The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment)Bill, 2021 will be taken up in the Rajya Sabha today. The House was adjourned twice yesterday following protests by the Opposition against the bill that seeks to give more powers to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.
The Lok Sabha will discuss The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill and The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill. The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill will be introduced in the house today.
The first part of the Budget Session of Parliament, which commenced with the address of President Ram Nath Kovind on January 29, concluded on February 29. The second part of the Budget Session began March 7.
Here are the latest updates:
Rajya Sabha | 12.30 pm
Suresh Narayan of Congress says, “My party and I support the bill. Allied health workers have worked very hard, especially during the pandemic and deserve to be taken care of. Not much to say against the bill but will give some suggestions on raising pay and provide training to radiographers, etc., especially in rural areas where almost 40% of the country’s radiographers work.”
“It is sad that the government has no figures on how many of these allied health workers laid down their lives during the pandemic,” Balubhau Suresh Narayan Dhanorkar says.
Dr. Subhash Bhamre of BJP commends PM Modi and Minister Harsh Vardhan on the bill. “This is another in the series of reforms in the medical profession brought in by the government. In five years, there has been a rise in number of medical college and 65% increase in medical seats.”
“It is estimated that India will achieve, by 2024, the ratio of one doctor to 1000 population. This ratio was one doctor to 1600 population in 2014,” Dr. Bhamre says.
“With the advent of technology in medical profession, the role of allied medical professional has become more important. Through this bill, we will be able to provide health care workforce to the whole world not just India. Proper regulation as envisaged in the Bill will go a long way in training and standardising service.”
Rajya Sabha | 12.30 pm
TKS Elangovan of DMK says, “Since 2014, there has been a consistent claim by the government that things will get better next year. Even before COVID-19, we were inflicted by two diseases- demonetisation and the GST.”
“It is simple logic that when the input cost comes down, the cost of the product will go down. Now, the cost of crude oil has gone down but the fuel bill has gone up,” Mr. Elangovan says. “Unemployment did not worsen because of COVID-19. Unemployment rate has been climbing up ever since the demonetisation.”
“The DMK’s economic policy is to tap the rich and pat the poor. But this government’s policy is the exact opposite. They pat the rich and tap the poor. The top 10% are getting richer because of the support from the government. What happened to PM CARE fund? In Tamil Nadu, it is called “PM Doesn’t Care Fund”. NITI AAYOG’s only advice is to sell the country’s PSUs.”
Vijay Sai Reddy of YSRCP says, “The FM has very intelligently put it that senior citizens above 75 years who have income only through pension are exempted. Exempted from what? Not the tax. But only filing the returns. I urge the government to exempt this section.”
Mr. Reddy also criticises the government’s plan to bring in a faceless income tax department where all disputes are to be settled virtually. He says, “This needs to be reconsidered because only through personal hearings can the applicant’s side be heard.”
He continues, “31 PSUs have got the Cabinet’s approval for privatisation including Vizag Steel Plant. It is veryunf ortunate that the government has gone for privatising such excellent PSUs. This is no way of earning money. The Vizag Steel Plant was making profit till 2015. The Finance MInister is the daughter-in-law of Andhra Pradesh. I urge her to reconsider privatisation of Vizag Steel Plant. This is equivalent of selling gold of the State.”
Lok Sabha | 12.10 pm
Hardeep Singh Puri introduces The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (Amendment) , Bill, 2021.
Ravneet Singh Bittu speaks in Punjabi.
National Commission for Allied and Health Care Professionals Bill, 2021 is moved for consideration and passing by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
Dr. Vardhan says, “Please recall any hospitalisation you have had and those who helped you recover. You may remember the doctor but possibly not the allied staff. I’m speaking of lab technicians, radiographers, dietitians, etc., who are as much part of your recovery as the doctors. It gives me great pleasure to present this bill, which is a great historic milestone. The bill has the potential to create a paradigm shift in health professionals’ situation. We are witness to the pandemic and we have been witnesses to the invaluable contribution of these professionals during this period.”
“The group of allied professionals is large and the bill is trying to regulate this field, by according dignity to their roles,” Dr. Vardhan says, giving a history of regulatory bodies in allied health care.
“The bill aims to establish a statutory body that frames policies and standards, regulate professional conduct and qualifications for allied health care professionals. It provides for uniformity of service standards across institutions. All standards have been coded by international yardsticks. There will be representations from all States and U.T.s on this commission with each State having State-level commissions. A common regulatory has been prepared for all allied professions. This will enable a team-based approach to patient care.”
Dr. Vardhan asks the MPs to support the bill.
