Parliament proceedings stay | Finance Minister introduces the Finance Invoice in Lok Sabha

The Rajya Sabha will take up The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, passed by the Lower House yesterday, for consideration and passing.

The Lower House will debate The Finance Bill, that will give effect to the financial proposals of the Central Government for the financial year 2021-22. The House will discuss The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, introduced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman yesterday.

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 | 2 p.m.

Muraleedharan, MOS Parliamentary Affairs, said, “We have to discuss the Appropriation Bill and the Budget of Pudducherry.”

Jairam Ramesh said that on October 28, 2020, the government released an Ordinance for Constituting Commission for Air Quality Management, but unfortunately, that Ordinance was allowed to lapse on March 12. This happens rarely, particularly in this government. The BAC has allotted 2-3 hours. We are in the fag end of the session, we have only two more days to go. I would like a clarification from the government on the Ordinance.”

MOS Finance moves The Appropriation Bill 2021, Budget of Union Territory of Puducherry, 2021-22, and The annual and Kashmir Appropriation Bill, 2021.

Shakti Sinh Gohil of the Congress said, “The government Budget figures show that there is a revenue deficit of 11 lakh crore. And I am sure that by the end of the financial year, they will cross this figure too. In 2020-21, the revenue deficit was more than six lakh crore. But when you revised it far exceeded it.”

Lok Sabha | 1.50 p.m.

Sunil Kumar Pintu (JDU) commends FM on the Budget. He commends the PM and the FM for not levying any new tax despite pandemic. “Exemption from filing returns for those above 75 years should be modified to those above 70 years, he said.

“Late fine on small business owners on GST should be waived and an outer limit on the quantum of the fine. The country’s traders filled the coffers of the government despite the pandemic and deserve some relief on compliance and quantum of GST.” He said that Bihar should also be given Special Category Status.

“Instead of splitting the costs on the schemes, the Centre and the States should divide schemes among themselves to be financed completely by one entity only. This will end cost escalation as bureaucracy extends red tape lead to wastage,” he said.

Lok Sabha | 1.40 p.m.

Vinayak Rout said, “Unfortunately 6.8 lakh companies in India have shut shops and 74% small businesses and more than 10,000 firms are closed.”

He said that employment should be at the centre of planning and that hotel and aviation sectors should be encouraged as employment generators on a large scale.

“Corporate sectors, on the other hand, saw a write off of ₹68,000 crore from the government. People have died because of the crises of the GST and pandemic. Nearly 71 lakh EPF accounts have been closed.”

He further said that the policy of privatisation being followed by the government is worrisome. “Does this government want to sell the country so that only “one nation, two men” are left standing,” he asked.

“We don’t object to PM buying an aircraft worth ₹7,500 crore but why deprive MPs of a few crore of MPLADS from which we help our constituents,” he said.

Lok Sabha | 1.30 p.m.

 

Mithun Reddy of the YSRCP said that advance GST payment should not be pushed just to harass private sector. Objections are being raised to selling profitable PSUs. He said, “I strongly oppose the privatisation of the Vishakhapatnam Steel Plant. It has a huge land bank and there are ways to leverage resources to deal with the debt. Even the Andhra Pradesh BJP has opposed privatisation of Vishakhapatnam Steel Plant.”

He further said, MSME has a fear psychosis with regard to the GST, which has had more than 900 amendments to the Act and has “confused” all. “Collection of tax should not choke businesses,” he said.

Vinayak Rout of the Shiv Sena said, “More than 100 supplementary amendments form part of the finance Bill which we are now debating. When the Budget was presented she delineated eight sectors as priority sectors and we agreed on priority areas.”

“The pandemic has played havoc with the economy and the society. In such a situation, the common needs to be at the Centre of any revival plan. The priority area with regard to agriculture was of doubling income. It shows that farmers are agitating on Delhi’s doorstep for the last three months. No attempts have been made to understand their issues, just words that farmers income needs to be doubled. This government is in fact most harsh on farmers.”

