The Week in Parliament
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE winter session of parliament started from December 7, 2022. John Brittas, participating in the discussion on the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha, said there is a deliberate design in every action of this government to usurp powers of the States. I am astonished that my colleagues from Andhra Pradesh and Odisha were welcoming this Bill without understanding the so-called scheme of this government to corner powers of the states. There are three 'U’s'. What are these? One is 'Unitary'. They don't want a federal constitution. Then 'Unilateral'; and they want another thing, that is, 'Uniformity'. In the principal Act, Section 29 permits 'state governments being satisfied in consultation with the state board to authorise the Chief Wildlife Warden to issue a permit to destroy, exploit,' and so on. Clause 11 of the new Amendment Bill tries to take away this right of consultation with the State Board of Wildlife by proposing to substitute the same with the national board, not only infringing the principles of cooperative federalism but also having far-reaching consequences as the national board can effectively block any proposal from the state. Sir, do you think that this country should be run only by the central government? You dismiss all the state governments. Even otherwise, you have a dangerous scheme of destabilising opposition-led state governments. Even this Bill camouflages your intention of taking away every right of the state government. I strongly oppose this Bill. Now, Clause 27 of the new Bill proposes adding a new proviso to Section 43 of the principal Act. 'Transfer or transport of captive elephants for religious purposes. And, this should be prescribed by the central government. Sir, should we surrender all the powers to them? Don't we have a federal constitution? They harp on 'cooperative federalism' every time. But even for a Bill like this, they get into the small nitty-gritty where the state government has some flexibility. There are so many clauses which infringe on the rights of the State government.
In Lok Sabha, speaking on the Supplementary Demands for Grants, A M Ariff pointed out that the latest report of the Public Accounts Committee on ‘Excesses over Voted Grants and Charged Appropriations (2019-20)’ has found that out of the two ministries, which incurred excess expenditure, one is the ministry of finance. The Public Accounts Committee was astonished to note that the bulk of excess expenditure was reported by the department of revenue and it amounted to a whopping Rs 31,934 crore. It is pertinent to note that this excess expenditure was over and above the supplementary grants of around Rs 40,000 crore that the ministry had taken in March, 2020. If the finance ministry itself is incurring expenditure over voted grants and then submits for regularisation, what is the purpose of presenting these demands here? Why is our precious time being wasted by this exercise? I would like to quote the remarks made by the PAC, as I feel that it is very relevant for the overall financial management of the economy of this country by this government. I will quote the analysis of the reasons given by the Ministries: “Like in the past, lack of continuous watch over the flow of expenditure, lack of timely review of financial requirements, and failure to properly anticipate the requirement of additional funds continue to be the main reasons for the excess expenditure.” Sir, during 2020-21, at the time of Covid-19, the finance minister announced a stimulus and relief package of Rs 20 lakh crore. What is the result of that package? No one knows what that relief package gave to the common man other than false promises and tall claims like moratorium on bank loans. What they got was five kg of rice every month and nothing else, and to cook that rice, they are now spending huge amounts from their pockets as the LPG subsidy has not been given for the past two years. And what about petroleum products? Luckily, due to the elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assemblies, the government has applied sudden brakes and stopped increasing the prices. But today or tomorrow, surely, it will skyrocket. It has become crystal clear now that moratoriums on bank loans were mere eyewash and helped only to increase the interest burden by extending the loans. Sir, not a single penny out of the loans taken by the poor people of this country was either written-off or the interest waived by these stimulus packages. Similarly, lakhs of students who had taken the education loans were not given any respite even though their studies were disturbed due to Covid-19.
