Both Houses of Parliament assemble on Monday after a two-day break. Last week witnessed both Houses working extra hours to complete the discussion on the Budget.
The discussion of the demand for a grant for various ministries will continue this week too, following which the Finance Bill will be put to vote.
Here are the live updates:
Discussions come to an end. The House is adjourned for the day.
Bringing focus to road safety, MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP, Saran (Bihar) , lists a number of MPs, Ministers and their next-of-kin who have died in the last few years because of road accidents.
P. Raveendranath Kumar, AIADMK MP from Theni in Tamil Nadu, and son of TN Chief Minister O.Paneerselvam, begins his speech by thanking the Roads and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.
He supports the demand for grants on behalf of his party and asks for improvement in the condition of roads in his constituency of Theni.
Jaskaur Meena (BJP MP from Dausa, Rajasthan) begins her speech thanking the govt for the Budget, and she says that in the past 60 years, villagers like her never could dream of proper roads.
She speaks about the state of roads that were built under the previous government, and how the contracts for their maintenance were giving to the same incompetent person again and again. She also asks for help in solving issues with land acquisition regarding flyover construction in her constituency, among other things.
N.K. Premachandran, RSP, Kollam (Kerala), says that the lengthy process with regard to starting an infrastructure project has to be looked into. Addressing the funds allocated to the CRIF, Mr. Premachandran says the current Budget outlay is less than that of the previous year. There is a shortfall of ₹500 crore, he says. Moreover, an infrastructure cess of ₹1 per litre has been imposed on petrol and diesel. When you are imposing a levy on petrol and diesel, why is there a decrease in the funds allocated to the CRIF, he asks.
He says that MPs have no role in the allocation of funds and the selection of roads. The MP becomes a mere spectator and this has to be changed, he says.
Tokheho Yepthomi, NDPP, Nagaland, says that the Ministry must look into the construction of a road between Kohima to Dimapur.
House agrees that time be extended by another hour.
Ganesh Singh, BJP, Madhya Pradesh, speaks about the allocation of funds under the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) and suggests that the selection of roads be under the control of the MPs of the respective States.
The CRIF was taken away from the Road Ministry and brought under the Finance Ministry in the 2018 Budget.
The Chair asks the Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways V. K. Singh to reply.
In response, MoS says that the CRIF is under the control of the Finance Ministry and hence allocation has to be discussed with them. With regard to the role of MPs in selecting the roads, Mr. Singh says that MPs will have to decide with their respective States.
E.T Mohammed Basheer, IUML, Ponnani (Kerala), says that there is massive delays in all stages when it comes to the construction of new projects. Land acquisitions takes 20 to 30 months to make land available for work. Moreover, revenue records have to be digitised in order for it to become more efficient.
Mr. Basheer says that compensation must vary from State to State and for different projects. He says that various factors have to be taken into consideration when giving compensation. Factors like climate change and weather variations have to also be looked at when planning projects, he says.
Sri Rajendra Agrawal, BJP, Uttar Pradesh, says that with coming of the Prime Minister in 2014, the Delhi-Meerut Expressway that was promised in 2013, came to be. He says that the demand for the Expressway was put into a priority list in July 2013, but the nothing came to be till the rule of the current government.
Srinivas Kesineni, TDP, brings to the notice of the House, the issue of congestion in the city of Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh due to the passing to two National Highways through the city. He calls for the construction of bypasses to divert highway traffic.
Manas Ranjan Bhunia, AITC, West Bengal brings to the notice of the House that retired teachers of Kendriya Vidyalaya schools have not received their pensions despite this being their fundamental right. Around 1,400 staff members have not been receiving their pensions, he says.
Sri K.J. Alphons, BJP, Kerala says that the age limit for writing the Civil Services Examination must be reduced. The current upper age limit of 32 years for the general category must be reduced to a limit of 26 years, with similar limits set for OBCs, SC/STs, Mr. Alphons says. The current age of 32 years brings in candidates that are difficult to train, he says.
