Akali MP Naresh Gujral wants more sittings of Parl

At a time lawmakers are capturing headlines for wrong reasons, a senior Akali Dal MP wants to restore the dignity of Parliament by working harder.

Naresh Gujral, the Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab, has moved a private member’s bill seeking to compensate for the hours wasted due to disruptions and ensure at least 100 sittings a year.

The 68-year-old MP, the son of former Prime Minister I K Gujral, came up with the ‘Enhancement of Productivity of Parliament Bill, 2017’, as he feels that productivity is “on a decline” and people “gradually losing faith in the relevance of this institution”.

Gujral

According to the Bill, “the number of hours unutilised due to disruptions shall be compensated by extending each session by as many hours as the sittings were adjourned due to disruptions.” A productive day in Parliament is defined as seven hours.

The Bill is introduced at a time public when continuous disruptions, which in some cases leading to complete washout of an entire session like in the Winter Session of 2016, has come under the public scanner. The recent slapping of an Air India manager by Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad and former Congress MP V Hanumantha Rao abusing a police officer have also evoked sharp reactions among public.

Gujral’s Bill is also aimed at avoiding logjams in Parliament’s smooth functioning besides preventing washout of Sessions by giving “equal and adequate voice” to the Opposition in deciding the agenda of Parliament so as to increase accountability of the Government.

It is also looks at the introduction of a 15-day special session in addition to the existing Budget, Monsoon and Winter sessions when at least two subjects of public importance are taken up and not any other business. During this session, the Bill wants at least half of the time allotted to MPs of non-ruling parties.

“Since the inception of Parliament of India in 1952, Parliament used to devote 100 to 120 days of a year to sit in Session. This trend, however, witnessed a decline over decades, bringing down this number to 70 to 80 days in a year,” the Bill said.

“Over the years, disruptions in the smooth functioning of the Parliament Sessions have become a rather common feature in the Indian democracy. This causes grave monetary loss, wastage of time and most importantly, delay in the decision-making on essential issues of public importance or hasty passing of laws without sufficient deliberation,” it said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 26, 2017)

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Swamy wants death penalty for cow slaughter

After Ram temple, controversial BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has taken up another pet Hindutva theme of cow protection and now wants death penalty for those slaughtering the animal.

Swamy will introduce a private member’s bill, The Cow Protection Bill 2017, in Rajya Sabha on Friday, insisting the need for a law to ban the slaughter of all cows “as wished by Mahatma Gandhi and an imperative for free independent India”.

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The bill intends to create a National Cow Protection Authority to ensure stabilisation of population of cows. The Authority should suggest measures to comply with Articles 37 and Article 48 of the Constitution to ban the slaughter of cows and to provide for deterrent punishment, including death penalty, for slaughter of cow.

The Authority, which is headed by Secretary of Department of Animal Husbandry and have five persons of eminence in the fields of agricultural economics, animal welfare and ancient Indian history or culture as members, should ndertake a baseline study to collect data about cow population and to formulate a Qualitative Cow Dignity Index.

The Article 37 says the provisions in Directive Princiles would not be enforced by the court but these are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and would be the duty of the State to apply these principles. The Article 48 recommends prohibition of slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.

Swamy wants this provision on cow slaughter be implemented by enacting a law covering the whole country. The reports and suspicion about slaughter of cow and beef eating have resulted in violence in some parts of the country and snowballed into a controversy with Dalits and Muslims feeling the heat.

The Bill defines cow protection as a total ban in any form of injury of slaugter or enforced starvation of the breed of Indian cow. It wants the Authority to formulate schemes to provide for healthy cows and calves and recommend to the central government, deterrent penalties including death penalty to who commit offences against cows.

It should also frame syallabus for awareness about importance of cow protection and development all over the country as well as conduct awareness campaigns about medical imperatives for improving health of cows and calves.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 24, 2017)

Fire stations needed: 8,559 In place: 2,987

Fire accidents may be devouring our homes but India does not have enough fire stations to fight it out even in urban areas.

There is a need for at least 8,559 fire stations across the country but in position is just 2,987, leaving a deficiency of 65.10%.

The situation in urban areas is the worse compared to rural areas as a government-sponsored study showed that there is a need to set up 5,572 more fire stations. Of this, 4,257 are to be set up in urban areas.

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The Ministry of Home Affairs had engaged Risk Management Solutions Inc (RMSI) to assess the requirement of fire stations in the country, whose report indicated the shortage of fire stations in the country. The details were presented in Lok Sabha recently.

