India

Parliament proceedings | Insurance Amendment Bill 2021 passed in Rajya Sabha, House adjourned till tomorrow

The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Thursday undertook discussion on various issues, including queries around roads and infrastructure, the new vehicle scrappage policy, and the Modi govt’s record in dealing with dissent.

Speaking of the new vehicle scrapping policy, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the policy will help vehicle owners to scrap their old cars and get help them buy new vehicles.

The scrapping policy will help in reducing auto components price by 40% as old cars from smaller countries will come into India, he said. He added that the notification for it will be notified in 30 days.

The Congress and other Opposition parties forced adjournments of Rajya Sabha proceedings for four times during the post-lunch sitting as they insisted on referring to a standing committee a bill on raising the FDI in the insurance sector to 74% from the current 49%.

Here are the latest updates:

Lok Sabha | 7.26 p.m.

Jugal Kishore Sharma of BJP asks for fund allocation to improve waste management in Jammu

Jugal Kishore Sharma of BJP is speaking now. He says the DDC elections in the U.T. shows that Kashmir can be peaceful. The BJP govt. has helped in fficient tackling of coronavirus not only across in India, but also in Kashmir. The package introduced to aid development work in Jammu and Kashmir by Narendra Modi is laudable. 

Opposition is petrified as Jammu and Kashmir is becoming self-reliant. Nehru was responsible for losing part of Kashmir but Mr. Modi’s decision are all for the betterment of the U.T.”

He speaks about proper allocation of funds for waste management in.

Lok Sabha| 7.16 p.m.

Govt. cutting down on funds to help in developing Jammu and Kashmir: Mohammad Javed of the Congress

Dr. Mohammad Javed of the Congress is speaking right now. He says if govt really wanted to improve conditions in Kashmir, it would have focused on the tourism sector in the U.T. but it has not. Tourism sector employs people from all walks of life, so does Horticulture, he claims. Budget allocation for Horticulture in the State has been reduced. Budgets for Rural development, Industries and Commerce, Housing and Urban development among others have also faced the same fate. 

Unemployment rate is second highest in the U.T. after Bihar. The Government has been incompetent in proving with jobs to the youth,” he says.

Health infrastructure is crumbling and outsiders have all the control, he stated emphatically. “So much so that local people cant get jobs,” he added.

Lok Sabha | 7.09 p.m.

Without proper allotment of funds, Kashmir will suffer: Hasnain Masoodi of J&KNC

Hasnain Masoodi of J&KNC speaks on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Agriculture in the U.T. needs to be imposed, empty promises from the Central govt. wont do, he says. The govt. is over exploiting the the power project, he claims.

On Kashmiri Pandits, he says the govt. does not want to solve their problems due to electoral purposes. Development of roads and infrastucture in the U.T. is the need of the hour, he says.

He is interrupted by the speaker who wants him to finish his address.

Rajya Sabha | 7.01 p.m

The Insurance Amendment Bill 2021 passed in Rajya Sabha by voice vote. Rajya Sabha is adjourned till 11 a.m. on March 19, 2021.

Lok Sabha | 6.47 p.m.

Road connectivity between Chennai and Puducherry needs to be improved: Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJD

Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJD is speaking now on Jammu and Kashmir and Puducherry. He says Puducherry has been placed under suspended animation.

The funds allocated for various land, electios to legislative Assembly and tacking of COVID-19 needs to be approved by the House. Puducherry despite being small has robust indicators, he claims. Road connectivity from Chennai to Puducherry needs to improve, a 4 lane highway on ECR is the need of the hour, he claims.

He satys govt efforts to ring normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir needs more supprt, and accountability needs to be fixed on the matter.

Rajya Sabha | 6.46 p.m.

Vijaya Mallya, Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi are all coming back to face the law: Nirmala Sitharaman

“Vijaya Mallya, Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi are all coming back to face the law of the land. We all know, whose friends were these people and who gave them the money. Public sector market share 38% while the private sector is 48%,” emarks Nirmala Sitharaman.

“The word, control means, right to appoint majority of directors, control the policy decisions and shareholding pattern. By rasing the FDI limit, control becomes a natural corollary. Key management personnel have to be Indian, which means all the law of the land is applicable. Members said that there is little demand for the FDI, average FDI in private sector is 39%. Section 27 (e) very clearly says no insurer shall directly or indirectly invest outside of India the funds of Indian policy holders: Sitharaman. Reserves will have to be maintained by all firms to meet the policy insurance claims So citizens claims are being protected,” she says.

“PM Modi is committed to social justice. The reservation policy is implemented and fully guarded in the public sector insurance firms and will remain so. Reservation is safe and secure under PM Modi,” she assures.

Lok Sabha | 6.35 p.m.

Saugata Roy is speaking now, he starts by critcising Kiran Bedi, faces flak from mmembers or mentioning her name. He speaks on Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. He says Kashmir should be given back Statehood.

Lok Sabha | 6.25 p.m.

Jamyang Tsering Namgyal says the Modi govt. has united the people of the country. He gives various examples of how the BJP has displayed a robust governance and has encouraged different sports tournaments like never seen before. Unemloyment is an issue in Ladakh and the govt. is working on it, he says.

He stresses on the need to create new administrative districts in Ladakh. On Puducherry, he says the Congress govt. blocked ration shops, created unemployment and medical reservations are stunted at 20%. He expresses his dismay at the lack of local body election in Puducherry.

Rajya Sabha | 6.16 p.m.

