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Parliament proceedings | March 17, 2021

March 17, 2021 09:43 am | Updated March 18, 2021 12:44 am IST

Dr Sanjeev Kumar from YSR Congress says Covid vaccine will be effective for 6 to 9 months.

Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are, on Wednesday, scheduled to discuss and vote on various ministerial matters, including demand of grants and working of Railways, Tourism, and Food Processing Industries ministries.

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

Here are the latest updates:

Lok Sabha | 8.45 pm

Jasbir Singh Gill, INC, says more number of people have died in the country due to cancer, mental health issues than COVID-19.  He asks the government to take proper steps to prevent this.

Next member speaks about the drug  smuggling in border areas of Chhattisgarh-Odisha.

L ok Sabha adjourned till 11.00 a.m. on Thursday. 

8.35 pm

Lok Sabha MP asks govt. not to waste ₹35,000 crore on COVID-19 vaccination

Presenting a contrarian perspective on COVID-19 vaccination, a Lok Sabha MP on Wednesday asked the government not to waste ₹35,000 crore on the inoculation drive and instead use the money in improving the health infrastructure in the country.

Participating in a discussion on demands for grants of the Health Ministry, YSRCP member Sanjeev Kumar Singari argued that vaccination is a waste of money as universal vaccination is neither possible nor warranted.

"Now the government is proposing to spend ₹35,000 on COVID-19 vaccination, this is a waste of money in my view. COVID-19 vaccine saves us only for 6-9 months after that ₹35,000 crore will be evaporated," Mr. Singari said.

He also noted that crises like COVID-19 occur once in 100 years, so the government should not give much importance to the coronavirus pandemic. - PTI

Lok Sabha | 8.15 pm

Rohingyas entered country due to lack of proper border fencing: Tapir Gao

Tapir Gao, urges the government to fence the 1,643 km long border between India and Myanmar.

The BJP MP from  Arunachal East says once this fencing is done it will reduce smuggling related activites. Today Rohingyas are located throughout the country and it is because there was no fencing in that border.

He adds whatever is happening in Myanmar is China’s conspiracy.

K. Ram Mohan Naidu says that the government instead of strengthening govt banks, they are privatising them.

Chandeshwar Prasad of JD(U) demands better rail connectivity in his constituency Jahanabad.

Lok Sabha | 7.45 pm

Chandra Sekhar Sahu demands a Kendriya Vidyalaya in Odisha’s Berhampur.

DNV Senthilkumar says national helpline for children – 1098 should not be shifted under Ministry of Home Affairs. He adds that the move will mean that police personnel, instead of social workers, will answer the calls made to 1098, which might not be a comfortable situation for children. He requests the government to look into this.

7.30 pm

Rail employees advised to convert their debit, ATM cards to RuPay-based cards: Govt. to Lok Sabha

The railways has advised its over 12 lakh employees to convert their existing debit or ATM cards to RuPay-based cards, a move aimed at giving fillip to the 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' campaign and the 'Digital India initiative', Parliament was informed on Wednesday.

The railways was also facilitating promotion of this move, Union Minister Piyush Goyal said in a written reply in Lok Sabha.

Asked whether the railways has advised its 12.54 lakh workforce to convert their debit/ATM cards to RuPay-powered cards, the minister replied,"Yes, sir." "The zonal railways and production units have been asked to facilitate conversion of existing Debit/ATM cards issued to railway employees by banks to the RuPay-based cards in order to give boost under 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' and 'Digital India initiative'.

"All railways are facilitating the banks in their promotional activities and setting up camps to give wide publicity in this regard to encourage the employees to opt for RuPay cards. Apart from this, State Bank of India has also been advised to replace all existing imprest cards issued to Railway Imprest holders to RuPay-based imprest cards," Mr. Goyal said.

- PTI

Lok Sabha | 7.20 pm

Anubhav Mohanty of BJD points out that there are a lot of women still in prison who are facing trial.  He says 67.2 % prisoners are under trial.