Discussions come to an end. The House is adjourned for the day.
Dr. Gaddam Ranjth Reddy, TRS, Telangana questions the decrease in the funds allocated to the National Highway Authority of Inida. He says that the Finance Minister has increased the funds allocated for the Road ministry by 6% only.
Mr. Reddy also questions the role of the Bharatmala scheme and its promise of connectivity. Bharatmala Pariyojana is a centrally-sponsored and funded road and highways project of the government.
Citing the increasing number of road accidents in the country, Mr. Reddy questioned the allocation of only 0.3% of the Budget for road safety.
Dr. Anil Agarwal, BJP, says that while there are a number of undergraduate colleges with courses in Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, there is a dearth post-graduate colleges for the same. Moreover, there are not enough research centres dedicated to the different medicinal systems, he says. Modern techniques need to be employed and research needs to fund, Mr. Agarwal says.
As discussion on the working of the AYUSH Ministry continues, Binoy Viswam, CPI, Kerala. says that the different medicinal systems have to approach and discussed keeping in mind the conditions of climate change. Different factors of climate change have led to the outbreak of different diseases and the onset of epidemics, he says. Mr. Viswam says that the government must protect the Western Ghats, the Himalayas, and the other mountainous ranges in the country as they are all under attack and are currently in a dying state.
Dushyant Singh of the BJP, Jhalawar-Baran (Rajasthan), says that the Budget focuses on Electric Vehicles and the manufacturing of hybrid models. The reduction of GST from 12% to 5% is an indicator of the same, he says.
Vijila Sathyananth of the AIADMK says AYUSH Ministry preserves tradition.
In Lok Sabha, Amit Shah continues to respond. He says NIA will get designated courts. The rationale behind this move is to ensure speedy trial. Sometimes judges get promoted or retired and we have to wait for another judge to be appointed. This will be eliminated, he claims.
Witness Protection Programme will be taken care of, Mr. Shah says in response to Mr. Owaisi’s comments. He takes the example of Samjhauta blasts case. He accuses the UPA government of taking a ‘U-turn’. Opposition members protest.
The division will take place by the distribution of slips, says the Speaker.
278 voted yes, 66 voted no.
The Bill is taken up for passing. Amendments and clause-by-clause voting are happening now.
The National Investigative Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is passed.
K. Keshava Rao of the TRS attributes his good health to Ayurveda and yoga.
K. Somaprasad (CPI-M) says the government should allocate more money to Ayurveda. Citing the examples of recent AES deaths in Bihar, he says more money should be pumped into building health infrastructure. He also says scientific validation is needed for alternative medicines.
Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference says there is only one NIA court in Jammu and Kashmir.
Amit Shah rises to reply to Members. He addresses the potential for misuse first. He says the government does not wish to misuse this law and only means to fight terrorism. He says POTA was not repealed because of misuse, but to safeguard vote banks. “POTA protected the citizens of this country from terrorists, and UPA after they came to power, repealed it for political reasons.”
Opposition Bench rises up in protest.
Mr. Shah asks the House to be united in support of the NIA.
The House is discussing the National Investigative Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019. This Bill gives NIA officers power to investigate offences committed outside India too. This Bill also mandates the setting up of Special Courts.
MoS Home Kishan Reddy speaks next. He says this is a “chowkidar” government, and that it is the duty of the government to fight against terrorism.
Opposition begins interrupting Mr. Reddy’s speech when he says that India will seek good ties with both Israel and Palestine.
K. Subbarayan of the CPI says he opposes the Bill. He says he suspects the motives of the government.
Meenakshi Lekhi (BJP) says that the way terror attacks are planned have changed over time.
Vishnu Dayal Ram of the BJP says that there was no law like this before.
Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) says the Bill extends territorial jurisdiction. He wants to know if India will become an International Criminal Court’s statute. He asks what powers the NIA officer has, and if we have the diplomatic clout.