Hike in FDI limit to 74% to help meet growing capital requirement of insurance companies: FM

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s begins her reply by thanking 18 members who participated in the discussion. “Insurance is a highly regulated sector. The FDI limit is not a compulsion, it is only increasing the upper limit. The policy holder’s money that is collected will have to be invested here in India only. The policy holder’s money that is collected will have to be invested here in India only. Greater competition means, better deal, better negotiated premium. Competition is strictly for betterment,’ she says.

“We are enjoying the benefit of opening up post 1991. Should we not further it. Should we halt it?” she asks. She quotes former FM and Cong leader P. Chidambaram who had supported the hike in FDI limit from 26% to 49%

“The spirit of opening up, bringing up more resources, was true then and true now,” she claims. “Answering to Anand Sharma, Ms. Sitharaman says that IRDAI consulted 60 insurance companies and number of promoters and leading industry leaders and chambers and then reported clear support for increasing FDI limit above 49%.

On growth in the insurance sector, she says: “Insurance companies broadly categories into two, general and life insurance firm. General which is taking care of health and other issues and farm insurances. Only one govt owned Life insurance firm General insurance, only 4 public sector firm and 22 private sector firms. All together there are 7 public sector insurance firms and 61 private sector firms. Total employees and agents in public sectors is over 7 lakhs and in private sector nearly 23 lakh.”

“Many members asked how much money has come post 2015 hike from 26% to 49%. A total of 26,000 crores and 12 new insurance companies were opened up and each of them have 26% of FDI. Members asked isn’t there enough money in this country? There are also enough borrowers. So enough is not enough. The control and ownership has been allowed with safeguards. This bill is in alignment with the FDI policy of the country. The capital available in the country is only to supplement what is available in the country therefore we need to supplement this will increase the penetration of insurance in the country,” she adds.

– Delhi Bureau

Lok Sabha| 6.15 p.m.

Anurag Thakur slams oppostion for opposing creation of Sarad Vallabh Patel’s statue.

Rajya Sabha | 6.01 p.m.

Rajya Sabha session extended till the bill is passed. Binoy Viswam of CPI said: “It may be coincidence that this bill has come to the house today on a day that the LIC employees are observing a day long strike. BJP talks of Hindutva, but their real religion is greed and their God is profit and the temple they go to is market.”

Sanjay Singh of AAP said: “The party which was the greatest champion of swadeshi is now campaigning for videshi or foreign. You are opening doors for foreign firms to cart away money of Indian investors. You are working for the capitalists.”

– Delhi Bureau

Lok Sabha | 5.55 p.m.

Allocation of funds for Jammu and Kashmir measly, lack of connectivity affects students: Revanth Reddy of Congress

Revanth Reddy of Congress says: “This government has not used neither its heart or head in this budget . Nothing has changed in allocation. It is unfortunate with regard to Jammu and Kashmir. According to reports J&K lost over ₹40,000 crores in the pandemic period and nearly 5 lakh people connected to tourism lost their jobs . This should have been taken on board. According to the measly allocation, per head every Kashmiri will only get ₹5 which is only good for a cup of tea.”

“Very low allocation of officers from the central pool. Students have suffered due to lack of connectivity. Can’t study, can’t apply for jobs,” he adds.

“Why can’t the central government do something. Kashmiri students studying outside are also suffering since there are troubles with employment with their families. Government should have paid the fees of these students,” he asks.

“Medical consultation via online is also a problem. Journalists are also being repressed and being harassed due to criminal cases against them. 34 papers have been denied advertisements in J&K due to critical coverage. Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were incarcerated for long,” he says.

” Allocation for Puducherry is also not upto the mark as the the govt. has allocated only half of what the 14th Commision recccomended. Govt. should focus on welfare on people and not just elections, ” he says.

– Delhi Bureau

Lok Sabha| 5.45 p.m.

Demands for Grants : Second Batch for 2020-2021 passed in Lok Sabha

Supplementary demand for grants – second batch put to vote. Cut motions defeated. Supplementary demand for grants – second batch passed by Lok Sabha. Supplementary Demands for Grants : Second Batch for 2020-2021 passed in Lok Sabha

Discussion over demands for Jammu and Kashmir and Puducherry begins.

– Delhi Bureau

Rajya Sabha | 5.45 p.m.

Insurance penetration in India is less than half the world’s average: BJD

Ami Yajnik of Congress asks: “Why hurry and haste and why there is no mention about what happened post 2015. What was the justification to bring this bill?”

Amar Patnaik of BJD says: “There are no two ways that every one should be secured with insurance. As opposed to the world average the insurance penetration in India is less than half. This bill essentially aims to increase the coverage.”

– Delhi Bureau

Lok Sabha | 5.40 p.m.

West Bengal government prevented farmers from getting PM Kisan Samman Nidhi: Anurag Thakur

Anurag Thakur (MoS finance) responds to debate, expresses thanks to members for their praise of government handling of pandemic. “When BE was first released for 2020-21, the MGNREGA was ₹61,000 crore and an additional grant of ₹40,000 crore rhas been done due to situations created by the pandemic. So this year the allocation is ₹73,000 crore, he states.

“In defence, we have spent a lot on procurement from bullet proof vests and Rafale jets and this capital outgo is high. We have ended the pendancy to fertiliser plants. PM gareeb kalyan Yojana was an emergency relief measure without thought of cost. No poor person should go hungry. There was no measure that was not taken to ensure this,” he adds.

“That politics will not last long, wait for a short time. They talk of cash, of cut money. We send money directly to beneficiaries via Aadhar,” assures Mr. Thakur.