Rajya Sabha | 12 pm
Continuing to address the House, Mr. Modi says, “After implementation of the GST, 65 lakh additional persons joined the regime. Many political observers claimed that Narendra Modi government will lose because of the protests against GST. In fact, the opposite happened. Even in Surat, which saw bitter protests, the BJP won emphatically. We need to go into second generation reforms in GST now.”
“Repeatedly, the Opposition has been raking up the issue of fuel prices. The Opposition claims that this money will go into the government’s pocket. All the welfare schemes are funded by this money. There has been a demand to bring petrol and diesel under GST’s ambit. But, this will mean the state will lose nearly Rs. 2 lakh crore. This is not feasible. I believe no State will be ready to face such a revenue shortfall.”
“Someone said that this is Gabbar Singh Tax. The GST council has CMs and FMs of all States. Not a single State representative has spoken against the structure of the GST. Late Arun Jaitley brought the consensus, which has been taken forward by FM Nirmala Sitharaman,” Mr. Modi says.
TMC MP Dola Sen speaks in Bangla. She accuses the Modi government of not giving the promised funds to the State governments. “Federal fiscalism is not being followed. The States have not been given GST dues. It is unfortunate that while the crude oil rates are reducing, the retail fuel rates are going up. It is only obvious that one will ask the government where did this money go? The centre government has not given West Bengal even the money that it owes for midday meals. But the government has ample money for PM Modi’s foreign trips. Shame!”
Amar Patnaik of BJD says, “The goal of the Finance Bill should be to increase the divisible pool to be shared between the State and centre. By increasing cess and taxes, you are chipping away from the divisible pool. The divisible pool has been reduced by 30%. There is centralisation of taxes. It militates against values of cooperative federalism. The FM claims that the new agri-development cess will be spent on agri markets. Will the centre give this fund without applying any conditions?”
Mr. Patnaik says, “Most countries have lower income tax rates than their per capita income. India is a complete outlier.The government has been patting its back on removing the necessity of filing income tax return by those aged 75 and above. Thegovernment is not revealing the fine print. And if a 75-year-old has to file for refund, he/she has to file the returns.”
Lok Sabha | 12 pm
Mr. Goyal says that a detailed reply has been given in writing. “It is more a State government joint venture, than a purely railway project. The State government should be urged to fulfill its commitments to move forward with projects. Many of these projects depend on cooperation with the State governments.”
Sumedhananda Saraswati of BJP asks, “Is there any proposal to increase government staff for speedy disposal of work and can any instructions be given to State governments telling them that even their employees should be accountable and work in a time-bound manner to complete work given to them?”
Jitendra Singh, Minister for Personnel, says, “The government is committed to “minimum government , maximum governance” and we did away with attestation of documents by gazetted officers. We did away with interviews for class IV and III jobs, and we did away with many obsolete rules.”
Question Hour over.
Papers being tabled in the House.
Lok Sabha | 11.40 am
Minister Joshi says the Centre does not control DMFT. “The only amendment we have moved is to include local MPs in the committee. It is very much left to the discretion of the committee on how the funds will be spent. We did find, however, areas directly affected by mining are neglected and money spent on other areas. Thus, we have issued general directions on use. The actual decisions are taken by the committee.”
Sanjay Jaiswal of BJP asks,”When Rs. 70,000 crore is being spent on optical fibre installation, will you also create a dashboard on how many optical fibre are actually working?”
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Telecommunications, says, “Such a dashboard exists and we will take suggestions on its improvement.”
Mr. Jaiswal says, “My own broadband is often not working when I go to my constituency. My question is whether Champaran will get broadband before the 75th anniversary of independence.”
Mr. Prasad replies, “On cutting of fibre, Right of Way is an issue and needs to be understood. 2022 is our objective on completion of the project.”
Supriya Sule of NCP says, “India is going through a large digital divide with only 25% of children able to access online education. How will we reach every child?” Mr. Prasad says the country was kept going by the infrastructure of Information Technology and mobiles during the lockdown and the pandemic. “This should be acknowledged.”
He continues, “There have been gap areas in access to education, but most schools could manage. Courts heard 70,000 cases online. PM has said that there will be an improvement in the communication network. We are doing that via Bharatnet project, fair competition in private sector, and by providing satellite connections to every village. I encourage MPs to come to us with specific concerns.”
Hema Malini of BJP says, “Mathura is a highly populated city with thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visiting it everyday. Call drops are frequent and frustrating. Are there plans to set up more BTS sites?”