Rajendra Agarwal extends House proceedings.

Rajya Sabha | 7.00 pm

Rajya Sabha adjourned till 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.

Lok Sabha | 6.50 pm

Arrange vaccination for athletes: Meenakshi Lakhi

Meenakshi Lakhi of BJP urges the government to arrange immediate vaccination for athletes participating in Olympics. She says only four months to the mega event is left whereas we haven’t started the procedure yet. Apart from players, coaches and team staffs needs to be vaccinated as well.

Hema Malini, BJP MP from Mathura demands better train connectivity to Aligarh and parts of South India.

Rajya Sabha | 6.35 pm

Sakaldeep Rajbhar of BJP, demands a Rajdhani express from Gorakhpur to New Delhi.

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal  is now responding to the discussion on the working of the Ministry. He thanked the railway workers who even in the time of pandemic worked tirelessly so that essential supplies reach us on time.

80% mail express trains are running now  and the government will gradually open up the rest, says Mr. Goyal.

Lok Sabha | 6.20 pm

Till 2003, there was only one AIIMS in Delhi. Five more were announced during the Vajpayee government. After 2014, when there only six not-fully developed AIIMS, we have brought it up to 22. In seven new AIIMS, it will have MBBS classes and OPD facilities have started.

National Centre for Disease Control's integrated surveillance programme is now going to cover all the district. 30 NCDC branches have been approved.  Integrated health information portal is being expanded.

Till 2014, CGHS (set up in early 50s) services were in 25 cities, they are now at 74 cities.  Four regional centres on the pattern of National Institute of Virology are being set up.

40.79 crore footfall in about 66,000 health and wellness centres opened under the Aayushman scheme so far. 64 lakh wellness and Yoga sessions have been organised at these centres.

14.35 crore have been given e-cards; 1.69 crore hospital admissions have been made so far under the Aayushman scheme. ₹20,960 crore have been made available for these hospital admissions. Performance based incentives to States. under National Health Mission assistance.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan replies to the discussion held on Demand for Grants under the control of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in the Lok Sabha on March 17.

Lok Sabha passes the Appropriation Bill.

Lok Sabha | 6.00 pm

3.50 crore vaccinations have been done so far in the country: Health Ministry

Responding to the criticism of the pace of vaccination, Dr. Vardhan says the day we had reached 3 million, in the entire world 8 million people were vaccinated. India's share was 36%.

About 3.50 crore vaccinations have been done so far in the country.. We are not providing vaccines to other countries at the expense of Indians, we have struck a balance with due care. We are no self-reliant with respect to PPT and diagnostic kits, ventilators within a year. From one laboratory, we have now reached 2,416 labs...all viruses are being isolated and genome sequencing is being done, a consortium has been set up for the purpose.

86 public medicine centres were set up from 2008 to 2014, today they are 7,500 centres.

People have so far saved ₹3,600 crore due to these centres, due to low cost of the medicines.

Rajya Sabha | 5.55 pm

Rajya Sabha Chairman accepts Swapan Dasgupta's resignation

Harivansh Narayan Singh, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha announces that the Speaker has accepted the resignation of MP Swapan Dasgupta, with effective from today (17th March).

Lok Sabha | 5.50 pm

As a Health Minister I am happy that the allocation has been increased for allied fields like sanitation, cleanliness, etc.

From the 4% health and education cess, 1% goes to the reserved non-lapsable fund PM Svasthya Suraksha Nidhi. By next year, 25,000 crore will be exclusively dedicated to health over and above the budgetary allocation. The PM this time held long brainstorming meetings with all the stakeholders in various related sectors after the budget was introduced and sought their suggestions for improvement. From April 1, all the health budget announcements will be implemented, the PM will himself monitor it. This is unique..he has done so in other departments as well.

Several members talked about the doctor-population ratio...in terms of reforms, we discussed and brought the National Medical Commission, we have passed long awaited bill on allied and healthcare professionals in Rajya Sabha which was being talked about since 1953.

