THE Winter Session of Parliament began on 24 November. On the first day Parliament was adjourned for the day after obituary references. On the next day, there was uproar in both the Houses of Parliament on the issue of black money. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have failed to fulfill their poll promise of bringing back all the black money within 100 days of coming to power. During the election campaign, Modi had claimed that around Rs 85 lakh crore of black money was stashed in foreign banks and now after becoming the Prime Minister, in his second radio address, he stated that the government did not know how much money was there in different foreign accounts. Later, the government decided to discuss the issue in Parliament under Short Duration discussion.
In Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, while speaking on the money held in foreign bank accounts by Indian citizens and business entities in violation of law, stated that there is a categorisation about our country that India is a rich country with poor people and one of the reasons why we have poor people is because much of our money is being siphoned off into the black accounts. Black money is a primitive accumulation of capital. Yechury said the government must fulfill the commitments made to the people but it is now making excuses. The Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty is for protecting individuals and companies. You have created the route for illegal money from here to go and come back as legal money. Most dangerous among them is Participatory Notes as it is the biggest source of legalising illegal money. We are the only Party on record to demand a ban on this Participatory Notes. If the government is really interested in unearthing the black money, then it must have to plug the loopholes. Speaking on the black money issue in Lok Sabha, Md. Salim pointed out that the BJP and the Prime Minister had promised that the black money stashed abroad would be brought back. The Wankgchu Committee was set up in 1974 in this regard. The Committee had submitted its report, many governments came thereafter but the black money neither could be brought back nor had its generation been checked. Hundreds of corrupt people from India have deposited billions of rupees in foreign countries. People want that their names be revealed. Both the UPA and the NDA governments say that they will not reveal their names. Those whose black money is stashed abroad are hands in glove with the government. Therefore, the government does not want to reveal their names. Rajya Sabha also took up the issue of dilution of MGNREGA under the Calling Attention Motion. Speaking on this, P Rajeeve began with the reference to the dharna on 26 November organised by the CPI(M). The statement given by the minister was not satisfactory. It does not include the position taken by the government. Actually, the government is trying to scale down the coverage under the programme to 250 districts instead of the entire country. The state governments on the basis of this circular have identified the blocks. In Kerala, only in two or three districts they have covered all the blocks and in eight districts, not a single block has been covered by this project.
During the first week, both the Houses of Parliament passed two bills -- The Labour Laws Amendment Bill and The Delhi Special Police Establishment Bill. The Apprentices Act (Amendment) Bill was passed by Lok Sabha during the last session while the same was passed by Rajya Sabha during this session. Opposing the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Amendment Bill, 2011 in Rajya Sabha, Tapan Kumar Sen pointed out that the government is only hearing the voice of employers. The government must withdraw this bill. This bill is betrayal with the workers, he said and requested requests the House to seriously consider the amendments moved by the Party. In Lok Sabha, speaking on the labour laws amendment, Sankar Prasad Datta said that this bill was placed in the House in 2005. At the time, all the members agreed upon that the bill should go to the Standing Committee. After a thorough discussion in the Standing Committee, the Standing Committee opined that the bill should be returned to the government with the request to hold discussions with the employer and the employee groups before reaching a consensus on reforming the labour laws. Earlier the government was not interested to talk with the employers and employees. They could not arrive at a consensus among the employees, those who will get maximum benefit. The BJP-led NDA government is for the corporate. For the sake of the corporate houses, this bill has been introduced here. The workers who are getting only Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 per month will not get justice. The employers who want to make more and more money will not protect the interest of the workers. Strongly opposing the amendments moved by the government, CPI(M) Leader in Lok Sabha P Karunakaran pointed out that a large number of workers would be affected by the new legislation. A large number of factories that come under small-scale sector would also be affected which means it would be beneficial to the employers. The Standing Committee itself made it clear that we should not go for such a hasty amendment. CPI(M) and other parties have moved some amendments that were not accepted by the government. Subsequently, the CPI(M), the CPI, the Janta Dal (United) and the Trinamool Congress members staged a walkout and amid the uproar the Bill was passed by voice vote. Lok Sabha also passed the Indian Institutes of Information Technology Bill, 2014. Speaking on this, Karunakaran pointed out that it would be better to send this bill to the Standing Committee for better scrutiny. Information technology has got the highest priority in our society nowadays. The concept of growth should be comprehensive as well as inclusive. There is no mention about the reservation policy for SC/ST, minority, women and other backward sections. We have to think about them. There is no redressal forum for students in this bill. IT is the most important thing but at the same time social justice has also to be taken into account and students also have to be given importance. While opposing the Apprentices Act (Amendment) Bill, CPI(M) member T K Rangarajan