He said that diesel and petrol has been taxed at 2% additional cess in the name of farmers and that this hurts the farmers the most. “You have distributed gas cyclinders but priced it over ₹850 per month. PM had said that he would bring diesel and petrol under the GST, as did late Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, but it has not happened.”

“I hope the FM gives an assurance, in her speech, that it will be done.”

He commends the government on vaccine initiatives but said that it has to be distributed free to as many people as possible. “Public health systems need to be boosted and AYUSH needs to be encouraged.”

Lok Sabha | 1 pm

Rajendra Agarwal, continuing to speak, gives examples, “Setting up of category of aspirational districts, concentration of development of north east,” to prove his point that Mr. Modi ensured the development of everyone.

“The corona crisis was huge. The economy shrunk and common man suffered. But the government handled it well and the world saw our efforts.”

“When you (Congress) say that disinvestment goals may not be reached, you must acknowledge you left them unfit for disinvestment. Air India is just an example. I commend the Finance Minister for not introducing a single new tax in the budget.”

“In cricket, every century is important. But when the pitch is uneven, the century made then is more valued. The Finance Minister has made an extraordinary century this time around.”

Mithun Reddy of the YSRCP congratulates Ms. Sitharaman on the budget under difficult circumstances. It is a fine balance between fiscal and government spending. But having said that, I want to stress that the economy was going down from even before the pandemic onset.”

He requests the Minister to release funds due to States. “Nevar cyclone devastated the area. We request that Rs. 2270 crores be released soon. Under MGNREGA, Rs. 3000 crores is pending for material components and many BPL people are dependent on the scheme.”

For the last two years, Andhra Pradesh is eligible for Rs. 700 crores for backward districts, he says, requesting that the money be released.

“We were promised special category status under the AP Reorganisation Act. We need the promises made to us to be fulfilled. We are running on borrowed finances. We only have enough to pay salaries. States like AP, that implemented population control measures, are being punished now,” Mr. Reddy says.

If projects are delayed by more than two years, loss per year should be calculated, he says.

Rajya Sabha | 12.50 pm

Fauzia Khan of NCP asks if the government will train ASHA workers for digital operations. Dr. Vardhan syas, “There is no doubt that ASHA workers are the greatest asset in health delivery system. As far as online training is concerned, in the last one year, during the lockdown months, the training has been largely done online.”

Sukhram Singh Yadav of SP asks if the Centre has given any direction to the State governments to increase the pace of COVID-19 vaccination.

Dr. Vardhan says, “The Centre and the sSate governments are closely coordinating. Even recently, PM Modi had spoken to the State CMs.”

Mr. Yadav says, “Private hospitals in many cities, including Delhi, have got land on subsidised rates. But these hospitals do nothing for the poor. Is there a mechanism to address the problem?”

Dr. Vardhan says that Health is in the State list and they have the regulatory power.

Bhagwat Karad of BJP asks, “Will you increase vaccine distribution in States like Maharashtra where the number of COVID-19 cases are rising?”

Dr. Vardhan replies, “Each State has been provided with enough number of shots and they get more depending on their vaccine coverage.”

Ramgopal Yadav of SP asks what happens to those who are not getting the vaccine.

Dr. Vardhan says that the government had run a detailed campaign to deal with vaccine hesitancy.

The House is adjourned till 2:00 p.m. for lunch break.

Lok Sabha | 12.50 pm

Rajendra Agarwal of the BJP says, “In 2014, when PM Modi was elected, he declared his government was for the oppressed and the depressed, and for the empowerment of the poor and women. And the last seven years have been witness to it.”

He recounts Gandhiji’s talisman. “Congress now has nothing to do with Bapu. The “Gandhi” they follow is different. But PM Modi followed these tenets. Jan Dhan Yojana, DBT, etc., have restored confidence of the people that what is meant for them will reach them. All indices have reflected this change.”

Mr. Agarwal says, “There were two major mistakes the Congress governments made. One, the adoption of leftist policies for the economy, which led to license quota Raj, and corruption. We saw all this in the Soviet Union and in India too.Chaudhary Charan Singh stood against collectivisation of agriculture.

