March 29, 2020

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

THE CPI(M) has opposed the Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, which was brought in to settle tax disputes between individual and the income tax department without any penalty or interest. Speaking against the bill in Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) member Elamaram Kareem said the scheme was highly discriminatory against honest tax payers. It is, like, regular tax payers got no relief but dubious persons against whom the government cannot impose what they preach. I ask a particular question to the finance minister as to whether this amnesty is applicable to those who have deposited huge cash in banks after the demonetisation was announced. If what the revenue secretary told a press conference is any indication, the scheme is likely to be extended to those caught for depositing huge cash in banks after demonetisation. Such cases had come up for assessment in the last fiscal before the tax authorities. In many cases, the amount of tax payable is yet to be quantified. The scheme, if extended to such cases, will be yet another fraud perpetuated on the public psyche, for demonetisation was an instrument to combat black money circulation. The irony is that the present scheme is coming into operation when the culprits are about to be caught. Like every amnesty scheme in the past, the honest tax payer is likely to feel that the rulers have let them down. This is because of the fact that any amnesty scheme, by which concessions are extended to defaulters, is nothing but a premium for deception.

Speaking on the Central Sanskrit Universities Bill in Rajya Sabha, K K Ragesh said the legislation seeks to convert three deemed universities into three central universities. In fact, yes, let there be some institutions to conduct research and advanced studies. But, at the same time, we should not lose sight of the fact that Sanskrit was the monopoly of a very few and it was denied to a vast majority of the population. And, now, people are not speaking or writing Sanskrit. I don't know why the government is giving so much of importance to Sanskrit and why the same importance, same prominence, is not given to the other national languages, especially South Indian languages. Why such kind of discrimination to various national languages? It is highly objectionable. I can give you one example of the kind of discrimination that is being carried out by the central government in Kendriya Vidyalayas. Kendriya Vidyalayas are directly coming under the HRD Ministry. In Kendriya Vidalayas in Kerala, I am sorry to say, it is so sad that Malayalam is not being taught. At the same time, till 8th Standard, Sanskrit is made as compulsory and Malayalam, the mother tongue, is not being taught. I have been repeatedly raising this issue in this House itself. But, unfortunately, all are in vain. So, why such kind of a discrimination on the part of the central government towards Malayalam?  I am requesting the government to give prominence, importance to all other national languages also, especially regional languages.
Taking part in the discussion on working of the Ministry of Railways, Ragesh said the Indian Railways symbolizes the unity and integrity of our country. It carries millions of ordinary people, irrespective of the government’s dubious efforts to increase passenger fare through backdoor, like increasing cancellation charges, etc. It also plays a vital role in uniting the people and also in saving the ordinary people of our country. There is an urgent need for modernisation and updation of rail network. The government should take up this responsibility on its shoulders. But, unfortunately, yes, we still have the age-old signalling system, old coaches, station, etc. So far as the coaches are concerned, the state of Kerala has become a dumping ground where old coaches are being used. The government is sending all the old coaches to Kerala. I am referring to that issue. Yes, of course, there is a need for modernising the entire railway network in our country. That is very important. But, at the same time, rather than taking that responsibility on their shoulders, the government is simply finding a short-cut to privatise the entire railway network. A member, quoting the prime minister, said that railways is the engine of our economic growth. But, unfortunately, the government is selling out the same engine to the private players. It is quite unfortunate. About 150 passenger trains have been decided to be sold out. The report says that even our Rajdhani trains, Shatabadi trains – all these are going to be sold out. I am talking on the basis of the reports. Trains to premier routes and metros are also going to be privatised. What would be the outcome? First of all, the entire reservation, which is being provided in the public sector, is going to be sabotaged. That would be the first outcome of privatisation. Secondly, whatever concessions are being given to various groups of our society are also going to be sabotaged. There are concessions given to senior citizens, handicapped, students, youth, women, etc. All are going to be sabotaged. What about the fare regulation? We don’t know what will happen. It is said that dynamic fare has been implemented. There is no regulation on fares. The decision of the government to privatise the railway network is against the national interest and also against the poor. It is an anti-poor step. So, I am requesting the minister to draw some lessons  at least from the privatisation of British Railways. Now, they are also thinking of re-nationalisation of British Railways. If we look at the world around, the best rail networks are State-owned rail networks. So, you have to think of it. I am requesting you to not to sell out the prestigious railway network of our country.

A M Ariff took part in the discussion on demand for grants of the ministry of tourism in Lok Sabha. “I would like to submit some ground realities facing our tourism sector. The recent report of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), the apex national body of tour operators in India, said that the tourism sector in our country is showing negative growth. There is a tourism recession or slowdown in our country. After passing the Citizenship Amendment Act, Indian has isolated itself as an intolerant State before many countries. US, UK, Russia, Canada, Singapore, Taiwan and many other countries have issued travel advisories to their citizens refraining them from visiting India. Two lakh domestic and international tourists cancelled their trip to visit Taj Mahal. These issues have also affected the tourism sector,” he said.  Moreover, viral disease like Covid-19 will affect the tourism also. We have to build up a new tourism policy for the development of our tourism sector. As far as Kerala is concerned, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Kerala was named as one of the ten paradises of the world by National Geographic Traveller. The state government had submitted many proposals, including some under Swadesh Darshan and Pilgrim tourism, for the development of tourism sector in the State. But unfortunately, the central government is not considering these projects and also not giving sufficient funds.

In Rajya Sabha, K Somaprasad spoke on the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill and the National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill. The modern medicine and the system of Indian medicine, especially ayurveda, are two different streams of knowledge. Ayurveda is the oldest and comprehensive system of medicine being practised in India since ages. India has a very long history strong base of traditional medicine like ayurveda. The strength of ayurveda and other Indian system of medicine lies in their three-fold holistic approach of prevention of diseases, promotion of health and cure of disease. Ayurveda could make a sufficient impact in the context of preventive medicine. Ayurveda gives utmost importance to the patient's safety during the treatment through rational use of medicines. Hopefully, even though it is not sufficient, in recent period, there are several research activities which are going on in the Indian system of medicines. But, the existing laws related to the various aspects of Indian system of medicine are not sufficient to meet various challenges that are being faced now. It is true that it is high time to enact a comprehensive law covering each and every aspect of education, research, practice, production of medicine, medical ethics, etc. The new legislation which we are enacting now is not comprehensive. But it touches major issues related to Indian system of medicine. When we think about Indian system of medicine, we should not forget naturopathy and yoga. The bill is silent about naturopathy and yoga. Yoga and naturopathy are part and parcel of Indian system of medicine. There has been a long-standing demand for these branches to be included in this bill.  I would like to know about the intention of the government.