He asks a definition for the phrase “affecting the interests of India”. “Why are you not appealing the verdict in the Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta blasts cases?”
Hanuman Beniwal (RLP) lauds the Bill and praises the Prime Minister for his strong stand against terrorism.
N.K. Premachandran (RSP) says he shares Manish Tewari’s concerns. He says the government needs to revisit criminal jurisprudence in the country. “The cloud of suspicion is increasing on minorities.” He asks the Minister for the number of those arrested, acquitted, convicted etc, under UAPA, POTA and such Bills.
Kaushalendra Kuma of the JD(U), says that cybercrime is increasing and the NIA’s overview needs to be stretched to accommodate this.
Ravneet Singh (Congress) says that a case gets attention only when a person is booked, not when it gets delayed in court. He says that a case should be disposed of in three months’ time.
E.T. Mohammed Basheer (IUML) says the credibility of NIA is eroding. He says that NIA is becoming an instrument in the hand of the government.
Kunwar Danish Ali (BSP) says this government is bringing every Bill except data protection Bill. The House agrees with zero tolerance on terrorism, but this government is trying to make this country a police state.
Supriya Sule (NCP) request Satya Pal Singh to take back his views on the Maharashtra Police. She says though she supports the Bill, there are chances of it being misused.
Kesineni Srinivas (TDP) says the powers of NIA shouldn’t hamper the fundamental rights of the citizens.
Abdul Majeed Ariff of the CPI(M) calls the Bill “state-sponsored terrorism” and that it violated the fundamental rights of citizens. He likens this Bill to TADA, which was repealed after widespread allegations of abuse.
Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) says that there is a need to expand the scope of NIA. He objects to the investigations by the NIA which were done without informing the Police. He asks why there is such a miscommunication between Central and State forces. He says that the State itself is not taken into confidence.
Does he ask who appoints the special courts – the Centre or the State?
Kalyan Banerjee (AITC) asks if there is a treaty with Pakistan because most of the terrorist activities come from the region. He suggests special judges, who are subject experts, to be appointed.
R. Raghu Ramakrishna Raju (YSRCP) says that the crimes on the cyberspace are a special concern. He asks for improvement in the strength of NIA team.
Andimuthu Raja (DMK) points out that the legislation proposed must not be misused.
Dr. Satya Pal Singh (BJP), says that TADA and POTA were used unfairly. He says that the Malegaon and Hyderabad incidents were ‘made political’. Singh adds that the political parties have appropriated terrorism to suit their own interest. Lawson terrorism must be seen as an effort to clamp down the social evil, Mr. Singh says.
His speech, however, is cut short by an argument between Asaduddin Owaisi and Amit Shah.
Digvijaya Singh (INC) asks if sewage water can be treated and recycled to make potable drinking water. Mr. Shekhawat replies saying that there is technology in the US to do so, but the govt. is doing all it can so that such a situation does not arise.
In response to a question on the water wastage in the use of purifiers, he says that it is the prime example of public distrust of the government, adding that a study done on water in a few areas showed that the tap water was qualitatively better than European standards.
He said, on the issue of decreasing per capita water availability, that it is so primarily due to increase in population, but there is enough precipitable water to take care of the increasing needs.
Question hour over.
House adjourned till 2:00 p.m.
G. Kishan Reddy, MoS, Home Affairs, says that the special court judges will continue to be appointed by the Chief Justice in order to fast-track the process of justice. He says the State governments must constitute special courts to tackle terrorism. He quotes the UN on the trafficking of arms, drugs and humans – saying that the NIA will be responsible to take care of these issues. NIA to investigate cases under the Arms Act, and tackle cyberterrorism. “We will continue to fight terrorism with zero tolerance,” he says.
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister of Jal Shakti, says that the policies on Telangana sanitation facilities are based on NSSO and UN reports. The govt. is technology neutral, he says. He says that ₹24,000 crore has been dedicated to implementing Bio-toilets under the Swachh Bharat mission and has led to a change in mindset.