In 2014, since independence, we had 381 medical colleges..in 2020, the figure reached 562..47.5% increase. UG seats  were increased from 54348 in 2014 to 84649 in 2020, an increase of 48%, PG seats increased from 30191 54275 (79%increase).

NEET examination was implemented across the country for entry into medical colleges.

Rules and procedures for setting up of medical colleges have been streamlined. 157 medical colleges are in various stages of development since 2014. In eight disciplines, new diploma courses have been started..

Rajya Sabha | 5.40 pm

BJP MP Rakesh Sinha, says earlier train used to run on papers not on tracks. But now railways have seen a drastic change under the leadership of PM Modi. The Prime Minsiter has made railways people centric.

We do development seeing our people not on what China does, adds Mr. Sinha.

Lok Sabha | 5.35 pm

Local, rural and urban bodies to be provided over ₹70,000 crore for strengthening healthcare systems

We have talked about creating 1.5 lakh health and wellness care centres, of which more than 66,000 have already been set up. About 35,000 of them became functional during the COVID period, says Mr. Vardhan.

Even if we talk about it under this broad parameter, in 2020-21 ₹94,452 crore was allocated as health budget, it has increased to over ₹2.23 lakh crore. This is not it, other measures have been taken in the health sector. Apart from this, under the PM Aatmnirbhar Svasthya Bharat Yojana ₹64,180 crore has been set aside for the next six years.

During Covid, test, track and treat formula was implemented..in the coming days, to face any pandemic situation, integrated public health labs at block levels are to be set up. For tracing, integrated health information portal is to be introduced.

For Point of entry surveillance, at 32 airports, 11 ports land crossing new public health units will be created, these measures are apart from the budget.

Local, rural and urban bodies to be provided over ₹70,000 crore for strengthening healthcare systems

₹35,000 crore has been arranged by the Finance Minister for vaccination. Pneumococcal vaccines which were available in only five States are now being supplied across the country.

From 2014, the percentage increase in budget allocation till 2020-21 is 95.99%. In terms of GDP% share, it has increased from 1.3% to 1.8%...the National Health Policy-2017 envisaged 2.5% by 2025, says the Health Minister.

Lok Sabha | 5.15 pm

Member Kuldeep Rai Sharma raises the issue of worsening sex ratio in Andaman & Nicobar.

Member Indra Hang Subba from Sikkim says people in the rural areas do not have access to better healthcare facility, he seeks at least one healthcare centre at the sub-division level.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan's statement:

About 26 members have taken part in the discussion, about 10 of them are doctors...today the Prime Minister held a video-conference with all the Chief Ministers, this might be 10th or 12th such meeting in the past one year.

The doctors know that health is a state of physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing of an individual and it is not merely the absence of disease of infirmity, this is the definition of WHO. In health, doctors will better appreciate that 80% health is about prevention, promotion and positive health and 20% is related to therapeutics. Our government's holistic approach has been like that since day one. The government should also strive to ensure that people don't fall ill.

Many members said the departments of water, sanitation, nutrition, Aayush, family welfare have been included...In November 2014, the Prime Minister had set up a separate department for Aayush, first in the history. If we are providing safe drinking water, ensure sanitation and make arrangements for nutrition to children, this takes care of majority of health issues.

Rajya Sabha | 4.50 pm

Jugalsinh Mathurji Lokhandwala of BJP says that during lockdown, our government has provided for migrant workers, helped them reach their homes, the railways helped transport vegetables and other essentials to people everywhere. "The first coach was built in Rae Bareli under Narendra Modi's government... We have to develop the country together. Toilets in railway stations and throughout the country became cleaner only with PM's Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan."

"Narendra Modi's government is the poor people's government."

Geeta alias Chandraprabha of BJP says Railway is a common man's reflection. "Few years back, bullet trains used to be a dream, but now, this dream is fulfilled. To make India 'atmanirbhar', we need our farmers to become self sufficient. I thank the FM for proper budget allocations on Railways. Even during such a pandemic, our govt brought up world's first hospital train."

