The Week in Parliament
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
LOK Sabha took up a discussion on crop loss due to various reasons and its impact on farmers. Speaking on the subject, A M Ariff said the country is passing through a huge farm distress that is breaking the backbone of the economy. Natural reasons and manmade reasons are responsible for this. Natural reasons include flood, drought, cyclone, diseases affecting the crop, etc., but I feel that manmade reasons are worsening the situation. Sadly, the government policies are aggravating the farm distress. Prices are soaring up, but the farmer is still living in poverty. The anti-farmer policy of this government is crushing our farmers ruthlessly. They have only one option and that is to end their lives. High electricity charges, unfair import policies and fertiliser prices are responsible for this. At the same time, inflation is also going up every day. The prime minister had announced his plan to double farmers’ income at a Kisan Rally in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh on February 28, 2016, but the real picture of an Indian farmer is there for all to see. Agriculture in India is a death game. It is shocking that over 12,000 farmers in Maharashtra committed suicide in three years. The recent National Sample Survey on the assessment of farmers’ situation says 40 per cent of farmers would like to quit agriculture. Crop failure is recurring every year either due to drought or due to flood or other climatic reasons. What is the fate of this government’s much publicised Crop Insurance Scheme? Insurance companies, under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, have missed the deadline to recognise and pay claims worth over Rs 5,000 crore made by the farmers. Their failure to deliver crop insurance claims has further aggravated the farm distress. The government is fooling the farmers. They are only a vote bank for them. The failure to tackle the middleman is another major issue and there has been an utter failure of the government in this regard. They have a very powerful lobby and in majority cases, goons are acting as middlemen. As a result, 90 per cent of the profit is looted by these middlemen. Today, the price of onion has touched Rs. 160 or above, but not a single farmer is going to get that price. The Kerala farm sector is facing different challenges due to climatic variations and unfair import policies of the central government. In 2016, farmers in Kerala were fighting the worst drought in 115 years. In 2018 and 2019, it had to face two floods, which was unheard of in Kerala’s history. Agriculture in Kerala is struggling to overcome these challenges. Raising minimum support prices, providing insurance covers against natural calamities and writing off large amounts of accumulated farm debts are temporary respites to the distressed farmers. A permanent solution to the farm sector can be achieved only through policy measures that would make agriculture a sustainable business. The Budget can extend fiscal incentives to set up better infrastructure that would minimise post-harvest losses of food grains, fruits, vegetables and other farm produce.
Speaking on the need for completion of National Irrigation Projects to tackle emerging water crisis and to transfer Water to Concurrent List from State List, K K Ragesh said in Rajya Sabha, “At the very outset, I take this opportunity to oppose the move of the Government to shift 'water' from State List to Concurrent List…we are witnessing many Interstate River Water disputes. I am requesting the Government not to make it an opportunity to shift water from State List to Concurrent List. I want to know whether the Government will intervene and find an amicable solution to these water disputes. We are facing a severe water crisis…I want to know from the minister whether the Government is aware of the fact that by next year 21 major cities in our country, including Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai, are going to reach zero groundwater level. I want to know whether the Government is aware of this fact. It is going to affect ten crore people. After ten years, water demand is projected to be twice the available supply. This is what NITI Aayog Report states. It is going to result in severe water scarcity. It is going to affect lakhs of people. It is going to affect the GDP by six per cent, states the report of NITI Aayog. I want to know from the Government the steps that the Government is taking to resolve this issue. You are saying that by 2024 piped water connection will be provided to all the households. I don't think it will be resolved through piped water connection alone. If water will not be there, then what are you going to supply? That should be the major concern of the Government. I am requesting the Government to address the real issues. One thing is that the groundwater level is getting diminished. Secondly, I am requesting the Government to take steps to preserve local water bodies which is also very important. Our rivers are getting polluted. Why the Ganga alone can be rejuvenated? Why not other rivers? On the one hand, we are facing heavy floods. On the other hand, we are facing serious droughts. There should be a programme of action for rainwater harvesting.”
Supporting the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill in Rajya Sabha, K Somaprasad said e-cigarette is a public menace. He congratulated the government for bringing the legislation as he had in the previous session requested for necessary steps to ban e-cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes is spreading every day. There is an argument that the use of e-cigarettes would help stop the use of regular cigarettes, but there has been no scientifically-proven study to back the claim. Studies have made it clear that vaping can be even more dangerous than regular smoking. E-cigarettes come in different varieties, including vape modes, vape pens, etc. Some contain high levels of nicotine and some others contain marijuana or just flavor. Even different kinds of drugs can also be used in these electronic devices. While smoking, there is every possibility to develop different types of diseases, especially cancer. It became clear from a study in 2019 that vaping would cause seizures and serious lung damage after just a year of consumption or possibly even less. Even though the manufacturers claim that e-cigarettes cartridges are tobacco-free, various studies by different groups and reliable health associations reveal that these types of cigarettes contain formaldehyde at a much higher level and even benzene, a well-known carcinogen. A preliminary study report presented at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Chemical Society found that vaping could damage DNA. E-cigarettes also become the stepping stone to regular smoking. Hence, it should be banned.
