The Week in Parliament
THE winter session of Parliament started on November 18, 2019. On the first day of the new session, CPI(M) and other opposition parties raised the issue of MP’s not being allowed to visit J&K after the removal of its special status under Article 370, while a delegation of European Union (EU) was allowed; and Farooq’s detention and the JNU’s students issues etc.
T K Rangarajan spoke on the 250th session of the Rajya sabha in a special discussion on ”The role of Rajya Sabha in Indian Polity and the way forward”. He said Lok Sabha members represent a constituency while Rajya Sabha represents the State. The various facets of the State, be it linguistic, cultural and other with wide diversity are represented through the members in the Rajya Sabha. He targeted the government and said it is encroaching on the linguistic diversity of the country. The BJP government is trying to bring in one language policy and this is dangerous he said. It is dangerous for the different linguistic states in the country. He said there are developed and underdeveloped states; a single formula cannot be worked out for every state.
Rangarajan further said that adequate time should be given to debate issues in this(Rajya Sabha) house. Quoting from the constitution he said, “The second chamber is the only instrument by which we delay action, which might be hastily finished in the Lok Sabha, the other House.” Asking the chairman that here things should not be pushed terming it a ‘money bill’. Citing the example of British Parliament he said that we must learn from them how at times the ruling party leader joins the opposition and votes against the government. He said, “We do not know what is happening in the states. As correctly mentioned by the Navaneethakrishnan, they(government) passed the NEET Bill two times, but you don’t recognize them. You can give a proper reply. You can convince them. But you do your own way. You instruct your IAS, IPS officers from here because they are appointed by the centre. They are not under the control of the state. I want to bring these things to your notice. Regarding this power to state, suddenly you remove everything.”
Citing the example of Article 370, he said now every state is afraid because the government has the majority of numbers. But this should not be allowed to curtail the rights of the states. The states are being turned into panchayats, he said. He termed it a unitary form of governance system and this cannot keep the country united. He strongly criticised the centre for abrogation of Article 370.
In Lok Sabha, P R Natrajan speaking on the chit fund regulatory mechanism through the Bill pointed out at the loopholes prevalent in it. He said the Bill does not have a provision for insurance coverage. There should be efficient regulatory mechanism in ponzy schemes. He insisted that the Chit Fund (Amendment) Bill without the provision for insurance coverage for subscribers is a toothless tiger.
Speaking on the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Rajya Sabha, K K Ragesh pointed out the historic legacy of the Jallianwala Bagh movement and he said that throughout the country and the world a centenary of this massacre is observed. However he pointed out the real intention of the Bill is not clear. He said is the Bill intended just to remove the Congress president from the post of its trustee. He said that monuments tell us the great history of the country. He pointed out to the home minister as to why he is afraid of monuments? One of the reasons he sighted; because his(home minister’s) party the then Jan Sangh had no role in the freedom movement and they were hand in glove with the British. He expressed his opposition to the amendment to the Bill.
Speaking on the National Institute of Design (Amendment) Bill, 2019, A M Ariff in the Lok Sabha pointed out that there are 134 institutions as institutes of national importance. Many institutions are facing several challenges. He asked the government to pay attention towards the faculty in these institutes. He asked for upgrading the traditional handicrafts and artisan skills in order to expand employment and exports.
While speaking on the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 in Rajya Sabha, K Somprasad pointed out that due to lack of an effective law, unethical and commercial surrogacy practices are going on. He said though the Bill provides for some regulation but it must be clarified who is a ‘close relative’. This term must be defined. He also argued for more representation from the states in the regulatory board.
In Rajya Sabha while speaking on the short duration discussion on the economic situation in the country, E E Kareem pointed out that the economy is in deep crisis. He said this is not a cyclical crisis, but a systemic one. This crisis is of the system of capitalism. The GDP growth is at the lowest level; agricultural production is going down; IIP(index of industrial production) is going down; construction industry is going down. Unemployment figure is at the highest level in the last five decades. Automobile industry which is giving employment to 4 crore workers, which is contributing at 7.5 per cent to country's GDP and 49 per cent to the manufacturing GDP, is also in deep crisis. About ten lakh employees are sacked from this sector. Not only is the automobile manufacturing sector, but also the components manufacturing industry is in deep crisis. This crisis in the Indian economy stems from a sharp contraction in domestic demand. This is because people have very little or no purchasing power in their hands. Unless demand grows, the industrial and manufacturing sector, which is now under recession, cannot revive. For domestic demand to grow, what is required is a big dose of public investment to build our much needed infrastructure. This, in turn, will generate a significant rise in employment and put purchasing power in the hands of people. When this money is spent, country's manufacturing and industrial sector would revive. Instead of doing this, the government is giving further concessions to the rich with whopping tax cuts and facilities to increase their wealth. However, this is precisely the direction of the government's announcement declaring that these are meant for reviving the economy. This government has provided concession to the tune of Rs 70,000 crore to the realty housing sector and for export promotion, he pointed out.
Speaking on the Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Rajya Sabha, K K Ragesh said that, “I don't think that cosmetic changes in the Act in the form of some amendments can resolve the issue that needs to be addressed today. Why am I saying so? It is because of a large number of chit fund scams that are happening in our country. What are all the amendments? The Act specified various names to refer to chit fund and two more names have been added and also certain terms in the Act have been changed. For example, subscribers are allowed to be present during the time of draw through video conferencing; foreman's commission has been increased from five per cent to seven per cent and the aggregate amount of the chit has also been increased.”
Ragesh argued for a deposit insurance scheme to protest the subscribers and the customers. He pointed out the three types of chit entities namely, run by the state governments or some cooperative institutions; registered private chit companies and; unregulated chit entities. He raised the issue, of a registered private chit company in case of insolvency etc. He also pointed out at the online chit funds which are very common. He said there is no mention of online chit funds in the Bill. He shared examples of chit fund scams like Saradha, Rose Valley 118 in which former chief minister’s son and an ex MP were involved. He spoke about strengthening financial literacy. He said these chit funds have to be protected and the government must bring in amendments to enrich the Act.
In Rajya Sabha, K K Ragesh spoke on fee hikes in JNU and disrespect to the statue of Swami Vivekanand in the university. While participating in the debate he said that since last one month the students are demanding a roll back of fee hikes but the administration is not accepting the legitimate demands of the students. He also spoke about the democratic rights of the students and why are they being targeted. He pointed out the brutal lathi charge on the students by the Delhi police during a parliament march organised by the students. He demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident. He further asked the government to intervene and ensure that the fee hikes are rolled back.
In the Lok Sabha, A M Ariff requested to the government that the decision to privatise Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) will have huge repercussions on the employees and society as a whole. The central government should desist from any effort to privatise BPCL, he said.