“West Bengal government prevented farmers from getting PM Kisan Samman Nidhi,” he claims. “The loans availed by FCI from National Small Savings Bank before too, we have only revealed it transparently in the Union Budget. FM has clarified that currently 35,000 set aside for vaccine and more will be given when required,” he says.

“Government facilitated a moratorium on EMI for MSME for six months. Even traders benefitted. We didn’t just look at money, we thought about saving lives,” claims Mr. Thakur.

– Delhi Bureau

Lok Sabha | 5.10 p.m.

All three general insurance companies owned by govt. are in distress: Sushil Modi of BJP

K. Ravindra Kumar of TDP says: “Hasty legislations are wrong. I would urge the govt to have a rethink.”

Sushil Modi, BJP says: “There are enough safeguards in foreign control and ownership clause. No one can dare to take the Indian investments out of the country.”

“All three general insurance companies owned by govt are in distress. If in such a situation we take a step to increase FDI limit, what is wrong in it?” enquires Mr. Modi.

Anand Sharma asks how much funds have come since the increase in FDI limit from 26% to 49%. “Let me tell him in last five years 26000 crores has come in,” he states.

“Prior to 2000 when the insurance sector was opened up, there were only seven insurance firms. Now we have 56 firms. Some State governments were so small minded that when the Central government sent grains for the poor, they distributed it with pictures of their Chief Ministers on the gunny sacks,” he says.

– Delhi Bureau

Lok Sabha | 5.00 p.m.

Dairy farming in Rajasthan should be encouraged: Devji Mansingram Patel of BJP

Devji Mansingram Patel (BJP) commends government handling of pandemic. According to her, jeera (cumin) should be brought under the ambit of MSP.  She says dairy farming in Rajasthan should be encouraged, especially by making bonus payments uniform.

She also asks for a college in Jalore, a rail linkage to Sirohi and a Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya for Jalore.

Hema Malini (BJP) asks for a package for Mathura which is frequented by many people for pilgrimage purposes. “Lord Krishna will bless you, Radhey Radhey,” she says.

Ravindra Kushwaha (BJP) commends government on handling pandemic. He says people of Salempur and Ballia districts have to travel far when they need serious medical help. “I request the government to request government to relax guidelines and allow setting up a medical college in Sikanderpur where land is available,” he said.

– Delhi Bureau

Lok Sabha | 4.30 pm

Supplementary Demands for Grants: Second Batch for 2020-21

Hasnain Masoodi of NC says the removal of special status of J&K was a betrayal and pushed us to the bottom of the barrel.  “Awantipora airport should be operationalised. More than 1000 industries have closed down including J&K Cements. A shikara ride is not indicative that all is well.” He asks for an international cricket stadium in J&K.

“NH-44 is an old issue and connectivity is an issue. Delhi-Srinagar air fare is comparable to Dubai fares. Five tunnels need to be looked at in terms of all weather roads. Only cosmetic engagement with issues related to J&K.”

E.T. Mohammad Basheer of IUML suggests that more funds for emergency cancer relief funds. “Don’t put Indian fishermen into difficulties by the new fishermen policy. State government is also opening Indian seas to foreign fishermen and it will adversely affect the living of fishermen. Government should withdraw such proposals to open India seas. Unity of the country is being challenged. Government is also engineering a partisan attitude,” he adds.

S.T. Hassan of SP speaks on the brass industry of Moradabad that has seen a decline due various reasons. “₹ 300 crore GST dues to brass manufacturers is pending. Raw material costs have gone up 40% and some subsidy may be considered. Declare central Moradabad an industrial zone so that environmental bodies don’t trouble.”

Mohanbhai Kandariya of BJP commends work of government. He says, “UPA government withheld permission for gates to be raised on Sardar Sarovar dam, why did they discriminate against Gujarat farmers when in power? All farmers should be viewed with the same lense.”

Hanuman Beniwal of RLP asks for youth hostel in Nagaur. “Every person is concerned with the rising fuel prices. Hanumangarh-Ganganagar has the most expensive petrol and diesel.” He requests cut in Centre and state cess in order to make fuel cheaper. “Points to high number of rapes – Jaipur especially. Rather than please your MLAs, do some work for the people , he says pointing to Congress benches,” he adds.

Suresh Pujari of BJP praises FM for presenting the budget in such adverse situation. “Even in these circumstances the country’s farmers delivered and we could present the budget. In Odisha, more than 1 lakh quintal of paddy are lying in godowns. Thousands are keeping watch on the paddy now in Mandis. Odisha has a token system which has created this system.”

“Odiyas fought for the nation 18 years before the war of 1857, now the country should fight for us.”

Raj Kumar Ranjan Singh of BJP says that Manipur’s landlocked status and insurgency prone situation makes development difficult. “Road density is low compared to rest of the country. Border roads with Myanmar is needed to prevent insurgency and drug trade. Funds for wetland development required.” He demands AIIMS for Manipur and a special economic package.

Protima Bhowmick (BJP) commends government focus on North Eastern States. She requests for an AIIMS in Tripura.

She asks for development of tourism in Tripura and thanks PM for funds for Mata Tripurasundari Temple She furthur demands funds for development of Unakoti. “Pineapple is the mainstay of Tripura,” she remarks and asks for restarting of food processing unit.

Rajya Sabha | 4.30 pm

RS continues discussing the Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 for consideration and passing.

“There is no necessity for LIC to go to market for funds”

Dr. Banda Prakash of TRS says LIC is the largest investor, therefore there is no necessity for LIC to go to market for funds. “While ensuring safety for policy holders, LIC has performed well. LIC was created as an act of Parliament. The LIC must remain 100% under the control of govt. The aim to expand insurance to the weaker sections will suffer setback. The social objective to provide insurance cover to the rural and poor section will not be served by this bill. I request the govt to protect LIC.”