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State Fire Stations Needed Fire Stations At Present
Maharashtra

Rajasthan

1,075

874

157

126

 

 

Uttar Pradesh 706 237
Bihar 650 102
Andhra Pradesh 582 251
Karnataka 377 182
ALL INDIA 8,599 2,987

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The study showed that Maharashtra, which has reported the highest number of fire accidents in the country, needs the highest number of fire stations. Incidentally, it also has the highest gap between the number of existing facilities and actually needed.

The state has only 157 fire stations, while it needs at least 1,075 such facilities across the state. Of the 917 more fire stations needed, the study has found out that 666 should be set up in urban areas.

An analysis of the figures provided by the RMSI showed that almost all the states do not have even half of the required number of fire stations, which keeps the existing fire fighters on their toes.

Rajasthan needs 874 fire stations but has only 126 while Uttar Pradesh has 237 facilities but need another 469 for smooth fire fighting operations.

Karnataka needs 377 fire stations while only 182 are in place. There is a deficiency of 195 fire stations out of which 132 are needed in urban areas.

As per the latest government figures, India witnessed 18,450 cases of fire accidents in 2015 causing 17,700 deaths and injuries to 1,193 persons. In 2014, there were 20,377 incidents. The cause-wise analysis of fire accidents showed that 42.1% of total deaths (7,445 out of 17,700) were due to fire accidents in residential buildings during 2015.

A senior official told DH that fire incidents are very serious and it result in lot of damage to infrastructure and cause monetary loss. Fire service is a municipal function and state governments need to take a pro-active role in handling such issues.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 24, 2017)

Kashmir, Youth, Militancy

Over 300 Kashmiri youths joined militancy in the past seven years with 2016 topping in such recruitment but the participation of youngsters in violence has “ceased” this year, government said on Tuesday.

While the number of youth joining militancy was on the decrease from 2010 to 2013, it picked up from 2014.

Eighty-eight youths joined the militants last year, mainly after the encounter killing of Hizbul Mujahideen operative Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016.

In 2010, the number of youth who were recruited was 54 and it decreased to 23 the next year. It further declined to 21 and 16 in 2012 and 2013 respectively. However, 2014 witnessed sharp increase to 53 while the next year saw 66 youths joining militancy.

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During these years, the infiltration attempts showed a decline from 2010 to 2015 but last year saw a rise though the figure did not surpass the 2010 number. In 2010, there were 489 attempts while last year saw 371. In between the numbers were declining year after year.

A large number of infiltration attempts were thwarted. However, the net infiltration numbers rose from 95 in 2010 to 119 in 2016.

Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir informed Lok Sabha in a written reply that Jammu and Kashmir police has taken a number of initiatives for promoting youth engagement, which include organising sports tournaments and cultural events among others to woo youngsters away from militancy.

Kashmir has been “affected by terrorist violence that is sponsored and supported from across the border. The levels of terrorist violence in the hinterland are linked to the infiltration from across the border. The activities of separatist and militant outfits also remain a challenge in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

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No of Incidents
July 2016 – 820
Aug 2016 – 747
Sep 2016 – 535
Oct 2016 – 179
Nov 2016 – 73
Dec 2016 – 36
Jan 2017 – 05
Feb 2017 – 49
Mar 2017 – 27.

No of Youths who joined militancy
2010 – 54
2011 – 23
2012 – 21
2013 – 16
2014 – 53
2015 – 66
2016 – 88

Source: Ministry of Home Affairs

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In reply to another question, he said, the situation in Kashmir in the current year has “improved to a large extent” and the “participation of youth in violence has ceased” and normal activities are going on smoothly.

While there were 820 “law and order situations” in July last year, the month in which Wani was killed, the number decreased to 49 last month and 27 this month. Barring some violence-prone pockets, the situation is presently normal. Efforts are afoot to bring situation under control in these vulnerable pockets,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 22, 2017)

Child Labour in Ent Industry, houses: Par panel wants govt to study

Fearing that child labour is rampant in domestic households and entertainment industry, a Parliamentary panel has asked the government to study the situation in these sectors and take remedial steps.

The remarks by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour came against the backdrop of the fear that some of the child labourers who have been rehabilitated are back to work due to lack of monitoring.

The Census 2011 had identified around 1.01 crore child labourers, including 81.02 lakh in rural areas, in the country and the number of children who were rescued is 12 lakh.

The panel made the recommendation on child artistes and domestic workers as it felt that there is a large gap between the identified and rehabilitated child labourer. “The committee is pained to note that additions have been witnessed in the number of child labour during the last six years after the Census 2011,” it said while expressing fear about the possibility of children going back to work after being rehabilitated.