“The second was the blunder of 1962, which grew from this Leftist tilt. If anyone has forced China to remain in its territory, it is PM Modi. Liberalisation happened in 1991, but under international pressure. The result was that we grew as a market ,but not as a big manufacturing power.”

“The growth rate that we left in 2004 under Vajpayeeji, that of 8.4%, the UPA left it at 4.8% in 2014. We didn’t obfuscate or hide the truth. We have been transparent in our budgeting figures,” he says.

Amar Singh of the Congress intervenes to appreciate transparency in budget numbers.

Mr. Agarwal continues, “The Congress, in the past only pandered to their vote banks. Former PM declared that the first right on the country’s resources was of minorities. Can there be a worse example of vote bank politics? PM Modi spoke of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.”

Lok Sabha | 12.20 pm

Dr. Singh continues: “The C&AG has said, looking at 2018-19, Rs. 1.6 crores not given to those to whom it was due. What about revenue foregone after disinvestment of PSUs which contribute Rs. 1.5 lakh crores to you? Health outlays are too low, it is not even at last year ‘s levels. Why are you adding outlays for water and sanitation to the health budget? Many private hospitals shut shop and run away during the pandemic. Only government doctors, nurses abd ASHA workers did the real work and you haven’t referenced them in you budget. You need to also increase outlays for raising Human Resources in the health sector. 65-70% of all spending by people is on private sector in the health sector. That has to be brought down.”

“Malnutrition and anaemia has shown an increase and you need to address this. MGNREGA allocations last year were appreciated but why bring it down for this financial year?” says Dr. Singh.

He says, “An urban-based employment guarantee act is also required. Please restore MPLADS so MPs can help constituents. 1.6 to 2 lakh job losses were reported during the lockdown according to CMIE data. What are you going to do to address it? Capital expenditure under the NDA on defence is lower than that under UPA. Injustice has been done to Punjab. Our pending GST compensation hasn’t been paid. Pay it monthly, also extend compensation period to beyond 2022.”

“I demand that when you respond, you announce that you have increased allocations to health and for employment and to reduce cess on fuel.”

Rajya Sabha | 12.20 pm

Mr. Thakur responds, “Respected Member comes from the economic capital of the country and a while back the ruckus in the House was…” (ruckus in the House doesn’t let him finish at this point).

Deputy Chairman Harivansh insists that the Minister answer the questions only.

On the 59-minute loan platform, the Minister says, “we have already sanctioned Rs. 60,000 crores.”

Sonal Mansingh, Nominated Member, says, “Culture Ministry is an expert in giving vague answers. How many cultural institutions exist across the nation?”

Prahalad Patel, Tourism Minister responds, “All the necessary information has been given to the Members. I don’t agree with her statement that the Ministry gives wrong information.”

BJP MP Jyotiraditya Scindia asks the Minister to explain the steps taken by the government to make ASI profitable.

Narendra Jhadav, Nominated Member says, “Most museums in our country are no better than godowns. Has the government taken any steps with regards developing a financial model which will help the museums operate on funds they generate themselves?”

Mr. Patel replies, “I don’t agree with the Member’s description. Our museums have so many artifacts that only 6 to 8% of the artifacts can be displayed at one point of time.”

Iranna Kadadi of the BJP asks about the steps taken to counter anemia, specifically in context of Karnataka.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan says that up to 50% pregnant women are still anemic. “Despite so many years we have not been able uproot anemia. We are working in this direction.”

Lok Sabha | 12.10 pm

Papers being tabled in the House. Mentions under rule 377 being tabled.

Ravneet Singh Bittu of Congress says it has been 89 years since Bhagat Singh was martyred and, “I salute him on behalf of my party and country”. “Today, a big scheme should have been announced in Bhagat Singh’s name.”

MoS Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Meghwal requests that the Finance Bill be taken up first.

The Chair agrees.

FM Nirmala Sitharaman moves that the Bill to be taken into consideration.