Subash Chandra Bose of YSRCP speaks in Telugu.

Vishambar Prasad Nishad of SP says: “I oppose the bill. They are trying to finish our insurance companies to replace them with foreign firms. I have couple of questions to FM. One, what is the motive of giving the ownership rights to a foreign firm, if a foreign firm declares themselves as bankrupt, how will the Indian investors recover their money.”

“What will happen to future of employees of the Indian insurance firms. Also if the govt run insurance firms are taken over by foreign investors then how will the reservation policy be implemented.”

RCP Singh, JD(U) says: “I rise in support of the bill. The bill provides of safeguards for foreign control and ownership clause. The options for the end consumers will increase and the market will become competitive which will benefit us.”

Jharna Das Baidya, CPI(M) says: “The ownership and control should remain with Indian companies. I urge the govt to rethink and reconsider.”

Manoj K. Jha, RJD says: “The BJP has redefined Atmanirbhar. Atmanirbhar translates into English as Self Reliance. But now this self-reliance is just reduced to Reliance alone. Foreign insurance companies tend to have low rural penetration. What will happen to SC/ST/OBC reservation.”

“When we read the clause of this bill prescribing ‘foreign ownership and control’ we must remember East India Companies. These organizations on which this bill will have impact, let’s remember are human organizations.”

Praful Patel of NCP says: “The foreign ownership and control clause should have been debated. I doubt that any of the Indian insurance firms are seeking more foreign funds.” 

Anil Desai, Shiv Sena says: “FDI upto 49% was supposed to bring more funds and increase insurance penetration. Most of the companies have not met this threshold.”

Lok Sabha | 4.00 pm

Ajay Tamta of BJP commends government’s handling of pandemic, goes into details of Ujjwala Yojana, PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, appreciates all weather roads in Uttarakhand. “Malook Nagar (BSP) UP and Bihar should be considered for high speed train, better connectivity. Some arrangement should be made for connectivity to and from Lucknow.”

He demands setting up a high court in Meerut; and says this will help in ending pendency. He asks that Hastinapur be developed and thanks Centre for allocation of ₹ 750 crores made earlier. “Connectivity between Delhi and Hastinapur is needed to encourage tourism related to Mahabharata time buildings and artefacts.”

“Government should sensitively consider the development of UP and dealing with issues of farmers.”

D.V. Senthilkumar of DMK says allocations show discrimination against Tamil Nadu as compared to other states, asks for airports in Hosur and Kanyakumari. “Roll back demanded on charging fees from SC/ST candidates in Central government exams,” he says. He demands the release of MPLADS funds that had been suspended during pandemic.

Rahul Kaswan of BJP commends government’s handling of pandemic, asks for adding Bajra to Public Distribution System and criticises state government of Rajasthan on procurement of Bajra. He commends Jal Jeevan Mission but criticises state government on implementation. “Stray cattle is a major problem in Rajasthan and funds should be sanctioned for wire fencing of fields,” he says.

Nama Nageshwar Rao of TRS says enhanced allocation for health is needed especially because of the impact of pandemic. “Economy has suffered, Centre and state revenues suffered.”

Rajya Sabha | 3.42 pm

On insurance sector

Mallikarjun Kharge says: “It is unfortunate that the govt doesn’t want to send the bill to the standing committee. They are showing an obduracy. We could have pointed out the loopholes in the bill after consultations with the stakeholders. But the govt doesn’t want the stakeholders to speak out. They(govt) will understand only when there are nationwide strike. This is the exact approach the government took during the farm laws. They passed it without consultations and now they are facing farm agitations. They want to sell every thing, power, industries..just sell, sell, sell. They want to bulldoze. We agree for a debate. But they should let go their tendency to bulldoze.”

Tiruchi Siva of DMK says: “Because of the importance of the bill and the impact it will have on people, we requested that the govt send the bill to the standing committee. We can not flag all the problems in just few hours of the debate in the house. But the government continues to be adamant. So being, a responsible opposition, we will have a discussion.”

Arun Singh of BJP says: “People claim that LIC is being sold off. Who has sold LIC. LIC has a separate act. This kind of narrow mindset won’t work. They claim that there should be no foreign investment, no disinvestment.”

Arun Singh compares the insurance sector with the telecom centre. Says that once this bill is passed, the insurance sector will see a similar growth as the telecom centre and increase the cover across the nation.

Anand Sharma of Congress says: “We question the very justification and the need of it. why are lakhs of employee on strike. My submission, through you, when a law is to be enacted, the bill must be go through Parliamentary scrutiny. Once it is bypassed, conflict starts. You have majority in the house, select and standing committees too.”

“There is also trust involved. Insurance companies hold people’s money because of the trust betowed on them. This bill breaks the trust.

“It was in 2000 under Vajpayee govt that the insurance sector was opened up allowing 26 % FDI. In 2004, when the UPA govt, wanted to increase the FDI threshold to 49 % Mr. Vajpayee himself stood against it.”

“And that bill, went thorugh Standing Committee, which was then headed by former BJP MP Yashwant Sinha. out of 91 suggestions of the standing committee, 88 suggestions were accepted.”

Mr. Sharma says that the Congress and BJP had an understanding arrived in March 2015 on the ownership and control of the Indian insurance companies. This understanding has been forgotten, he said. “The bill now says to allow foreign control and ownership and then you claim that it is only a minor change. I personally feel, this situation has been aggravated by pandemic. There is a bad optics of fiscal deficit. So how do you change the narrative? By making slew of announcements like opening up the insurance sector. Yes, disinvestment, as a policy we are not opposed to it. Is it disinvestment or leap frogging towards privatisation?”