Lok Sabha | 4.30 pm

Member Anupriya Patel says the allocation for research is quite low. "It should be at least 10% of the funds to be allocated for health."

Five States account for 85% of the live cases and some States are witnessing second wave, in poll-bound States/UT the government should step up vaccination.

Member Syed Imtiaz Jaleel also raises the issue of including other departments in the proposed budget allocation for health and wellbeing.

"Only 10% public healthcare centres are operating as per the set standards," he says citing a report.

The government envisages to vaccinate 30 crore, but as per estimate in one year only 10 crore people can be reached. Our people are dying, people are standing in queues, we are supplying vaccines to other countries, it should be done but only after our requirements are met. There is no effective scheme for people suffering from rare diseases.

E.T. Mohammed Basheer says it is quite an inadequate budget, raises the issue of imbalance in the availability of healthcare facilities between urban and rural areas. "Healthcare should be made affordable for common man. Steps should be taken to protect the rights of the patients."

Rajya Sabha | 4 pm

Neeraj Shekhar of BJP says that as many members ask about pending proposals, the Railway Minister is first doing all works that were pending from 30 years ago, and those are the projects that need to be done at first. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal nods in agreement.

Jharna Das Baidya of CPI(M) says: "The budget is once again an attack on the poor. The common man is affected. For 2 years, MPLAD funds are not there. In this year, the Railway Budget could not fulfil the aspiration of the northeastern regions."

Sanjay Singh of AAP asks government to help improve conditions for the railway staff and help travellers, porters in railway stations.

"Railway staff should also be named Corona warriors"

Dushyant Gautam of BJP says that railway staff should also be named Corona warriors. He said certain political parties who said that they will give free electricity, they will eradicate poverty, they removed the poor instead. Opposition protests. Mr. Gautam says that he didn't name any party or person.

Lok Sabha | 3.42 pm

Dr. Gaddam Ranjith Reddy of TRS says out of all the 2.24 lakh crore allocated, other departments like drinking water and sanitation and Jalshakti have also been included, apart from ₹ 35,000 crore for Covid vaccines. Exactly the allocation is 9.8% less in 2021-22 compared to 20-21 for health.

Member Satya Pal Singh says more allocations should be made to promote Yoga and basic healthcare training. There should be R&D on Vascular and Yagna science, he says.

Member Hasnain Masoodi supports the demand for grants, he says that Covid-19 crisis should have acted as a wake-up call, "but it does not appear to be the case from the allocations proposed. In reality, we have downslided...it is about 11% less than the last fiscal...in NHM there is only 4% increase. After initial negligence re Covid situation, the situation was brought under control."

"The objective of strengthening the primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare system may not be achieved with the kind of allocations that have been made. He lays emphasis on the two major health issues of diabetes and critical kidney complications, seeking government's attention in this regard.

The proportion of doctors, hospitals and beds is less compared to the infrastructure available in our neighbouring States. Asha workers are being discriminated against."

Member Preneet Kaur says, "The budget has apparently an enhanced allocation, but largely on account of subsuming other departments. Under Aayushman Bharat scheme, the coverage should be increased further, she says. In Punjab, only 14 lakh of the 60 lakh families have been covered under the scheme. She demands increase in the pay for Asha workers. She suggests augmentation of primary healthcare facilities, curative facilities in secondary healthcare centres. She seeks release of ₹ 200 crore to Punjab for effective Covid management."

Member Jayadev Galla: "We need to involve private companies and institutions to speed up the vaccination process, particularly in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic being witnesses in some States."

Rajya Sabha | 3.09 pm

Discussion on Ministry of Railways continues.

P. Wilson of DMK says private trains are desired by Railways in prime routes. "Prime routes have been given to private players. If private players decide to carry only upper class passengers, then railways will lose revenue to a great extent. The Railways are building dedicated freight corridors. In the recent budget, the FM announced about monetizing these corridors. If these routes are put into use, then it will be run by private players. After privatisation, the prices of different AC chairs are increased."