Dr. Amar Singh of the Congress says, “I rise to oppose the Finance Bill on several points. We know the country is going through its toughest time through the ages. We know that while the government wants to push the blame on the pandemic, the fact is that the GDP was sliding even before that. We have been hit very hard by the pandemic as well. Employment, health, everything was hit. In the field of education, the digital divide emerged very starkly. The most important consequence  is the speed with which inequality is growing in our country.”

Mr. Singh continues, “Except agriculture, all sectors were hit, yet we are only looking at organised sector data. NSSO should have been asked to do a survey on the unorganised sector as well. When lockdown occurred, it was this non-formal sector that was hit. The migrant crisis has not been referenced at all. Some rebound has to take place after a lockdown but the real question is when we will go back to pre-2020 levels. You may say that you spent, spent, spent but the truth is, you have taxed the poor and let off the rich.”

“Rs 1.5 lakh crore of corporate tax was let off by you in 2019-20. Your government is only giving tax relief to the rich. You are centralising taxes, you have increased cess and surcharges that amount to 24% of revenue. You keep them with you, and don’t share with States that spend 60% of the money. Where do you want to take the states?” he asks.

Lok Sabha | 12.10 pm

Mithun Reddy of YSRCP says in 2014, the NDA manifesto promised special status to Andhra Pradesh. “The Act is for 10 years, and seven years have already gone. We don’t want a package we only want Special Status.”

Mr. Rai says, “I have clarified earlier that most issues are those that have to be resolved between the States of AP and Telangana. I Request both States to resolve these issues.”

NaMo Nageshwar Rao of TRS says, “There is no such issue between the two States, the pending issues are all concerned with the Centre. Since you asked for specific issues, I ask, when are you giving a rail coach factory to Kazipet?”

Mr. Rai responds, “We are not saying there is a fight, but issues.”

Question Hour ends.

Rajya Sabha | 12.05 pm

Question Hour begins.

GST collection has increased in last three months, says MOS Finance, Anurag Thakur. “The measures taken by by government over the last year to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the economic activity.”

Ayodhya Rami Reddy says, “I would like to know about the consortium of lenders to recover the NPAs and the centre’s road map about NPAs.”

Mr. Thakur says that there has been a reduction in gross NPAs. “More than 2.34 lakh crores has been recovered.”

“The Insolvency, Bankruptcy Code that we brought in has helped in NPA recovery. Banking has vastly improved from phone banking to digital banking. We have brought in a great deal of transparency,” Mr. Thakur says.

Neeraj Dangi of the Congress asks, “Will the government explain if public sector banks will also bring in digital banking like the private banks.”

Mr. Thakur responds, “7 out of the 12 public banks have been taken up on priority to introduce digital lending.”

Vijay Sai Reddy of YSR Congress asks how the public sector banks will help rural customers. Mr. Thakur says that banking is available in regional languages.

Anil Desai of Shiv Sena says the platform for providing and processing loans in 59-minutes has miserably failed.

Rajya Sabha | 12 pm

Rajeev Satav of Congress says the Bombay High Court should be renamed as Mumbai High Court. “This request has been pending for a long time,” he says

BJP MP Sushil Modi says, “I had given a notice to discuss the Maharashtra police.”

Chairman Naidu appeals to all Members to sit down and asks that no slogans be raised in the house. “I have not allowed it. This is not going on record.”

Mr. Naidu tries to bring the House in the order as the Treasury Benches begin protests.

“I am just stepping inside the House,” Mr. Naidu says. Deputy Chairman Harvansh is in the chair now.

Both, NCP leader Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, were present inside the House at the time of protests by the BJP Members.

Rajya Sabha | 11.45 am

Chaya Verma, Congress: under the eco fuel policy if the centre the Chhattisgarh govt makes ethanol. We have urged in the past too that ethanol produced from paddy should be given the same rate as ethanol manufactured by the sugarcane industry

Vijay Pal Singh Tomar of BJP asks that Hastinapur be made part of Sri Krishna tourist sector. “This area needs a rail line.”

Manoj K. Jha of RJD says, “I demand for the institution of a Bhagat Singh Chair. It is unfortunate that his ideas of universal brotherhood are little understood. Instituting a chair in his name in every central university will help us understand Bhagat Singh and his philosophy better. Bhagat Singh’s idea regarding democracy should  be studied.”