“The Finance Minister must tell us, how much money has come into the insurance sector since the opening up of the sector. This sector has enough capital and money of the Indian people. Have you consulted the stakeholders. The new Parliament is being constructed by Tatas. Do you think Tatas want to give away control of their insurance business. You are putting Indian money at the disposal of foreign firms.”

Anand Sharma asks: Why don’t work to create consensus?

“I don’t think so that you have spoken to leaders within your party. You have people who talk about Swadeshi. PM talks about Atmanirbhar Bharat. On one end you are campaigning for Atmanirbhar Bharat and then you go around to sell our insurance firms. And you want to pass this bill in such tearing hurry, as if foreign firms are lining up to invest in your insurance firm waiting for this bill to be passed. Please ensure that the Indian money is not lost. I say with great anguish and concern, looking at our people who are looking at us with expectations, you are doing a disservice to India.”

Tiruchi Siva says: “It is interesting to know that total private share is far lower than the 49 % limit. as per the latest IRDA report, the private investment was merely 30-35 % far less than the 49 % limit. So there is no justification to increase the limit. The DMK has always stood by PSUs. These are nation’s property. Slowly, the LIC will be disinvestment.”

“Insurance is for poor people. If you bring in foreign investment, why would they extend insurance to poor people when they are more bothered about own profit.”

Lok Sabha | 3.30 pm

Supriya Sule of NCP says, “We are not against monetising but when the UPA had done it was progressively. Also why are you in a hurry for privatisation, especially LIC?”

Anurag Thakur replies: We are not privatising of LIC but floating an IPO.

Ms. Sule says that is privatisation is by another name.

She raises the issue of soaring cooking gas prices. She says: “Difficult for women even under Ujjwala Yojana to buy cylinders. States don’t have money for their own social sector programmes due to delay in GST funds being released so how can states reduce their share of fuel cesses. All vaccination producing companies that this government is taking credit from were set up in the 1970s. Why is the vaccine drive not universal?”

“Are you committed to universal vaccination for COVID-19 or not?”

Bhratruhari Mahtab of BJD says that when we discuss the second supplementary demand for grants we are actually talking of the stimulus package due to COVID-19. This includes 79 grants and 2 appropriations.

“Until recently the Centre was following a no-denial policy on fertiliser, in August a limit of 100 bags per sale was imposed, from January the upper limit of 50 bags per person per month was imposed. This is not surprising looking at the farmers stir. But government must do more to plug loopholes.”

He expresses concern on COVID-19 cases spike. He raises query on universalisation of COVID-19 vaccine. Working age cohort group should get employment.

Saptagiri Ulka of INC says economy contracted much before COVID-19 and lockdown. “Unemployment rate was 6% which was alarmingly high. The PM Gareeb Kalyan Yojana amount of ₹ 2.76 lakh was another jumla.”

“This government is hell bent on disinvestment. No one is buying anything though, no one has come forward to buy Air India et al. The cess on petrol and diesel is hitting inflation. MGNREGA allocations are still low compared to demand.” He requests package that will stimulate demand.

Rajya Sabha | 3.15 pm

Rajya Sabha resumes amid din

Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition says: “This is an important matter, this pertains to people’s lives. Therefore we are requesting you to send the bill to a standing committee.”

Harivansh says: “Already, you know, if you had moved an amendment to send the bill to send the bill to select committee we could have done that. But you didn’t. Now the bill is the property of the house. And the house will decide the fate of the bill based on discussions.”

The opposition continues protest.

Arun Singh of BJP says: “We want that every one including the poor should have access to insurance. It is unfortunate, that  in so many years of their rule the Congress government didn’t take a step towards this direction.

The need for insurance cover for every one and for even the appliances at home is necessary. But how can this cover be extended. You need more investment for that.”

Arun Singh of BJP says: “The insurance sector the world over has changed. For example, in India, the car insurance is given only on the basis of the year of manufacture of the car. But in developed countries they also take into consideration on who is driving the car.”

The opposition sloganeering nearly drowns his voice.

Deputy Chairman Harivansh once again requests the opposition to end their protests. The opposition refuses to relent.

Rajya Sabha adjourned again at 3.29 for ten minutes.

Lok Sabha | 3.00 pm

“People need relief from price rise”

Vinayak Raut (Shiv Sena) says that high fuel prices are distressing common man. “COVID-19 has led to a few people from taking advantage of the crisis, one such department is railways which has hiked fares on trains terming them special trains with no facilities like water, curtains, pantry. PM Grameen Sadak Yojana has not been funded properly. Monopoly control to one company for running the 108 ambulances in Maharashtra has led to poor service.”

“The Centre has steadily reduced its share of funds from Centre-State sharing scheme. These schemes are therefore not going well.”

He commends Centre and Mr. Modi on abrogation of 370 in J&K and hopes that the UT gets more funds for its better amalgamation. He demands that displaced Kashmiri Pandits be resettled in the Valley. “People need relief from price rise,” he says.

Margani Bharat (YSRCP) expresses doubt whether fiscal deficit target as postulated by 15th finance could be kept to. He also says reduced allocation to Andhra Pradesh under 15th Finance Commission award. “AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, an assurance of special category for AP was given but up till now nothing has happened. May be reconsidered.”

“MGNREGA dues towards AP still pending (₹ 3700 crores), early release of funds requested; ₹ 2250 crores requested for reconstruction work after cyclone Nevar.”