Mr. Prasad says that instructions have already been issued for infrastructure in all major tourist destinations to be bolstered. “There are 6,49,613 towers as of now. BTS sites up by 243% since we came to power. Will ask department to look into specific request by Hemaji.”
Varun Gandhi asks, “Has there been any study on coal gasification?”
Santosh Pandey of BJP speaks about the slow progress of Dongargarh- Katghora railway line.
Rajya Sabha | 11.40 am
Sushil Modi of BJP says, “We have gone through a nightmare. I would congratulate PM Narendra Modi who tackled the pandemic so well. PM Modi held 120 meetings with foreign leaders. The revenue collection reduced by more than 23% because of the pandemic. Everyone thought that a new tax, probably a COVID-19 tax, would be introduced to meet this shortfall. But I must congratulate the government about not imposing a bew tax.”
Mr. Modi says, “The only additional cess was agriculture and development cess. But we were careful. We reduced the excise duty on the products on which we were imposing this cess on. The allegation that is often levelled is that this cess is not part of divisible pool. But the Finance Minister has already clarified that this fund will be made available to the APMC for building infrastructure in the agri markets.”
“India has one of the lowest income tax rates in the world. Among the income tax payees 59% are the salaried class. Business class consists of 27%. So, there is still big scope for increasing the income tax coverage,” Mr. Modi says.
He says the government has given relief to those aged 75 and above in the taxation regime.
Mr. Modi speaks about the faceless income tax assessment. “On 7th March, more than 78,000 faceless order have been passed. When manual computation was being done, in 60% cases, additional tax was demanded. This has reduced because of the faceless computation. The income tax litigation has also reduced. This has got public support.”
“A person could deposit any amount in EPFO and receive 8% return. The EPFO has been formed for the common man. There have been cases where some persons have deposited many crores in a year, earning easy interest payout. I would thank Nirmala Sitharaman for putting a cap on the money that can be deposited in EPFO. This a scheme for the common man not for the rich,” Mr. Modi says.
Rajya Sabha | 11.30 am
Mr. Hooda continues, “Thomas Piketty has said that when return on investment is more than the GDP growth rate then the inequalities in the state grow. You have only been focusing in supply side. And also on the indirect taxes, rather than the direct taxes. Since your government came to power, you reduced the corporate tax. Your claim was that this will increase investment. But with no demand, nobody is investing. So, how are you meeting the shortfall? By increasing indirect taxes on fuel. Fuel taxes has increased from Rs. 75,000 crore to more than Rs. 3 lakh crore.”
“Do remember the old woman who lit a diya during the pandemic. Today, the gas cylinder is lying empty in her home. And her eyes are welling up with the smoke coming out of the stove where she is cooking by burning wood. The farmer’s income was Rs. 8000 per month. So, as per your deadline, in 9-months, this should increase to Rs. 16000 per month.”
“This is nowhere close to the ground reality. You are increasing the input cost. But the MSP is not increasing. You thought the farmer will forget about your promise. But he didn’t forget. That is why he has been sitting in protest for the last four months, despite 300 deaths. You promised the farmers a doubling of their income. But, since you couldn’t deliver that, now, the government is planning to remove the MSP itself, so that the farmers will forget about your promise and have to agitate on retaining MSP.”
Lok Sabha | 11.20 am
Ranjit Reddy of TRS asks for expediting the second phase of Hyderabad to Vikarabad railway line.
Piyush Goyal, Minister for Railways, says that the Centre is only a 33% partner, and State hasn’t provided enough funds for the second phase and railways has landed in a deficit.
Manoj Kotak of BJP says passengers have asked for trains to run on PPP basis in the entire country. “What are the plans of the railways?”
Mr. Goyal says, “We have given details of 150 such routes and they cover almost the entire country.”
Mr. Kotak further asks if goods trains will be included under PPP. Mr. Goyal says, “Work on dedicated freight corridors is on. We hope to complete all of it by the time we hit the 75th anniversary of independence. CONCOR is already running private goods trains with around 17 companies.”
Faizal Mohammad of NCP asks who will recruit employees for trains run under PPP models.
Mr. Goyal says that employment for mainline running of trains will be by the Railways, allied services on these trains (hospitality, etc.,) will be from the partner companies. “Maintenance will be from private operator, while driver and guard will be provided by the Railways.”
Sanjay Seth of BJP asks, “What are the plans for DMFT funds to be used for environmental protection?”
Minister Joshi responds that Jharkhand has used only around 40-45% of the DMFT funds. “Rs. 690 crores have been sanctioned for environmental projects in the State and around Rs. 200 crores have been spent, but this is very much under the remit of the State government.”
