Parliament proceedings updates | Indian Railways will never be privatised: Goyal in LS

The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are scheduled to consider, discuss and pass bills including amendments to the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order Bill and Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020. The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020, which was introduced in the House by Union Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, will also be considered.

Both Houses saw multiple adjournments on all days of last week as the Opposition demanded a discussion on the rising prices of fuel in the country.

Here are the latest updates:

Lok Sabha | 1.15 pm

Mr. Goyal says: “The work on Udhampur-Srinaga-Baramullah project in J&K has been undertaken swiftly, the necessary investment has been made…by 2022-end or early 2023, the project is expected to be completed and Kashmir-Kanyakumari link will be fully established through rail line.”

“This budget, 4.5 times the previous amount has been allocated for investments in Bihar. In Uttar Pradesh, the proposed investment is 11 times the amount given from 2009 to 2014.”

“The country’s first vertical lift Pamban bridge in Tamil Nadu will be completed by December 2021, it will connect Ram Sethu.

815 bridges have been security audited, the level of transparency is such that all details are being provided to the common man through publicity boards.”

Rajya Sabha | 1.00 pm

“Price rise has declined”

MoS Finance Anurag Thakur says, “Consumer food pricing index are showing month on month decline, cereals declined by 0.14 %, vegetables by 0.19%, in 2020-21, ₹ 11,800 crore earmarked for price stabilisation.”

“Price rise has declined on an average in the past seven years, 2013-14 the inflation was in double digit, these days it is much less.”

“We have increased MSP and working towards doubling the income of farmers, between 2009-14, the inflation rate was above 10%.”

MoS Finance says MSP has increased, import of pulses has also decreased.

RS adjourned till 2 pm.

Lok Sabha | 1.00 pm

Goyal discusses railway projects

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal says: “The railway has started catering to new sectors like automobile. Dedicated freight corridor was a great plan, but was being implemented slowly..After the Narendra Modi government took over, it was improved….the project is monitored every week. Over 600-km line has been completed, by March, work on about 400-km stretch will also be completed. Three more dedicated freight corridors are being rolled out.”

“In Kerala, the amount being spent has been increased 2.5 times…in the State, no project takes off as land is not allocated for them, I have details of nine projects involving 548-km stretch…only 8 km have been completed. Should we, like previous governments, only announce projects, what purpose will it serve…In Madhya Pradesh, the investment has been increased 12 times in this budget compared to 2009-14, the reason being that whenever we contact them, they immediately take action and provide land.”

“In Andhra Pradesh, we want to expedite the projects…however, we want necessary cooperation from the State government. In Tamil Nadu, the investment in this budget is 3.5 times the amount allocated from 2009 to 2014. In Uttarakhand, the amount has been increased 23 times compared to the allocations from 2009 to 2014.”

Mr. Goyal adds: “In West Bengal, we are ready for all the required investment. However, in all the projects in the State there is no cooperation. In 1974-75, a project was approved and even after 45 years, just about 42-km of the 110-km planned stretch have been completed…land for which money has been paid is not being provided, we are now trying to recover the money.”

The Minister says the Railway needed the required support from the State government in Maharashtra for expeditious implementation of projects.

Rajya Sabha | 12.40 pm

Members question the Finance Ministry

51% lending during COVID-19 period was through private sector banks, says MoS Finance Anurag Thakur.

The share of PSBs was 31%.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman responds: “Cost business is growing, many more citizens are approaching private banks, the ease of doing business will have to be extended to all customers.”

Anil Desai of Shiv Sena asks, “What kind of government business is given to private banks?”

Minister Ms. Sitharaman says the RBI guidelines will be applied on the new banks also.

Naresh Gujral of SAD asks, “RBI is the regulator but so many banks have collapsed. What steps to strengthen the regulatory regime?”

Minister says, “We have been engaging with the RBI to ensue that the regulatory framework of RBI is strengthened, there should be an internal mechanism also.”

Ami Yagnik of Congress asks, “When CSR funds are mandated by law, they are not supposed to be source funding for government schemes. Do you have any data on CSR funds used by the ministry?”