Requests halting disinvestment of RINL (Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited). Asks that proposal of merging RINL and SAIL be considered. “32 people have died in agitating against disinvestment of RINL. Pending dues of rural local bodies are pending.”

He reiterated demand for a railway zone for AP and said that south coastal railway zone is pending. Escalation pricing of Polavaram project be approved, he added.

Rajya Sabha | 2.40 pm

Repeated adjournments

The Rajya Sabha proceedings adjourned for 10 minutes at 2.30 pm.

House then resumed at 2.40 and was adjourned till 3.00 pm.

At 3.00 pm, the Upper House was again adjourned for 15 minutes.

Lok Sabha | 2.40 pm

“This government is afraid of farmers who have been protesting”

Saugata Roy of TMC points to the absence of finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. “Modiji has no time for us, he is in West Bengal even today. ‘Modi hai to mumkin’ nahin hoga Paschim Bangal main. This is a cruel government. Women in the country are stressed out over soaring prices of cooking gas. Even in this budget FM raised a ₹ 2.50 cess on petrol, ₹ 4 cess on diesel. This has had an impact on fuel prices, but both PM and FM on any move to ameliorate the distress. Fiscal deficit has soared with no plans on how to rein it in. This government is a “Bechu Sarkar” interested in selling all government assets. Bankers are on strike. All trains, airports to be sold, to Ambani, Adani. They will sell the whole country.”

“My sadness is that many BJP members who are uncomfortable with this crony capitalism are keeping silent. Most cruel was the exodus of migrant labour on foot to their homes. Modi government gave four hours notice for lockdown and asked us to beat thalis saying COVID-19 will go away. A year on, we are on a second wave. Why didn’t we give cash transfer to the poor as suggested by economists like Amartya Sen.”

Anurag Thakur intervenes, “In opposition times there were no bank accounts. Under Modi we transferred ₹ 31,000 crores to women alone. Apart from widows, pensioners. 9 crore farmers got ₹ 18,000 crore, but West Bengal government refused to give a list of beneficiaries.”

Mr. Roy says West Bengal says state government gives more and after the polls they will give ₹ 10,000 per farmer. “Giving free ration is good, centre gives rice at ₹ 3 per kilo while West Bengal government gives it for ₹ 2 per kilo. But I will not fight West Bengal poll here in Lok Sabha.”

“This government is afraid of farmers who have been protesting against unfair laws for the last 120 days. Therefore they are conceding fertiliser subsidy, MSP but is silent on the unfair laws.”

He appeals to BJP MPs, “You people should also speak within your party and government on behalf of farmers. The FM should have the courage to face the House. Cess on fuel should be withdrawn.”

Anurag Thakur intervenes: “TMC MP made a taunt on FM, being a former minister he should know when both Houses are dealing with departmental issue, one minister is in each House. She is attending the debate on Insurance Bill in Rajya Sabha. We have shown all the spending in the Budget in extraordinary transparency.”

Rajya Sabha | 2.20 pm

Insurance (Amendment) Bill

Speaker says that the Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was scheduled for consideration and passing for today.

Deputy Chairman Harivansh rejects Congress MP Shakti Sinh Gohil’s point of order disallowing the introduction of the bill. Mr. Gohill has claimed that due process was not followed before bringing the bill to the house.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman moves The Insurance Amendment Bill, 2021 for consideration and passing.

Leader of Opposition, Mallikarjun Kharge says: “This is a bill that will have far reaching impact on the lives of the general public. This is the 3rd amendment in the 1938 bill. One of the amendments was done during Vajpayee government when 26 % of FDI was allowed. Now that limit has been increased to 74 %. Mr. Kharge requests the government to send the bill to a standing committee so that all possible errors can be removed from the bill.

Bhupendra Yadav, BJP says: “This bill has already gone to standing committee, select committee. There has been due consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny. If they are protesting now then it is only to stop the progress of the nation.”

The opposition parties march into the well of the house and raise slogans.

Deputy Chairman Harivansh says that for point of order, the house has to be in order. “You didn’t move a motion to send the bill to a select committee. Let the discussion continue and later you can vote on the bill.”

The opposition refuses to relent and returns to the well of the house. Rajya Sabha adjourned for 10 minutes at 2.30 pm.

The Insurance Amendment Bill 2021 seeks to increase the maximum foreign investment allowed in an Indian insurance company.  The Bill increases the limit on foreign investment in an Indian insurance company from 49% to 74%, and removes restrictions on ownership and control.

Lok Sabha | 2.00 pm

Lok Sabha resumes

Supplementary Demands for Grants is discussed.

Congress MP Jasbir Singh Gill talks about how funds are allocated in poll bound States and demands Punjab gets its shares. He talks about Punjab farmers who have their land across the border fencing. They can go to till their farms between 10am and 5pm. Supreme Court had ordered a compensation of ₹ 10,000 per acre per farmers to compensate such farmers. But no money has come after 2019.

He also talks about better compensation for people who give their land for national highways. Now, he is talking about reducing duties on components for manufacturers who make Electric Vehicles. He urges the government to give more importance to the Amritsar airport as it is a strategic place.

He talks about religious tourism, create facilities that can make tourists spend more than a day in Amritsar, it will help in improving the economy. He talks about tax holidays for a landlocked State like Punjab to push for industrialization like machine tools, cycles, high end clothing like jackets by Louis Vuitton and Zara, mentions Ludhiana as the Manchester of the East.

He mentioned the need of a cancer hospital.