A M Ariff said, “I challenge this government to bring out a white paper on the Atmanirbhar Bharat stimulus package but I know, it will never be brought, as the truth will get revealed. The government was hesitant to help crores of petty traders, farmers, self-employed and manual labourers affected by COVID-19. But at the same time, the government has no hesitation in writing-off about Rs 10 lakh crore bad loans of crony capitalists in the last five years. It is better to change the name Atmanirbhar Bharat to Adaninirbhar Bharat as all the assets of the country are handed over to the Adani group. Almost all the major airports are in the hands of Adani. Seaports also are no different. Is it not a shame that we have been degraded as a country without a national carrier with the sale of Air India? After the sale of the national carrier, the prime minister has purchased two aircraft for his use. Where did the spirit of nationalism fly away while selling Air India? Our prime minister reminds us every now and then about nationalism. After the sale of Air India, airports and seaports, now it is the turn of railways. Already the government has started the privatization of railways through backdoors. We will have to wait only for another few years to see who is going to take over it. What is happening on account of Covid-19? Even for travelling a distance of less than five kilometres, the common man has to give Rs 30 as the railways is running all the passenger trains as express special trains in the name of Covid-19. Similarly, the concession given to the senior citizens in railway tickets was taken away in the name of Covid-19 and now, the government says it will not be restored. Sir, I wonder whether any other democratically elected government will loot the people so cunningly in the name of pandemic after it has come completely under control. Sir, Covid-19, global recession, Ukraine war and what else, it brings cheers to this government as they can loot people in the name of those issues. After Covid-19, you are withdrawing all fellowship grants for minorities who are studying in different colleges of central universities. Even the MGNREGA scheme, which is a big relief for the rural people of this country, is being destroyed by this government without allocating sufficient funds with impractical norms. This year, Kerala government asked for funds for generating 10.31 crore workdays but sanction was given for only six crore days. Also, this government is squeezing the state governments by denying its due share of central tax and with the stopping of GST compensation, states are literally at the mercy of the central government. Sir, every time an assembly election comes, our prime minister reminds the people of the need for ‘double engine’ government, which itself is against the spirit of the constitution. He is bound to do service to all the states without any discrimination, be it BJP-ruled state or non-BJP state. It is a threat to the people of the states that if you elect a different party other than BJP, your development will be halted. Sir, to reduce the unwanted expenditure and utilize the available resources to the maximum, for the past two years, I have been repeatedly inviting the attention of the Ministry of Education on the need for taking over project sector Kendriya Vidyalaya in Kayamulam in my parliamentary constituency. Sir, it would not cost even Rs 50 crore for taking over all the 14 project sector KVs which are on the verge of closure and even now, this government has been non-committal to spending such a small amount for the sake of future of the children of the KVs.
In Rajya Sabha, V Sivadasan took part in the discussion on the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and pointed out that this is basically aimed at addressing the core issues which the common people are facing. Basically, this Bill is promoting the centralisation tendency. We are seeing an extreme centralisation in this Bill. Clause 14 of the Bill is a change of a Section in the main Act. It is enhancing the power of the union government. This is the tendency of centralisation. So, it should be corrected. The basic spirit of the nation is decentralisation. This is against the federal structure of our nation. I request you to protect the federal structure of the nation and promote decentralisation. The spirit of the age is to protect the federal structure. Secondly, this Bill proposes the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. Here, we are able to see the centralisation tendency. The Bill proposes only five representatives of the states. It means, a majority of the states would not be able to register their opinion in the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. It means the central government is curtailing the rights of the states. Each and every state has the right to register its opinion. So, that should be protected. A representative of each of the state should be there. This is a problem not only of a state, it is also the problem of the entire people of the country. Another point is on the representation of the farmers. Here, the representation of the farmers is not there. In India, 30 per cent of the energy consumption is in the farm sector. But, in this Bill, we are not consulting the farm sector. In the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, the representatives of big corporates are there, including big industrialists and manufacturers. Then, why have they not allowed the representation of farmers and workers? These are very serious questions. The representation of farmers and workers should be there. This is another request from me. Another point is, carbon trading and energy conservation methods from state to state are different. So, state-specific issues are there. Hence, the union government should give the right to the states for managing energy conservation procedure and method. The right of the state should be protected there also. The building status is also covered in this Bill. There, unilaterally, the union government proposed their own specification. Unilateral specification is not good for the development of energy sector in our country. So, state level specification means that the state will make. The union government should provide the right to the state for making specification of the building. It should be corrected. It should be included in the Bill. The last thing is regarding state level designated agencies. Here in this Bill, the union government has proposed some new agencies for managing things. My request is, the state level designated agencies are working very well. So, right of the agencies, including Kerala and other states, should be protected and the government should allow them to continue to work in these states. Independently, an autonomous decision is very important for the development of the energy sector.
In Rajya Sabha, A A Rahim expressed concern over proposed disinvestment of HLL Lifecare Limited. HLL Lifecare Limited is a Government of India-owned public sector undertaking in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. It produces various healthcare products and its brands have large marketshare in the country and abroad as well. HLL has its head office in Thiruvananthapuram and factories in seven locations across India. Four of the factories were built in Kerala, such as Peroorkada, Aakkulam, Kakkanad and Irapuram. The other three factories are in Belgaum, Manesar and Indore. HLL currently has 220 pathology labs, 47 imaging centres and six labs under the brand name Hindlabs. It runs a total of 253 pharmacies across India. HLL runs a subsidiary with the name of HLL Infra Tech Services Ltd. the company reported a turnover of Rs 5,081 crore. It is employing thousands of persons across states. HLL also played a key role in providing assistance during the Covid pandemic. This was particularly possible as it is a public sector unit and is not operating merely to make a profit but to serve a public purpose. Hence, HLL must not be disinvested and privatised. HLL factory in Kerala is situated on the land given by the state government in view of advancing the public sector. Given that circumstance, Kerala has the right to retain HLL as state's Public Sector Unit (PSU) that is free from the centre's hold. The land and assets owned by HLL should, therefore, be returned to Kerala or alternatively the state should be allowed to participate in its auction. (END)