This could ultimately lead to these children “getting lost to the vicious circle of being a labourer again,” it said adding that the rehabilitation process must be strengthened along with appropriate monitoring mechanism to ensure that there is no scope for the children going back to work again.

“The commitee also feel the need to identify child labour in domestic households and also in the motion pictures/documentaries industry, and rehabilitate them. The committee desires to be apprised of the measures the Ministry (of Labour and Employment) proposes to take in this direction,” the panel said.

The issue of presence of child artistes in reality shows and other programmes in entertainment industry had raised a furore earlier. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) came out with guidelines to regulate child participation in TV serials, reality shows and advertisement.

“During the course of their short careers, some children may get exposed to sudden wealth and fame. The possibilities of such children being exploited increases as their parents are likely to then be tempted by the spotlight or the possibility of augmenting the family income by pushing them into new assignments. Since the contracts and/or dealings are carried out by the adults (the parent/caretaker), there is currently no way of ensuring that the income is protected and set aside for the child,” the NCPCR said in the guidelines.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 21, 2017)

Minister: Absent Questioner: Absent Chairman: Upset

Treasury benches invited the wrath of Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari on Monday over the absence of three union ministers to whom questions were put.

The unusal situation emerged during the conclusion of Question Hour in the Upper House when questions related to Ministries of Shippin, Environment and Forest and Power were to be answered.

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** Image not from of proceedings of Mar 20, 2017

Soon after Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan finished answering his question, Ansari called JD(U) MP Harivansh to ask his question on Yamuna Water Taxi project to the Minister of Shipping. Neither Cabinet Minister Nitin Gadkari or Ministers of State Pon Radhakrishnan and Mansukh Lal Mandavya were present.

Harivansh was also missing, prompting Ansari to quip, “this is an extraordinary situation.” Following this, Congress’ Jairam Ramesh and Anand Sharma said there was no Cabinet minister present in the House. At that time, only ministers of state Nirmala Sitharaman, Ram Kirpal Yadav and Balyan were seen present.

“Yes, I can see that. Question No. 189. Can the answer be laid on the Table? No questioner, no Minister…This is not a happy state of affairs,” Ansari added.

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** Image not from of proceedings of Mar 20, 2017

Then he took up the next question on introduction of environment tax on ‘polluter pays’ principle to be raised by Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral, who was also not present. Environment Minister Anil Dave was also not present.

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “this is maximum ministers, minimum governance”, mocking the government’s motto “minimum government, maximum governance”. Trinamool Congress’ Shukhendu Shekhar Roy asked the Chairman to issue a stricture against the government.

The questioner for the third question was also not present as well as the Power Minister Piyush Goyal. Ansari then moved to the question on MNREGA but the questioner, this time Congress MP P L Punia was not present though the Minister concerned was present.

However, he could not answer it as the time for Question Hour ended by then.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 21, 2017)

Non-serious parties misusing benefits: Par panel wants law to tackle them

The mushrooming of “non-serious” political parties have prompted a Parliamentary panel to recommend stringent law to prevent misuse of tax and other benefits given to such outfits.

The recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice came after the Election Commission informed the panel about the increase in number of parties over the years.

“Some do not exist on the ground. Some others have never contested the election and some others have been formed and registered only to take tax benefits from the government,” the panel said in its report tabled in Parliament last week.

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It said some parties are not complying with the guidelines of the Election Commission for submission of audited accounts.

The EC has de-registered 255 parties out of 1864 as they existed only on papers and had never contested any election since their formation. They were removed from the list of registered unrecognised parties. Registered parties could avail tax benefits and some of them were misusing this provision in the law.

The committee headed by Congress MP Anand Sharma felt that provisions relating to registration of parties needs to be made “more stringent so that non-serious political parties are not able to register in the first place” and if registered, their registration could be cancelled.

“The possibility to regulating registration of political parties and suspension/cancellation of their registration through a law of Parliament may also be explored to prevent misuse of facilities/benefits available to registered political parties by unscrupulous elements,” it said.

Another key area touched by the panel was on the allocation for Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail System (VVPAT).

Amid fresh allegations raised by parties like BSP and AAP on tampering of EVMs, the panel has vouched for the need for VVPAT, saying it will bring about “greater transparency in elections and increase voters confidence”. Though the allegations made after the results of recent Assembly elections were declared, the report made no mention of it.

The committee also raised the questions about allocating Rs 1,000 crore only when the projection was Rs 1,609.87 crore.

While analysing the budget allocation for voters’ awareness, the panel said only Rs 146 crore was allocated despite the Commission projecting Rs 283.51 crore.

It expressed hope that the government would provide more money for the Commission to carry out these activities.

(An edited versipn appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 20, 2017)

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