MoS Finance Anurag Thakur says, “When this Act was framed in 2013, no provision was made to make record of implementing agency, we have made the provision since April 1. There should be no myth that government projects are funded by CSR funds. CSR funds are used to develop projects in nearby areas. 60% fund is spent through implementing agency, clear directions on sectors that it could be spent. CSR funds not being used to fund government programmes.”

Ami Yagnik says that there should be a dignified response, not to corner credit, the matter pertains to the country.

MoS Finance Anurag Thakur says: “Laws are changed, we tried to remove the anomalies in laws passed. Impact assessment report to be given by companies on CSR funds above ₹ 10 crore.”

Lok Sabha | 12.30 pm

“Railway has started catering to new sectors”

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal says: “The government and the private sector will have to work together to ensure a better future for the country…the effort is to increase freight loading by 70-80% by 2024-25. We turned the Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity. We have made astute investments for better results. The Railway is a 168-year-old institution. It is said that Spanish Flu spread through railway after it entered Mumbai Port. Had the rail operations not been suspended, Covid would have spread across the country. During Covid-19 lockdown, more than 60 lakh migrant labourers were ferried back home. The RPF personnel served the passengers, over 2 crore meals were given. Food grains, coal, fertilisers and medicines were transported by the train across the country. There was no talk about shortage of food grains. There is a 3.5% growth in food grain production, it would not have been achieved without availability of fertilisers..there was a time when people had to protest for fertilisers.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, Railway officials remained on duty, the locomotive pilots remained at work round-the-clock. The Opposition would also appreciate the Railway family for its splendid work during the Covid crisis.” The Minister condoles the death of all the Railway officials who died due to Covid-19.

Mr. Goyal says: “When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, we decided to set up Covid care centres…it was because of the Prime Minister’s foresight that the Railway explored the possibility of converting rail coaches into care centres/isolation coaches…there was no cure for Covid. 5601 coaches were converted into care centres, 80,000 beds were prepared to meet any exigency. The coaches could be taken anywhere, to far off places, in case of any requirement. They were used at several places.”

“The situation was contained effectively across the country, therefore these centres were not used that much. However, the care centres were available as a dependable back-up. Taking advantage of the Covid-situation, we worked on increasing the speed of freight trains, now they would run at double the speed and provide better services to the industrial sector. Business development units have been opened to reach out to the prospective customers for freight services.”

“From September last year to February, every month, the freight loading by Indian Rail despite Covid-19 have created a record, this will benefit the country for years to come, it will strengthen the exports, reduce the input costs,” the Minister added.

 

Rajya Sabha | 12.20 pm

Members question the Health Minister on vaccines

Sukhram Singh Yadav of SP asks, “When will all Indians get vaccinated?”

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan says, “Vaccines to foreign countries are not being sent at the expense of Indian citizens. A healthy balance is being maintained. Yesterday, 30 lakh people got the vaccines. The criteria has been fixed according to WHO and other international standards, it is a dynamic process. Anyone who wants a vaccine, can register on portal and get vaccinated, vaccine is free in all government hospitals, private hospitals can only charge ₹ 250, ₹ 100 has been fixed for hospital arrangements.”

“5.94 crore doses of vaccine are sent to foreign countries till now. Science should benefit everyone.”

Mr. Yadav asks if people above 60 can be vaccinated at home.

Minister says, “This issue has been flagged to us. In hospitals, people are kept under observation for 30 minutes after getting vaccinated. This matter will be raised before the expert committee, if it does not compromise their health, it can be considered.”

Shantanu Sen of TMC asks about the efficacy of the vaccines.

Minister says national expert group are abreast of all developments within and outside the country.

Anand Sharma asks about the efficacy and coverage of the vaccines against U.K., South Africa and Brazil variants of COVID-19.

“This information is already in public domain. We have access to genome sequencing data. Right now, experts are clear that a particular vaccine is effective against virus mutation,” says Mr. Vardhan.