Tapir Gao of BJP from Arunachal Pradesh says, “One year back, we were worried about saving 130 crore lives when other more advanced countries were struggling. In six months, we started exporting PPE kits. When Covid happened, our Finance Minister provided for ₹ 15,000 crore immediately.”

“Now, we have allocated ₹ 35,000 crore for vaccination.

Sometimes, it becomes difficult to even describe Mr. Modi by name as he seems to be a reincarnation of someone. If Modi ji was not there, Arunachal Pradesh wouldn’t have seen four lane. We need a road until Demchok.”

Mr. Gao says: “In West Bengal and Tripura tea workers were committing suicide but Modi government raised wages and saved them. It’s like divine intervention. Modiji enhanced rail connectivity in the north east, ₹ 1,10,000 crore allocation done for it. Under Gadkari, waterways are being set up even in places with no water.

Defence is a major ministry, 18.8% increase in allocation. If there had been a PM like Modi just after 1947, the India-China situation would not have been the way it is.” He demands a high court in each of the North Eastern states rather than the Guwahati high court affiliated high courts, stresses again on “avatar” like qualities of Mr. Modi.

Rajya Sabha | 2.00 pm

Rajya Sabha resumes

Vehicles scrapping policy

Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari gives a statement regarding vehicles scrapping policy.

“Vehicle scrapping policy will be ‘win-win’ policy; it will help reduce pollution. The policy will benefit scrapping centres, automobile industry, component industry and common man. India will become world no.1 manufacturing hub of all the brands that are being manufactured here. Scrap material that will be manufactured, will be useful in the production of electric vehicles. New vehicles will be light weight and the maintenance will also cost less. All the interest of stake holders will be kept safe.”

“Electric vehicles’ fuel efficiency is high, so it will help the common man as well. It will reduce the import of petrol and diesel and will help the economy.”

Manoj Kumar Jha of RJD requests discount of 5% could be made 15 to 20% on electric vehicles.

Tiruchi Siva of DMK says, “If we buy a refrigerator for ₹ 20,000, sometimes it can be sold only for ₹ 500. Middle class people cannot upgrade to a new vehicle. I appreciate the scrapping policy. The scrap value is 4 to 6%, the Minister could consider enhancing that.”

Minister Mr. Gadkari, replying to members, says that there is more saving these days with new products, new mileages and breaking systems. He says that accidents take more lives than COVID-19.

Rajya Sabha | 12.50 pm

Online learning

Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ says during the pandemic lockdown, the govt didn’t let down the students’ from learning, and that they took all the steps for education to strive. He also lists the availability of teachers for every student, in reply to a member’s question.

As members discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on poor children, AAP member Sushil Kumar Gupta asks if along with free books, uniforms, will the poor children get free mobile phones or laptops for continuing their education online.

Minister Mr. Pokhriyal said that even during the lockdown, for those students who do not have phones or computers, could continue their education with TVs and radios, depending on their demographic and the availability of such devices.

Mr. Gupta says AAP govt helps even private school children for books and other necessities. He asks if the govt does anything of that sort. Minister replies, but his time is cut short.

House adjourned till 2p.m.

Lok Sabha | 12.35 pm

Zero Hour

Congress MP Ravneet Bittu asks why Delhi is being reduced to a municipal corporation. Why are the people of Delhi being punished for Arvind Kejriwal’s faults? he asks.

Sushil Kumar Singh of BJP raises the issue of people committing petty offences languishing in jails despite getting bails or because they are unable to produce surety or collateral.

He said the government should think of changing the law to make it easy for poor people to come out of jail in bailable offences.

Dr. Alok Kumar Suman, Janata Dal United MP from Bihar, raises the issue of violence against doctors and asks for a new law on violence against doctors.

Agatha Sangma, National People’s Party MP representing Tura Lok Sabha seat in Meghalaya, raises the issue of Garo and Khasi language to be included into the 8th schedule.

Lok Sabha adjourned until 2p.m. for lunch.

Rajya Sabha | 12.25 pm

Crime against children and women

MP Vandana Chavan (Congress) asks a query on vacancies in central govt. institutions that are involved in combating crimes against women and children, and what are the steps being taken to fill these vacancies.

Union Minister Smriti Irani replies that this is a serious issue, and that related agencies are being fiscally supported, and cites data to support her point. In Tamil Nadu and Chennai, for instance, CCTV cameras were given for safety purposes. In Chennai, there are over 1,37,000 CCTV cameras operational, she says.

 

Be it establishment of CCTV cameras or fast track courts, or even child protection agencies, we periodically take it up with State govts, she says.

Lok Sabha | 12.15 pm

Now, papers are bding laid on the floor of the House.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari reads a statement on the Vehicles Scrapping Policy.

He says that a new vehicle scrapping policy is being started which will not only help vehicle owners to scrap their old cars but also get help them buy new vehicles. Scrapping centres on the lines of ship breaking yards will be put up.

The scrapping policy will help in reducing auto components price by 40% as old cars from smaller countries will come into India, he says.

The Minister asks MPs to use biofuel and electric vehicles as it will help reduce pollution.The notification for the new vehicle scrap policy will be notified in 30 days, and there will be an incentive for registration, he says.

If a vehicle fails fitness test, an end-of-life certificate will be issued. If any vehicle after 20 years is found unfit, it will be de-registered, he says.

Lok Sabha | 12.10 pm

Nama Nageswar Rao of TRS raises the issue of helping girls from poor families. Minister Naqvi replied that the Modi government has abolished practices like Triple Talaq for this.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari talks about creating world record of building 24 kms of metalled tar road in Maharashtra in 24 hours. He talks about giving priority to preventing accidents in every MP’s constituencies.