raised the doubt whether the bill is drafted by the labour ministry or the employers’ federation and requested to study the work load of the Maruti factory. This bill gives a free hand to the employers. If any apprentice is asked to work of regular nature, he must be paid full wage. He requested to withdraw the bill and bring a new one. The Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed in both the Houses. Speaking on this, K N Balagopal in Rajya Sabha pointed out that this amendment bill has come because the government was not ready to accept the Leader of the Opposition. The CBI is an instrument in the hands of the government. The autonomy and independence of the CBI has to be discussed very seriously and I hope that the government will do something to make this agency an autonomous body. This amendment is for helping the government as well as the opposition. Lok Sabha also passed the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill. Speaking on this, M B Rajesh said that the objective of the 2009 Act was to establish universities for teaching and research in various states. The universities and the higher education sector are facing serious challenges today. The gross enrollment ratio in India is just above 15 per cent. In all the developed countries anywhere in the world, this ratio is above 50 per cent. Thousands of posts in central universities and higher educational institutions are remaining vacant. Without providing proper teaching staff, how are you going to improve the state of affairs of Indian universities and higher educational institutions? There is no grievance redressal mechanism in universities, even in central universities. Communalisation of higher educational system is also going on, he said. While supporting the Constitutional (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 in Lok Sabha, Sankar Prasad Datta pointed out that Dhoba, Shabdakar and Baidyakar communities are already enlisted in the SC list in our state in Tripura but they are not getting the unskilled occupation stipend. So it is my earnest request that our Hon. Minister should look into this matter as the bill has now been passed. It is required to ensure that all the new categories of communities should get the benefits of what people were getting earlier. They should get the benefits immediately. There are so many loopholes in the SC Atrocities Prevention Act. I strongly demand that the government take necessary steps to remove them. In case of recruitment and promotion, there should be uniformity in the law throughout our country. Another suggestion is that there has been a constant demand for increasing the stipend for students as well as the yearly limit of family income of people belonging to Scheduled Castes. At Present, it is Rs 2,50,000. My demand is that it should be increased to Rs 5.00,000.
PRIVATE MEMBERS BILL Rajya Sabha took up two Private Members Bill for discussion. These included the Compulsory Military Training Bill to which the Defence Minister replied, and the Fertiliser Prices Control Bill, on which discussion remained inconclusive. Speaking on this, C P Narayanan referred to the changing condition of the farmers and agriculture workers in the country. The share of agriculture is shrinking, whereas the number of people who are dependent on agriculture is not shrinking. Per capita income of those engaged in the field of agriculture is decreasing. We have to concentrate on converting all kinds of waste into bio-fertilisers for use in our fields and grow various kind of crops. If all bio-waste is properly treated and used for farming operations, we will be able to increase our productivity and the per capita income of farmers. Lok Sabha also took up two Private Members Bills -- the Central Himalayan States Development Council Bill which was withdrawn after discussion and reply by the Minister, and the Acid (Control) Bill on which discussion remained inconclusive. Speaking on the Central Himalayan States Development Council Bill, Md. Salim pointed out that the historical, geographical, economical, political and social aspects of the Himalayan region are important not only for our state but for the country and the entire South Asia as well. It is important for the better future of power, potable water and food security. This all depends on the future of the Himalayan region. There are several species of herbal plants, flora and fauna. They need to be conserved. There are various castes and tribes and they are no less than a living museum there. Therefore, it is rich in diversity. Proper arrangements of power, water and dam should be made there. Hydel projects and other projects on small scale can be set up there. People there are very industrious but due to natural calamities and economic backwardness, they are very backward. There is lack of educational institutions there. Due to want of health facilities, people have to face many difficulties. While setting up industries there, the government should keep the geographical situation, vagaries of nature and the technical skill of the people of that area in view. The second problem is of transport. The third thing is about agriculture. We follow the pattern of crop diversification. There are hundreds of seeds which are on the verge of extinction. We need to preserve them. Similarly, there should be optimal exploitation of our forest produce. Finally, I would like to say that the purview of this bill should not be limited to the Central Himalayan region only but it should cover the entire Himalayan region.
Other issues P Rajeeve, Sitaram Yechury, Tapan Kumar Sen and other MPs raised the matter regarding the hike in prices of essential medicines. P Karunakaran raised the matter regarding the decline in the price of domestic rubber in the country and increasing uncontrolled import. Tapan Kumar Sen expressed strong opposition against the conspiracy of backdoor privatisation of the coal mining sector in the country by way of tampering the Coal Nationalisation Act, 1973. P Rajeeve took part in the discussion on the news on some TV news channels regarding the reported killing of 39 Indians abducted in June, 2014 by the ISIS in Iraq. K N Balagopal raised the matter of outbreak of bird flu in some districts of Kerala. Ratabrata Banerjee raised the issue of attacks on the people of North East in different parts of the country.