Minister says ₹ 35,000 crore is allocated for vaccines in the budget.

On Ayush Ministry

“The world is praising the Ayush Ministry’s efforts in boosting immunity during the COVID-19 period,” says Ayush Minister Kiren Rijiju.

In our country, Ayurved treatment is not new, surgery is a part of it, has been going on since centuries. The process of surgery to be done by Ayurvedic doctors has been clearly defined in a notification. Mr. Rijiju says the traditional medicine system under Ayurveda is well defined, the surgery process is proven, will work in tandem with the Health Ministry.

What is the fate of the patient? asks Congress MP.

“As far as allowing surgery to continue (by Ayurveda doctors), there is no issue, it is not a question of allowing one group of practitioners in another, this is not a question of overlapping,” says Mr. Rijiju.

 

Lok Sabha | 12.15 pm

“Railway has prepared the National Rail Plan-2030”

The Chair allows members to take up issues under Rule 377.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal thanks all the members for the debate on budget grants to Railway, assures all of them to consider the issues raised by them. “All our officials till late on Monday night…noted the issues raised by all the 53 members and the responses were also prepared…I will share the responses to the respective members. We are striving to make the Railway the engine for growth, meet the passengers’ and industries’ expectation, keeping all these in mind…with a different perspective, we have worked over the past seven years under the leadership of the Prime Minister. Many members said several projects were pending since long, we faced problems in this area only, in the past project announcements were made but necessary allocations were not made. In terms of investment, in 2004-09, it was about ₹ 1.25 lakh crore…it increased ₹ 2.30 lakh crore in 2009-2014.”

“However, in 2014-19, during the Narendra Modi government, about ₹ 5 lakh crore was invested in Railway. Recently, the amount has been increased to ₹ 2.15 lakh crore for just 2021-22.”

Indian Railways will never be privatised: Goyal

“Railway has prepared the National Rail Plan-2030 under which 68 projects have been earmarked as super critical for expeditious work, all necessary requirements of farmers and other various sectors have been taken into consideration and project wise, elaborate planning has been done instead of just distributing funds. Many accuse us of privatisation, Indian Railway will never be privatised, it is India’s property. However, road is also a national property, but no one stops the vehicles from plying…private buses should also ply, it will benefit the country. Likewise, if rail lines have been laid…shouldn’t there be our effort to provide better facilities to the passengers, for which there can be private investment. We have developed a large number of railway stations. All stations now have toilets, we are now trying to provide the same facility for the specially enabled.”

“₹ 230 crore is being invested to develop and beautify Amritsar station, about 50 such stations are being modernised across the country. I understand that there is private investment in this area, we should welcome it.”

Lok Sabha | 12.05 pm

“About 10 lakh employees of nine PSU banks are on strike”

Congress MP Ravneet Singh says about 10 lakh employees of nine PSU banks are on strike as they fear privatisation and loss of their jobs.

“Former PM Indira Gandhi had nationalised the banks so that common man could benefit from that. Financial security of the country will be compromised by the privatisation of banks. The private banks will not think of the betterment of the poor. They only want profit making… if we are suffering losses, so be it, at least the poor is getting benefited,” he says.

Papers being laid on the Table.

 

Rajya Sabha | 12 noon

Question hour begins

Health minister Harsh Vardhan says 75 medical colleges are sanctioned across the country. 157 medical colleges in various stages of development, till 2014 there were 50,000 MBBS seats in the country, 30,000 seats added in the past six years.

Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena asks whether government has any plan to gather knowledge about medicinal plants from tribal people. Minister says one of the institutions in Himachal Pradesh has been assigned the job.

Rajeev Satav of Congress asks how many SC/ST/OBC/girl students participated in the Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana? Science Minister Harsh Vardhan says, “These schemes are talent based and we look for students who are keen to read science, irrespective of caste and gender. We do not classify the talented students on that basis.”

Minister says the number of SC/ST students has been laid on the table of the House.

Lok Sabha | 12 noon

On Telangana’s turmeric farmers

Congress leader N. Uttam Kumar Reddy brings up the issue of a turmeric board in Telangana.