Lok Sabha | 11.45 am

Jagadambika Pal of BJP asks if the government would consider direct cash transfer to farmers on fertiliser rather than to companies. “The committee set up on this has yet to come up with a plan.”

Mr. Gowda responds that the government’s intention is direct cash transfer to farmers, but several things need to debated and discussed. “The Committee under Cabinet Secretary met and discussed, but we must consult with stakeholders on how this can be done.”

Mr. Pal says, “My question was on when all these discussions will fructify.”

Mr. Gowda responds that several States have already given their opinion. “And, within a short time, we should be able to come to a decision on how this is to be done.”

Feroze Varun Gandhi of BJP says transfers to farmers were more productive during sowing season than non sowing seasons. “Are we therefore looking at cropping pattern for DBT?” Mr. Gowda says that that is an issue of the Agriculture Ministry.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal of Akali Dal asks, “Which stakeholders have you consulted on Direct Cash Transfer on fertilisers in Punjab?”

Mr. Gowda says, “I can spell out specific suggestions when the report is finalised.”

Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarappu of TDP says, “I have received an insulting and brief answer to my detailed question to the Home Ministry on the AP Reorganisation Act. Is the Minister willing to publish a white paper on this?”

Nityanand Rai, MoS Home, says, “Answer has been clear. There are many issues that governments of AP and Telangana have to sort out between themselves and the Home Ministry has done a lot to facilitate it.”

“The issues that are pending are mostly those concerning bilateral resolution between the two State governments, rather than the Centre.”

Mr. Naidu says, “When the bill was passed in 2014, AP was promised Special Status, former PM, current PM both promised.”

Mr. Rai says, “The 14th Finance Commission had spelt out that no State will be accorded the special status but a special financial package had been given to AP.”

Lok Sabha | 11.30 am

Meenakshi Lekhi of BJP says auto-immune diseases are on the rise, “due to gluten-filled flour. Gluten is being added even to millets and coarse grains to make it easy to knead. Is there any step being taken to prevent this?”

Mr. Rupala replies that a decision to celebrate millets via an international millets day has been taken and “we are in the process of promoting millets and coarse grains”.

Uday Pratap Singh of BJP speaks on imports of fertiliser. “Can the use of chemical fertiliser be disincentivised?”

Sadananda Gowda, Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, says many steps have been taken to discourage chemical fertilisers and to encourage organic fertilisers. “A plan has been prepared for an increased push for nano fertilisers.”

Manish Tewari of Congress says the government is going ahead with disinvestment in National Fertilliser Limited. “Can the fund raised by this not be sent to the consolidated fund of India but to encourage use of green fertilisers?”

Mr. Gowda says the suggestion is well taken, and adds, “So far, disinvestment has not been initiated.”

Chitta Anuradha of YSRCP speaks about private sector participation in FPI. Mr. Rupala says there are plans afoot and “please apply via States”.

Rajya Sabha | 11.30 am

Amar Patnaik of BJD says women farmers continue to be invisible. “There is stereotypical male-dominated leadership even iners’ the present farm agitation. The women farmers have to be recognised. Only 30% of these women farmers have land rights.”

Prasanna Acharya of BJD says, “Today is the day, 100 years back, Mahatma Gandhi came to Odisha for the first time. Three years later, he came again, this time to Sambhalpur Railway station. The Railway Ministry has decided to permanently shut down this station. Widespread agitation is going on in the region against this decision. The station has been in existence since 1895.”

Lok Sabha | 11.20 am

Sanjay Jadhav of Shiv Sena asks if a seed bank will be opened in Parbhani (his constituency).

Mr. Rupala  replies, “I would like the MP to share with me the difficulty of the farmers in his constituency in accessing seeds. We ask each State, a year in advance, on stocks required and provide for the same. So please apply within time to the State government.”

Raghuram Krishna Raju of YSRCP says FPO is a good concept, “is there is any plan by the Centre to initiate a seed revolution via FPOs?”