"The budget does not allow Railways to improve in Tamil Nadu." He requests an ample amount be granted for rail networks in Tamil Nadu.

Dr. Banda Prakash of TRS says there was an assurance given that Indian Railways will improve rail connectivity in Telangana. "In July 2018, Rajnath Singh answered us that the govt is committed for the implementation. But now, an RTI activist applied to ask about the status. We got a reply that no more coach factories are required by Indian Railways and in the foreseeable future."

Prof. Manoj Kumar Jha of RJD says, "Railways makes up a person's life, movies are made, people live in it. The word monetisation has become popular. This is a new slogan in the 'atmanirbhar' move. Project sanctioned expenditure should be done with an independent watchdog. Many issues with local trains are ignored." He questions the privatisation move.

Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar of TDP says, "Andhra Pradesh has to be given priority since it is newly formed. Railways ignores Amaravati line, citing lack of support from the present state govt. He says no allocations are made and Guntur station is to be given facilities. There are many development projects pending. Passengers are awaiting these moves."

Lok Sabha | 3.10 pm

Discussion on demands for grants under the control of Health Ministry resumes.

Dr. Rajashree Mallick appreciates the Narendra Modi-led Central government and the Odisha Government for effective Covid-management.

She demands second AIIMS in Sundargarh, Odisha, release of pending funds for medical colleges, increased support for more effective functioning of national health mission programme, a super-speciality hospital in Paradwip.

Member DNV Senthilkumar S. says it has been a consistent demand for increasing GDP share on health up to 4%, developed countries like UK have their GDP share on health up to 8%.

"Especially during the times of pandemic like Covid, we expected the government to increase its GDP on health to at least to what the national policy-2017 had recommended to 3%. Unfortunately, it is only 1.8%. The 15th Finance Commission had suggested allocation of ₹1,06,000 crore for health, compared to that a little over ₹71,000 crore has been allocated.

There is a slight increase this year compared to last year, but other departments have also been brought under it.

"I appreciate the government's initiative of vaccination drive, for developing country like India, vaccination should be made free.

During Covid we have noticed that a lot of Ayush drugs being used, there are very strong Ayush practitioners, like Ayurveda in Kerala, Siddha in Tamil Nadu, the problem is that we have to document all the evidence, there should be proper clinical trials and scientific evidence and budgetary allocation should be made on these Ayush drugs so that they can be exported after due approvals.

"We had expected for the frontline warriors a tax rebate for this financial year, sense of appreciation should be extended to them. IMA has come up with records of more than 600 frontline workers who died during the fight against Covid.

Urges the government to issue the promised compensation of ₹ 5 lakh and job to the families of the frontline warriors who lost their lives.

"Tamil Nadu gives 50% reservation to OBCs in UG and PG courses, but for the all-India quota, not even one representation is there for the quota," he says. For super-especiality, there is no reservation, that too should be considered.

On NEET

Tamil Nadu is against NEET exams for three reasons. The then TN government abolished the entrance exam so that people from rural areas need not take coaching...around 1,500 students from rural areas were able to get medical education. But after NEET came, one needs to spend around two years to get into a medical college...there is a vast gap between the State and Central syllabus, putting the students at a disadvantage.

"Around 15 children have lost their lives.

We would like the government to abolish the (exam)...he urges the Minister to amend the law. The argument that NEET has stopped use of black money in private medical colleges is wrong, there are instances where students with single-digit marks in subjects and getting into private colleges for about ₹ 20 lakh per annum."

"Private medical colleges are having a free-run and the poor people are the sufferers.

"Regarding AIIMS in Madurai is a long pending issue, the Prime Minister had laid the foundation in 2017...Tamil Nadu is being given step-motherly treatment. People of Tamil Nadu are very clear, they know who to give mandate..."