P.L. Punia (INC) asks Prakash Javadekar why the ministry is underplaying climate change and deaths related to it. Mr. Javadekar responds by saying that the government and public have taken steps to reduce it. Punia retorts by saying that the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate change has not responded to the question. Javadekar quotes IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report that states that climate change related deaths have been comparably less.
Prof. Saugata Roy, (AITC), a professor of physics, opposes the Motor Vehicles Amendment bill, saying that it takes away from the power of the State government to improve rural transport infrastructure. He says that it infringes upon the rights of the State.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also opposes parts of the legislation which are against the constitutional powers of the State. He opposes Clause 33 and 17 of the bill. However, he acknowledges that it has been overdue.
Mahua Moitra also opposes the bill on the issue that it gives the public an extension period from a month to a year upon the expiry of driving license, making it unsafe.
K.T.S. Tulasi (Nominated) takes up the issue of household savings. He quotes an anonymous poem on taxes that evokes laughter in the Sabha.
Dr. Vikas Mahatme (BJP) talks of the unequal distribution of resources and the growing need to control the population. Says that there is a need to form a commission to declare it a ‘national emergency’.
There is a need to appoint sportsmen and women in public sector enterprises. The govt. must send a direction to employ at least national level athletes, especially those who come from poor backgrounds, says Dr. L. Hanumanthaiah (INC).
Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, in replies to queries says that the ethanol import will be curbed and the ministry will look to domestically extract the fuel from indigenous and sustainable sources for the farmers.
Arjuna Munda, Minister of Tribal Affairs says that the govt. has been looking into the identification of tribal people across the country. Members challenge him on the modalities of the procedures and the lack of a clear deadline.
V. Vijaysai Reddy (YSRCP) urges India to bring back the 483 fishermen locked-up Karachi jails. He says that this year alone 46 fishermen were captured by the doc guards and handed over to Pakistan. These fishermen primarily hail from Andhra Pradesh who go to Gujarat for employment. He asks why the coast guard has been silent on the issue.
Dr. T. Subbarami Reddy, (INC) and Surendra Singh Nagar (SP), urge the government to formulate a committee to look into the deaths caused by road accidents in Agra and Yamuna Expressway.
Shwait Malik (BJP) says that there needs to be a ‘one nation, one electric power tariff’. P. Bhattacharya (INC) questions illegal coal mines and the implementation of safety procedures in them.
Ramchandra Bohra (BJP) asks about jobs to engineering graduates. HRD Minister Ramesh Pokriyal ‘Nishank’ says over four lakh students have got placed in campus placements. He also says the government is also has set up finishing school for students to pursue GATE and other competitive examinations.
Shashi Tharoor (Congress) says 60% of such graduates are not employable. Some jobs don’t even require engineering degree. Are we giving the right skills? Mr. Nishank says AICTE says the syllabus is being reviewed and will be updated soon.
In Rajya Sabha, Zero Hour proceedings begin. The Chair allows Shantanu Sen (AITC) to speak. Congress members want to speak first. After some commotion, House is back in order.
Mr. Sen suggests States must have a Health Regulatory Commission to check malpractices in corporate hospitals.
In Lok Sabha, Question Hour is taken up. Jayadev Galla asks why — despite a notification saying the women employees of insurance companies can get transfer at a place where her husband works — is not followed? MoS Finance, Anurag Thakur says he will look into it.
Mr. Jayadev also says National Insurance doesn’t consider Delhi a metro. Why? Mr. Thakur says he is unaware of this and will find out.
Agenda for the day
The Lok Sabha will further discuss Demands for Grants under the control of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for 2019-20.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, and The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 will be introduced in the lower House.
The Rajya Sabha will discuss the functioning of AYUSH ministry.
Ahead of the parliament session, Congress MPs from Assam staged a protest seeking immediate relief and rescue operation in flood-hit Assam. The State is reeling under harsh monsoon woes resulting in the death of at least 11 people.