Mr. Gadkari says that COVID-19 has claimed 1,46,000 lives while accidents have claimed more 1,50,000 lives. More than 65 % of them were young lives, he says. He cites the example of Tamil Nadu which has reduced accidents in the State by 52% with the help of World Bank. The Minister urges the MPs to strive for Zero Accident Districts in their constituencies.

Rajya Sabha | 12.10 pm

Regulation of online content

G.C. Chandrashekhar (Congress, Karnataka) brings up the issue of Disha Ravi’s arrest in the toolkit case. “If the govt. isn’t supressing the voice of the citizens, then what is the reason for ordering such a ban on Twitter accounts,” he asks.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad says that India has over 140 crore online users on Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn etc. They are free to do business in India.

The govt. welcomes dissent, claims Mr. Prasad, and says that the issue is not of use of social media, but of misuse and abuse of the same.

Internet should not become monopoly of few, he says, and adds that the govt. has taken a position that any attempt to create imperialism of internet by few companies is not acceptable.

He says that Disha Ravi’s case is under judicial consideration, but the House should consider whether some people should be allowed to misuse social media to defame India on the global front.

Lok Sabha | 12 pm

Next is the turn of Ministry of Minorities Affairs to face questions from the members of the House.

Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi says the government follows development with dignity and empowerment without appeasement.

He gives out figures of beneficiaries under different schemes. For example, the beneficiaries under education empowerment rose from 3 crore before NDA government came to power to 4 crore after Modi government came to power, he says.

Thomas Chazhikadan, MP from Kerala Congress (M), asks to form a separate commission on the lines of Sachar Committee for Christians. Mr. Naqvi replies that 60 % of Kerala districts are covered by benefits of the Minorities Affairs Ministry.

Ravneet Bittu of Congress asks the Minister to take care of Sikhs in Jammu and Kashmir as they are the second largest minority in J&K. Minister Naqvi assures the member Sikh community are covered under notified minorties in J&K.

Rajya Sabha | 11.50 am

LPG connections

Vandana Chavan (NCP, Maharashtra) raises issues regarding LPG connections.

“According to a Lancet report, household air pollution claims lives of half a million Indians and is cause for major lethal diseases,” she says.

She appreciates the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana’s aim to distribute LPG connections and promote clean cooking fuel. She says it’s heartening to see the govt. claim 98% coverage in a short duration but many reports, including those commissioned by the govt., shows only 20% increase in the actual usage of clean cooking fuel from 2015-2020.

Lok Sabha | 11.40 am

Manish Tewari of Congress raises the issue of a pending project in Punjab. Biju Janata Dal MP Achyut Samanta asks a question on Bharatmala Project and its connectivity with Odisha.

BJP MP Rajeev Pratap Rudy raises queries about a road project and inland water project, and says he has written 17 letters between ministries. He asked the government to set up a monitoring cell for projects that are approved.

Dushyant Singh of BJP MP from Jhalawar asks if the government will devise a scheme for installing solar lights and pump for farmers.

Power Minister R.K. Singh says adequate funds have been provided to Rajasthan under different schemes to instal solar pump, and in production of solar energy by installing solar system in the fields of farmers. These solar panels can produce energy upto 2 megawatts and can be sold to power companies.

He says the government is aware that farmers are facing some problems in getting loans for these solar plants.

Rajya Sabha | 11.30 am

Special Mentions begin in Rajya Sabha

Dr. Amee Yajnik (Congress, Gujarat) speaks on the need for special arrangements for differently abled persons in educational institutions. They need special arrangements for mobility and independent functioning. Colleges should ensure that facilities like ramps and special toilets are available, and should make changes necessary to suit differently abled persons.

Lok Sabha | 11.20 am

Deepak Baij of the Congress asks about a road project to connect Raipur to Odisha and Vishakhapatnam. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari informs the House that a new ₹26,000 crore project is ready. The Minister adds that he has asked PM Narendra Modi to give time for Bhoomi Pooja.

Danish Ali of BSP raises the issue of toll booths in the middle of a municipal town at Garh Mukteshwar and Braj Ghat in U.P. that forces local people to pay toll. Mr Gadkari replies that some such tolls existed earlier as governments used to grant permission for them as “sweetener”. He says that all such tolls will be removed and GPS would be installed in vehicles that will automatically deduct the toll.

Rajya Sabha | 11.10 am

In the Upper House, matters are being raised with the permission of the Chair. 

On reservation in Anna University

P. Wilson of DMK says that the Central govt. is intervening in the reservation system in education, thus violating the federal structure guaranteed in the Constitution of India.

“In TN, we have 69% reservation in educational institutions by virtue of 1993 Act and is preserved in 9th Schedule. Anna University, which is a State university is bound by State reservation,” he says. He raises the issue that the biotechnology course in the University, which is being funded by the Central govt., has reduced the reservation from 69% to 27% from academic year 2020.

Lok Sabha | 11 am

Question Hour begins in the Lower House.

Congress MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla kicks off the session with the issue of heavy traffic on national highways to Amritsar-Pathankot section.

Responding to Mr. Aujla’s observation of heavy traffic in this area, Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari says a new expressway between Delhi-Amritsar-Katra that is being built will reduce the traffic load.

Hasnain Masoodi of National Conference asks a supplementary question with regard to Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

Agenda

Lok Sabha

Bill for Consideration and Passing

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

Discussion and Voting: Supplementary Demands for Grants

Rajya Sabha

Bill for Consideration and Passing

  • Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Discussion and Voting: Working of the Ministy

  • Ministry of Tourism
  • Ministry of Food Processing Industries


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