“Farmers have been agitating for a turmeric board in Telangana. Nearly 80% of the turmeric in the world is produced in India and 50% of that in a single district in Telangana. The land has been allotted for the board by the earlier government. There is no market intervention in turmeric, and so farmers are investing ₹1.5 lakh per acre for this… why has the board not been set up?” asks Mr. Reddy.

Union Minister responds that if the State government sends a recommendation in this regard, the Centre will take necessary action. He says that for the benefit of turmeric farmers, new varieties are being provided to them for higher production, and a park is being set up. There is already a board for many spices, no need for a separate board for it right now, he adds.

MP B.N. Bache Gowda proposes constitution of a national level turmeric board. Union Minister says an office has already been functioning for overseeing projects related to turmeric, and nearly 5,000 farmers of Khammam and Varangal have already been linked to it.

Question Hour over.

Lok Sabha | 11.55 am

Union Minister Giriraj Singh, on a query about PMMSY funds to Bihar for farmers, says over ₹20,050 crore funds was earmarked for five years, and that the funds would be released on receipt of proposals.

On fishing harbours in Kerala

Member Shashi Tharoor says fishermen of Kerala are facing problems.

“We have five major fishing harbours… what the fishermen need is small fishing harbours,” he says. Can hubs of economic activities be shifted to smaller harbours, he asks.

The Union Minister says: “In Kerala, we have earlier also given landing centres. In every villages we are establishing sagarmitra centres. We are working in coordination with the State government.”

Rajya Sabha | 11.45 am

On MPLAD funds

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman says she has recieved several representation on MPLAD funds (that were stopped due to COVID-19). The commitments made for financial year 2019-20, the year before the pandemic occured, will be fulfilled, she says. “For the year 2020-21 and 2021-22 no new commitments under MPLADS will be entertained. Money has been cleared from MoSPI and finance ministry… that money will be immediately spent at districts where commitments were made for the year 2019-20. Contact the district authorities for details,” she says.

Anand Sharma of Congress says parliamentarians were not consulted while taking away MPLAD funds.

Rajya Sabha | 11.40 am

Sanjay seth of BJP says that due to shortage of forensic doctors in hospitals, postmortem is not done properly. In most cases, safai karamcharis do the postmortem and doctors merely sign on the reports.

He says that the seats for forensic doctors should be stressed in medical colleges.

On caste-based census

Manoj Kumar Jha of RJD asks why there is no caste-based census this round. “The previous exercise was scrapped. Now we are talking about sub-categorisation of OBCs? Where is the data? Caste census should be done in Census 2021. We should know about the social status of a person selling vegetables,” he says.

Chhaya Verma (Congress) says that the Prime Minister announced in 2019 that a caste-based census will be done. “Crores rupees have been spent. They take decisions when it suits their friends, they can count who all has a TV or fridge, but why cannot they do caste census?” she asks.

Rajya Sabha | 11.40 am

On fisheries

Animal Husbandry Dairy and Fisheries Minister Giriraj Singh says the Fish Farmers Producers Organisations are being strengthened.

“From sea to inland, there is about 25% post-harvest (fish) wastage. Cold storage chain is being arranged, the government plans to reduce the wastage by 5-10%,” he says.

Mr. Singh adds that the Fish Farmers Producers Organisations are being strengthened. Special emphasis is being given on trout fishing, says the Minister in response to a query about the measures being taken in Jammu and Kashmir.

On reviving sick industries

Member E.T. Mohammed Basheer seeks information from the government on the steps taken to revive sick industries and for ensuring complete utilisation of installed facilities.

Minister Prakash Javadekar says there is always an effect to ensure that the units, which can be revived, are revived. Some of the units include Hindustan Steelworks, MTNL/BSNL.

Lok Sabha | 11.35 am

Sanjay Singh of AAP says that another chance should be given to UPSC candidates who were unable to attend exams as they were affected by COVID-19.