In Lok Sabha, P R Natarajan spoke on the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Bill, which seeks to extend the reservation for SCs and STs in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies by another ten year. “I am supporting the first portion of the Bill that is, extending the period of reservation for 10 years, that is up to 2030, for the SC and ST communities in employment, in the Parliament, in the Assemblies and in the local bodies. But I oppose the move to end reservation or representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the Parliament. Since the Anglo-Indians did not have their own State, and they were too small or a geographically spread out minority to get elected – therefore they represent community interests in the Parliament or in the State Assemblies – they needed reserved seats. It is a kind of vendetta against a peace-loving and religious community for reasons unknown,” he said. The government claims the community is now well-off and no special rights as envisaged in the Constitution need to be continued. This assumption is totally contrary to the reality. We know there are still some families living below the poverty line. The recent floods shattered the dreams of many Anglo-Indian people residing in the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. He requested the government to extend the reservation for another 10 years to the Anglo-Indian community also.
Speaking on the Bill in Rajya Sabha, K K Ragesh asked if the government has conducted any study of the status of Anglo-Indian community in our country? Are those sections sufficiently represented in Assemblies and Parliament without reservation? Why has such kind of a decision been taken? It seems that the minister, in the other House, was saying that the total population of the Anglo-Indian community is only 296. “What is this? I am requesting the minister to visit Kerala…. In Kerala alone, more than 80,000 people are there who belong to Anglo Indian community. Why are you misleading? I think, it is a wrong perception that the total population of Anglo-Indians is only 296 and hence you are bringing this Amendment. You are not allowing the participation of Anglo-Indians. What is this? This is highly objectionable. I am requesting the Government to reconsider it,” he said.
Speaking on the Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu (Merger of Union Territories) Bill in Rajya Sabha, K K Ragesh sought a clarification from the government – whether the first schedule of the Constitution which talks about States, Union Territories and State Territories can be amended with an ordinary Bill or a Constitution Amendment Bill is required. He also took the opportunity to raise the pathetic condition that exists in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep near Kerala. The people of Lakshadweep are mainly depending on Kerala. There is no super-specialty hospital in Lakshadweep. If a patient is affected by some serious disease, there is no proper facility for evacuating the patient to Kerala. There is no proper education facility also. No technical institutions are there. It mainly is home to poor fishermen. They are subjected to loot by middlemen. When the fishermen go in small boats, their catch is being sold in deep seas itself. If a mother ship is provided to them, they will be saved. He requested the government to resolve all these issues. He also demanded the status of a State to Lakshadweep with a mini Assembly.
Speaking on the Arms (Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha, T K Rangarajan pointed out one major issue which resulted in illegal possession and usage of arms and illegal import of arms into India. “Many times, media reported about thriving illegal arms market in India. What is the methodology through which you are going to curb it? My point is: It was reported that sophisticated small arms entering into India through border States in all four regions. There are reports about illegal weapons being manufactured in some States. Can the Minister tell this House which are the States where illegal arms are being manufactured? The percentage of people owning licensed guns is less as compared to those who own country-made firearms illegally, and locally they are called as kattas, etc. It is said that some illegal small factories made 10-12 bore short guns and even rifles. Reports say that local guns are used in robbery, kidnapping and extortion. It is also reported that about 40 million people own guns and 85 per cent of these are unregistered illegal firearms. It is all reported in newspapers. Such illegal weapons are responsible for 90 per cent of homicides involving firearms. So, how is the government proposing to control all these things through the proposed amendment?” he asked. Our authorities, including policing, need to be strengthened to check illegal import, manufacture and usage of firearms. Our forces at border and Coast Guard need to be made more vigil and equipped to curb illegal import of firearms.
K K Ragesh raised the issue of non-payment of wages to casual contract labourers of BSNK in Kerala. The casual contract labourers have not been paid wages for the past 10 months. Last month, in Kerala, two workers committed suicide due to non-payment of wages. Not just in Kerala, but throughout the country, casual contract labourers in BSNL have committed suicide. Ten such workers have already committed suicide. “I would request the government to listen to the agony of casual contract labourers, because yesterday the minister while responding to the issue said that it was due to the contractors. In fact, BSNL did not pay the contractors and that is why contractors were not in a position to pay the workers. Apart from non-payment of wages to the workers, massive retrenchment is also going on. The government had decided to reduce 80 per cent of the regular workers and also 50 per cent of the contract workers. That means, regular workers are compelled to take VRS and one lakh jobs have already been lost. Fifty per cent of the contract labourers have been asked not to work…. I don't know if BSNL is going to be wound up. My point is that since the inception of BSNL, thousands of contract workers have been working on meagre wages. We don't know what would be the future of those poor workers. I would request the government to intervene immediately and ensure payment of wages to the BSNL workers, which is due for the last ten months,” he said. (END)