Mr. Rupala again tells the MP this is a good suggestion. “Our basic problem is that we have a large number of small holdings. To improve collective bargaining, the FPO concept was floated. Currently, seed corporation of India and in States are doing the job of seed production. If FPOs want to join, that can be allowed.”

Darshana Jardosh of BJP says sarpanches have been empowered under various schemes, “but what about zila and taluka panchayats?” Mr. Rupala says this has been addressed under 15th Finance Commission.

Rajya Sabha | 11.10 am

Dr. L. Hanumanthaiah of Congress says the U.T. of Lakshadweep has about 70,000 population with a very low crime rate. “The implementation of Prevention of Anti-Social Act (PASA Act) in the U.T. would infringe upon the people’s consitutional rights,” he says, since “the existing laws are more than enough to deal with the crimes happening in the territory. “The Act should be kept in abeyance.”

M. Thambidurai of AIADMK says, “The AIADMK has always stood by people fighting for justice and equality. Not just Tamils in Sri Lanka, but we extend support to those fighting for human rights in other countries like Palestine. How do we establish peace? Peace can be established only by bringing the accused to justice. I urge the government to vote in favor of UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka.”

Jaya Bachchan of the SP says, “We have spoken multiple times about manual scavengers, and yet, there has been only a marginal improvement. It is a pity that we are still talking about death of manual scavengers. Why can’t we get them protective kits? We are talking about going to Mars. And yet, we still employ manual scavengers. This is a national embarrassment.”

Lok Sabha | 11.05 am

Question Hour begins.

Vishnu Dutt Sharma of BJP speaks on provisioning of gram sabhas with computers in Khajuraho under Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Yojana.

Parshottam Rupala, MoS Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, says information has been provided. He gives details of funds, specifically accruing to 300 gram panchayats in Madhya Pradesh.

Mr. Sharma says, “according to information by Minister, no computers have been provided to Khajuraho. Will that be done now? Also will a computer operator be appointed?

Mr. Rupala asks Mr. Sharma to apply to the State government for specific allocation.

Poonam Madam of BJP says that zila panchayat and taluka panchayats also require funds for the same. Mr. Rupala responds that panchayats have been directly given funds under the 14th Finance Commission. “Zila parishads felt left out. So, under the 15th Finance Commission, funds will be given to them.”

Rajiv Pratap Rudy of BJP says Rs. 1.5 lakh is being given to gram panchayats for computerisation. “Are there plans for coordinating for auditing by MPs?” Mr. Rupala says this is a good suggestion made by Mr. Rudy.

Ajay Bhat of BJP asks a question on seed banks. “I want to know whether any scheme for seed banks are in the pipeline in hill States like Uttarakhand for preserving their traditional agriculture?”

Mr. Rupala says no such proposal is thought of currently. “But 1806 local variety of seeds have been registered and preserved.”

Mr. Bhat asks id there is any proposal to set up a centre for promoting organic agriculture in Uttarakhand. Mr. Rupala responds, “For hilly States, there is a tradition of organic agriculture. Schemes are already in place for promotion of organic agriculture.”

Rajya Sabha | 11 am

Rajya Sabha proceedings begin for the day.

Chairman Venkaiah Naidu makes a reference to the 90th anniversary of martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.

“The trio have become household names for valour and patriotism,” he says, and adds they are an inspiration for the entire nation.

Members stand in silence as a mark of respect.

Lok Sabha | 11 am

Lok Sabha convenes for the day.

Kirit Solanki is in the chair. He reads out a homage to Bhagat Singh. Two minutes silence is observed in the House.

Legislative Business

Lok Sabha

Bills for consideration and passing

The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021

The Finance Bill, 2021

Rajya Sabha

Bills for consideration and return

The Appropriation (No. 2) Bill, 2021

The Appropriation Bill, 2021

The Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bill, 2021

The Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation (No.2) Bill, 2021

The Puducherry Appropriation Bill, 2021

The Puducherry Appropriation (Vote on Account) Bill, 2021

Bill for consideration and passing

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021

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