Rajya Sabha | 11.30 am

On lag in COVID-19 vaccination

Shakti Sinh Gohil of Congress points out that the COVID-19 cases are rising at alarming rate. “Only 0.35% of population has been vaccinated so far. At this rate, it will take 18 years to vaccinate the entire population,” he says, adding that the vaccination rate should be sped up.

Chairman says government has to take care of various aspects of the vaccine drive.

Rajya Sabha | 11.25 am

On Myanmar refugees

K. Vanlalvena of MNF brings up the issue of Myanmar refugees.

Due to military coup, nearly 1,500 police personnel from Myanmar have entered Mizoram, he says. “They were standing with the protestors. MHA has issued directions to stop them. They are our brothers, sending to Myanmar will mean killing them. Being the biggest democratic country in the world, we must ensure restoration of democracy in Myanmar, kindly request MHA for a renewed policy,” he says.

To this, the Chairman says that it is not a democratic right of any foreigner to come here and demand anything.

Rajya Sabha | 11.20 am

On bank employees strike

Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge brings up the issue of bank employees strike.

He says that lakhs of employees of nine banks have been on strike for past two days, and this has affected businesses and common people.

On March 17, general insurance companies are also going on strike. On March 18, LIC employees are going on strike against privatisation, he says, adding that around 13 lakh people work in these banks.

There are 75 crore bank account holders in these banks, and yet the government has decided to privatise these banks without consulting the stakeholders, he says. “This impacts the livelihood of 13 lakh employees. People in reserved category are eligible to get jobs in these banks, Indira Gandhi nationalised these banks, this empowered anyone to open an account in a bank. Even the 2008 bank recession could not impact India due to nationalised banks. The government should speak to the bank employees sitting on protest,” he says.

Chairman asks parliamentary minister to look into the matter. Mr. Kharge continues to speak amidst mild disturbance in House.

Lok Sabha | 11.15 am

On Sedition Law

As climate activist Disha Ravi’s case comes up, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekshi asks if a chargesheet has been filed on the case. MoS Kishan Reddy says that there is no chargesheet till now, and a discussion can be had after one is filed.

On crop loss due to locust attacks

Shardaben Anilbhai Patel (BJP, Gujarat) raises the issue of crop loss due to locust attack, and asks that the damage payment to farmer be increased.

Minister Kailash Choudhary lists the measures taken to control the locust attacks, including the spraying of material from helicopters and importing supporting machinery from the United Kingdom. He says measures would be taken on receipt of information from the State. “Every State has State  Disaster Fund, whenever the funds are required, States concerned may approach the Centre. The government is committed to compensating the farmers for the damage to their crops,” says the MoS. The Agriculture Minister also assures that all necessary steps will be taken.

Rajya Sabha | 11.10 am

Zero Hour begins.

Mamata Mohanta of BJD says that along NH 49, a 10 km forest area should be constructed. Meanwhile, BJP member Bhagwat Karad speaks in the House in Marathi.

Lok Sabha | 11.05 am

Lok Sabha proceedings begin.

MP Anumula Revanth Reddy (INC, Telangana) questions the rise in sedition cases in recent years, and says that a discussion is needed on this serious issue.

MoS Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy says that the previous governments never kept separate data on sedition cases, and had instead hid it in other data. Mr. Revanth Reddy remains dissatisfied with the Minister’s answer.

Rajya Sabha | 11 am

Rajya Sabha proceedings begin.

M. Venkaiah Naidu, Chairman Rajya Sabha says India has taken many steps to reduce the number of tuberculosis cases. He asks members to support TB control measures.

Parliamentary standing committee reports on ministries of education, women and child development, sports, law and justice, coal and steel, defence, finance, labour, social justice and empowerment laid on the table of the House.

 

Lok Sabha

Bill for Consideration and Passing

  • The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Discussion and Voting: Demands for Grants

Ministry of Railways, Education, Health and Family Welfare, and Road Transport and Highways

Rajya Sabha

Bill for Consideration and Passing

  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  • National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020

Discussion and Voting

Ministry of Jal Shakti, Railways and Tourism and Food Processing Industries.


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