Mr. Seth says, “McCluskieganj was known as mini London but now it’s in a bad state due to mining, can tourism be encouraged there?” Mr. Joshi says, “DMFT funds can be used for the purpose. When MPs become members of the DMFT, do push for these projects.”
Avinash Reddy of YSRCP seeks clarification on control of DMFT funds by Centre.
Rajya Sabha | 11.10 am
The Finance Bill 2021 is moved by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman/
The debate will go on for 9 hours.
Deependra Singh Hooda of Congress says, “Before I begin talking about the Finance Bill, I need to place things in context. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy was slipping down. We had a slowdown over eight quarters straight. During UPA, average GDP growth rate was 7.8%. And in your 6 years before the pandemic, the growth rate was 6.8%. Industrial growth rate in UPA was 4% in your time it is 2%.”
“Private consumption growth during the UPA was 24% which came down to 9%. And this is pre-pandemic figure. So there was no demand.”
Continuing, Mr. Hooda says, “Now let me speak about exports. You gave the slogan of Make in India. In the UPA era, the export growth rate was nearly 21% and now it is down to 4%. Even the government expenditure has come down. Demonetisation first shook the economy and then the mismanagement of GST pushed it to the brink and the pandemic sent the economy into ICU.”
Mr. Hooda qoutes many economists including Raghuram Rajan and others to point out that the economy was in shambles even before the COVID-19 pandemic. “In comparison to the world, India has the highest negative GDP growth. This was also responsible for widening the economic difference between rich and the poor. India also has the highest unemployment rate. And the rescue package was the smallest offered by any government across the world. Now you claim that the Economy is getting back on track.”
Mr. Hooda says the government has been taxing the common man, with highest fuel cess in the world. “But the govt. is barely giving anything in return to the people. There is no demand in economy. You didn’t heed our advice of regenerating . “The rating agencies,” Mr. Hooda says, “are threatening to downgrade India’s rating once again.”
Rajya Sabha | 11.03 am
Proceedings in the House resume.
Yesterday evening, there was a meeting and it was decided that there will be no Zero and Question Hour. “First, the Finance Bill will be taken up,” Mr. Naidu informs the House.
RJD Member Manoj K. Jha tries to raise the issue of lathicharge at Bihar Opposition MLAs in Patna. But the Chairman refuses to allow him to move the adjournment motion.
Mallikarjun Kharge of Congress says, “It is up to your discretion, but if there is injustice in a State then we should be allowed to take it up.”
Mr. Naidu says, “Yesterday, someone wanted to take up the Maharashtra issue. I didn’t allow that. Today, you want to discuss Bihar. Let’s have a meeting and may be we should come to a consensus on whether State issues can be discussed here.”
Lok Sabha | 11 am
Lok Sabha commences for the day.
Midhun Reddy is in the chair.
Question Hour begins.
Ramesh Chandra Majhi of BJD asks a supplementary question on when the government is expected to fix royalty rates on mining products.
Pralhad Joshi, Minister, Mines, in reply says, “it isn’t mandatory that royalty has to be revised once in three years. Our tax rates on mining products is also one of the highest in the world. We have proposed to set up a committee to look at index based royalty calculation. I would encourage States, therefore, to ease their auction processes.”
Mr. Majhi asks when the study group will submit its report. The Minster replies that the report was submitted in July 2019.
Hasnain Masoodi of NC asks, “Pulwama district has one of the biggest deposits of limestone and we have only heard of DMFT, and other revenues from the 10 or more cement companies there. Any details available?”
Mr. Joshi responds, “The DMFT is deposited with the district magistrate. In J&K, Rs. 32 crores was collected and Rs. 23 crores has been sent . The new mining amendments are there to encourage spending of the funds and MPs are to be compulsorily part of DMFT committee.”
Jugal Kishore Sharma of BJP says labourers in coal mines are complaining that they are not getting paid properly. Mr. Joshi says mine labour is looked after by State governments. “Overall labour safety is looked at by Labour Ministry. Specific complaints can be sent and we will enquire into it.”
Rajya Sabha | 10 am
Proceedings begin in the House.
Chairman Venkaiah Naidu makes the Obituary Reference. “A. Mohammedjan was simple, polite and duty-minded,” Mr. Naidu says. Members stand up and maintain silence as a mark of respect.
The House is adjourned till 11 a.m.
Obituary reference to the passing away of A. Mohammedjan, sitting Member to be made in the House.
Bill for consideration and passing
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment)Bill, 2021
Bill to be introduced
The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021
Bills for consideration and passing
The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2021
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021