adhere to the speed limit, especially during night hours.

Speaking on Demand for Grants for Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Natarajan brought to the notice of the government the proposal of NHAI to construct a new six-lane road from Karur to Coimbatore. The four-lane road is already existing there. He said the existing road can be widened instead of constructing a separate six-lane road with huge investment. He said the work on Coimbatore-Palakkad road on NH-67 is yet to be completed and requested the government to allocate requisite funds immediately to finish the work at the earliest.

Taking part in Discussion on Working of Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (Ayush) in Rajya Sabha, K Somaprasad requested the government that more money be allocated to the public healthcare system. The money allocated to this system is not sufficient. In this country most people are very poor and their condition is very pathetic. They are having very low income. They always depend on government hospitals. They have no other choice. So, the public healthcare system should be improved. The formation of AYUSH Department is a very good decision of the government. But, the development of AYUSH fully depends on the attitude of the government. Ayurveda is a science of life with a holistic approach to health. It has the ability to treat many chronic diseases. Hence, the evidence-based research is highly needed for the global recognition and acceptance of Ayurveda. According to the World Health Organization, about 70-80 per cent of the world population relies on non-conventional medicines. The government should prepare a timeframe roadmap for the progressive development of Ayurvedic education and research. Ayurveda is continuously facing constraints and difficulties from regulatory authorities and scientific community. There is need for evidence-based researches in this area to make the literature adequate. The government should allocate more money for research.

Legislative Bills

Speaking on the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Elamaram Kareem said the meaning of the “limited resources available” should be clearly spelt out and responsibility for this should be fixed. The authority can be strengthened by the government to give better service to the people. You are handing over the activities of the authority in the hands of private entities. The AERA will not be having any say in determining the tariff or service that will be provided by private entities. The fees will be determined by the market forces. In such a situation, our valuable airports are being given in the hands of private entities. This will lead to shooting up of all the service charges.

On the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Natarajan said in Lok Sabha that the most notable weakness of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was its failure to check the excess of the police and armed forces, especially in Kashmir and the northeastern states. Unfortunately, Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland are some of the states which do not have a human rights commission even after 26 years of passing of the Protection of Human Rights Act in 1993. The basic human rights were being ignored in the name of national security in these states. I don't agree with the proposed amendments to the Human Rights Act and hence I would request the government to withdraw the Bill. I conclude my speech by registering my strong opposition to the laxity of the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and urge the government to adhere to the international principles and standards on human rights.

In Lok Sabha, A M Ariff spoke on the NIA Amendment Bill, 2019. The amendment to Schedule 4 of the Bill will allow the National Investigation Agency to designate an individual suspected to have terror links as a terrorist. It is nothing but State-sponsored terrorism and violates the fundamental rights and ethos of the Constitution. A large number of undertrials are languishing in various jails without hearing under the National Investigation Agency Act. The widespread human rights abuse under the TADA is evident. In fact, this Bill is quite vague. He urged the government to set up a real and functionally efficient special courts and remove the draconian provisions of the UAPA (Amendment) Bill, 2019 which, in the name of tackling terror, contravene the fundamental rights of citizens.

In Rajya Sabha, K K Ragesh requested the government to send the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill to a Select Committee. Not only the Bill but the Principal Act has also to be sent for a legislative scrutiny. We all are united in combating terrorism. We had requested to ensure the consultation of States while taking up various cases and also demanded for ensuring association of States in investigation so that a fair probe can be ensured. Various provisions of this Act are being grossly misused. Investigation is getting diluted. NIA is being grossly misused. There should be some provisions for the consultation of states. We can bring out a substantial and proper law to combat terrorism.

In Rajya Sabha, Elamaram Kareem requested the government to send the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to a Select Committee for a thorough scrutiny. He requested the government that the state governments should be consulted before appointing members to the ACI.

Speaking on the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Rajya Sabha, K K Ragesh requested the HRD minister to take steps to rename the proposed Tribal University as Rohit Vemula Tribal University as he succumbed to institutional murder. He flagged certain pertinent issues that confront the education sector. Universities are the dwelling places of ideas and idealism. They are the centres where knowledge production takes place. If we depend on private universities or foreign universities for knowledge creation, it would amount to intellectual dependence on these institutions. It is extremely important to strengthen the public-funded university system in our country. How many universities in our country have got the 'world-class' tag? Do we have a single university that ranks within those top 400 world-class universities? What efforts we are making for ensuring quality in the university education system. If you take central universities, you would find that 8,000 teaching posts are lying vacant. A vast majority of the students are dependent upon state universities and affiliated colleges. What support is the UGC giving to those universities? Budgetary allocation for education, especially higher education, has been drastically reduced. The Kothari Commission had recommended that six per cent of the GDP must be spent on education. In 2014-15, the total budgetary expenditure was 4.1 per cent, while last year, the total expenditure was 3.17 per cent. The government is collecting cess on education but it remains unspent while our universities are starving of funds. The government must strengthen the public-funded university system and take steps for ensuring quality education.

Other Issues

In Rajya Sabha, Jharna Das Baidya raised the issue of low rate of women’s participation in the workforce. Only 22 per cent women in the country have employment. Women lost their jobs particularly in private sector after demonetisation. Many women work as domestic help or they are engaged in sanitation works. The government should do something for them.

K K Ragesh flagged the issue of high airfare on the Gulf routes during vacations engineered by airline companies. He demanded that the central government immediately intervene to roll back the steep hike in the airfare in Kerala-Gulf sector. This is an issue which has been raised time and again. The prime minister had promised to intervene in that issue but, till today all the requests are falling on deaf ears. The government is allowing the airlines to loot the poor migrant workers. If someone reserves a ticket from Calicut to Dubai, he would get a ticket for less than Rs 6,000, till today. But if someone will reserve a ticket from Dubai to Calicut, he has tospend more than Rs 40,000. We have been raising this issue time and again. The poor workers come back to meet their families once a year during the festival season or during vacation period and they are being looted. The government is not paying any attention to this issue.