April 05, 2020

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

IN Lok Sabha, A M Ariff took part in the discussion on budget for the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The central government has presented an annual budget of Rs 1.01 lakh crore for the union territory for the financial year 2020- 21. By this decision of allocating this much of an amount of money for the UT, the government is giving a message to other states in the country that if every state became a union territory, then the development of the state and unemployment issues will be sorted out by the central government. This budget for the union territory of jammu and kashmir has been presented keeping in view the local self government elections and assembly elections in Ladakh, if it at all takes place. I do not know if the elections will take place or not. Even after having a coalition with the then Mehbooba Mufti government, the central government did not provide sufficient fund for the development of the then state of Jammu and Kashmir. I hope the double face of the BJP will be recognised by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. After having seen the fascinating budget allocation for Jammu and Kashmir, I hope, this government would at least want to bring back our senior member, Farooq Abdullah, to this house. If he was present here today, he could have presented his views for his union territory and also for his people. Unfortunately, that was not allowed to happen. With whatever money you have given to Kashmir, by abrogating Article 370 concerning Jammu and Kashmir, you cannot heal the wounds that happened in the heart of the people there. The will of the people of Kashmir is that their budget should be announced in the state assembly and not in Delhi. I request the government to make a situation that the finance minister presents the state budget there. The government should revoke the current situation there and the state assembly elections should be conducted at the earliest. I want to tell one more thing to this house. The finance minister had said that with abrogation of Article 370 and reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir into union territory, the Pak Occupied Kashmir and West Pakistani refugees have qualified for citizenship rights which were denied to them since 1947. The government will take care of their rehabilitation needs. They will now get all rights due to every citizen of the country. The citizenship should be given to the refugees from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after the retraction of Article 370 unbiasedly. It should not be on the basis of caste and creed. Those who are living there for long, must also be given the citizenship rights. I urge upon the government to restore democracy in the Valley of Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest.

In Rajya Sabha, Elamaram Kareem took part in the discussion on working of the ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises. He said micro, small and medium enterprises sector has emerged as a highly vibrant and dynamic sector of Indian economy over the last few decades. MSME plays a crucial role in providing large-scale employment opportunities at lower capital cost and also helps industrialisation of rural and backward areas thereby reducing regional imbalances, assuring more equitable distribution of national income and resources. There are around 6.34 crore enterprises in MSME sector in our country. MSME provides employment to about 11.1 crore workers and contributes around 28.9 per cent of the GDP but I am sorry to say that the contribution to GDP from MSME sector is getting reduced year by year. The growth of MSME is concentrated mostly in a few states. More than 50 per cent of the total units in the country belong to only four states. Therefore, the ministry should work in the direction of removing all the existing geographical imbalances and ensure presence of MSMEs in all the states so that there is industrialization and employment generation in all the states. If MSME sector is nurtured properly, it can provide sustainable growth to the country. But, MSME sector suffered maximum during the demonetization period. Also, unscientific implementation of GST also affected this sector. More than half a million workers have lost their employment after demonetisation and the GST. Now, after the outbreak of COVID-19, the situation is getting more worsened. It is to be taken care of.  The ministry of MSME has made a proposal of Rs 13,429.01 crore, but the ministry of finance allocated only Rs 7,572.2 crore. It is just half of the requirement by the ministry. This itself shows the attitude of the government towards this sector. The government has money to help the corporates and to forego their taxes. This government has given the corporates a benefit of around Rs 2.15 lakh crore by reducing the corporate tax but when it comes to poor workers and small entrepreneurs, the government does not have any money to spend. This double standard should be changed. There is a need for modernisation of MSME in the present scenario. A market intelligence cell for MSME should be set up. That would regularly map significant market, foreign as well as domestic, for meeting the requirement of specific MSME clusters and accordingly provide information and training to them about consumer preferences, product specification, technological development and trade agreements this sector which is providing employment to lakhs of rural workers and protecting the local rural artisans should be given preference. In the neo-liberal era, a corporate-led economy is existing in the country. Due to the import of products which can be produced by the small-scale is also hitting severely this sector. All these aspects should be considered very seriously.

In Lok Sabha, P R Natarajan flagged the need to review the decision regarding reduction of ESI contribution. “I  bring to the notice of this house about the unilateral and arbitrary decision of the Government of India to reduce the rates of contribution to Employees State Insurance Scheme (ESIC) in gross violation of the decision of the tripartite Governing Body of ESI. In the 175th Tripartite Governing Body meeting of ESI held on September 18, 2018, it was unanimously decided to reduce the employer’s contribution to ESI from 4.75 per cent of wages of enrolled workers to 4 per cent and the worker's contribution from 1.75 per cent to 1 per cent making the total ESI contribution at 5 per cent annually. Accordingly, draft gazette notification was issued asking for opinion, if any within 45 days. Simultaneously, in the 177th governing body meeting held on February 19, 2019 in the presence of and also under the chairmanship of the labour minister, ESI budget for the coming financial year 2019-20 was finalised on the basis of the contribution generation of 5 per cent. It is very astonishing to note that the new government without taking any decision in the ESI governing body, unilaterally declared further reduction in ESI contribution to 3.25 per cent (reduction of 1.5 per cent ) and further reducing the total contribution-generation to 4 per cent which is gross violation of the unanimous decision of the ESI governing body. In totality, the employer’s obligation towards ESI has been drastically reduced by 1.5 per cent while reducing workers contribution to only 1per cent. This led to huge benefit/savings to the employers to the tune of estimated Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 crore. In the meeting of the tripartite committee of ESI governing body held on June 13, 2019, nothing was reported about the governing body decision on reduction of ESI contribution. Moreover, increase in enrolment in ESI claimed by the government is due to upward revision of enrolment eligibility level from Rs 15,000 to Rs 21,000 w.e.f January 1, 2017 as decided by the tripartite governing body,” he said.

In Rajya Sabha, Elamaram Kareem demanded foregoing cancellation charges in rail and flight tickets in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. “Coronavirus has become a pandemic. The entire humanity is desperately battling against its catastrophic impact globally. India also has its own vulnerability and impact…it has heavily disturbed the normal course of daily life. Many state governments have declared that the educational and other institutions would remain closed…Similarly, some companies and manufacturing establishments have also rescheduled their manufacturing plan. On the apprehension of its rapid spreading and as precaution, many state governments have proclaimed virtual ban on locomotion of people from one place to other. Accordingly, people are cancelling their travel plans. Avoiding contact with the infected people and staying isolated, following the health advisories, are precautionary measures that we can take to fight against this virus. Most of the public gatherings and programmes are being cancelled during this period. But the airlines as well as Indian Railways are still levying cancellation charges from the passengers who have cancelled their tickets due to Covid-19 threat. I urge upon the government to intervene in this matter urgently and instruct the airlines as well as the Indian Railways to forego the cancellation charges in this scenario.