 

Lok Sabha | 2.48 pm

Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar's statement on India's vaccine Maitri initiative

The thinking behind this initiative is that Indians we are naturally internationalists by virtue of our culture, traditions, heritage and history, we never seen a contradiction between the internationalism and nationalism that was the driver of our independence movement.

This experience has even further reinforced our internationalism, by creating a stronger solidarity with other nations who have similarly struggled for their freedom. In recent years, as democracy struck deep roots, we have found our own cultural expressions that define us in a diverse world, we have become even stronger voices of international cooperation and solidarity.

Many of us share these sentiments and belief, the challenge of policy making is to give that a shape.

In this respect, PM Modi's vision has provided an overarching framework to make our goodwill meaningful in terms of practical initiatives and activities.

We already saw that in our humanitarian assistance and disaster response in Yamen, Nepal, Mozambique and Fiji, as a result in the recent years, India's image has developed as a first and reliable first responder in the region.

We saw that too in critical negotiations of global importance like the Paris Agreement, where we had a key bridging role. Or indeed in the International Solar Alliance or the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, two notable initiatives envisioned by the Prime Minister. When it came to Africa, we raised the level of our cooperation very substantially at the IAFS-3 Summit in 2015. Our projects, training and presence has today spread widely across that continent. From the Caribbean to the Pacific Islands, the message has been clear that the Prime Minister of India not only has the willingness to engage them personally, but to back that up with concrete development programmes. It is this outlook of human-centric global cooperation that is the driving force of Vaccine Maitri.

Even as the Covid pandemic was in full fury, there were already global demands of our pharmaceutical and medical capabilities. If we could meet them, it was largely due to the extraordinary ramp up of our Covid-related capabilities with which the House is familiar. We are all cognizant of the low fatality rates and the high recovery rates that resulted from the Prime Minister’s leadership and the Government’s focused efforts. But there was an external beneficial impact of our capabilities as well.

India could meet the spiking requirements of hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol and other relevant drugs across the world. In fact, we supplied 150 nations with medicines, 82 of them as grants by India. As our own production of masks, PPEs and diagnostic kits grew, we made them available to other nations as well. This generous approach, so characteristic of our culture, was also extended to the Vande Bharat Mission. Starting from Wuhan, we brought back nationals of other countries while looking after our own.

The House would, therefore, appreciate that as we contemplated the prospect of vaccination against Covid-19, a similar approach was natural. Our domestic vaccination programme started in January 2021 and within a few days, we also started assisting our immediate neighbours.

The basis for doing so was the assurance that Prime Minister gave in his virtual address to the UN General Assembly in September 2020. On that occasion, he declared that India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis. We also offered to enhance cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of vaccines. This approach is not only in keeping with our age-old tradition of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, as I have noted earlier. It is also the contemporary outlook of this Government to utilize India’s growing capacities for the benefit of humankind. As a prominent nation in an increasingly multi-polar world, the international community has greater expectations of us, and we, in turn, are prepared to demonstrate our willingness to shoulder greater responsibilities.

From the very beginning, India has always believed that the pandemic threatens the entire humanity and that the rightful response would be a collective one. Accordingly, as early as 15 March 2020, Prime Minister took the initiative to hold a meeting of SAARC Heads of Governments to fashion a regional response. An important outcome was the creation of the SAARC COVID-19 Fund that supported the early exchanges on this issue within the region. We then held workshops and training courses to strengthen capacities for handling vaccines and other aspects of public health and COVID-19 management. Most recently, that was followed up by a meeting of our senior health officials of the region on 18 February 2021. They shared the outcome of their deliberations with Prime Minister, who urged a special visa scheme for doctors and nurses, coordinating a regional air ambulance agreement, a platform for studying data on the effectiveness of vaccines and a network for technology-assisted epidemiology for preventing future pandemics.

Our efforts, of course, went well beyond the neighbourhood when it came to online training and capability building. The Ministry of External Affairs conducted 14 e-ITEC courses in partnership with premier institutions like AIIMS and PGI Chandigarh. There was even an exclusive one conducted in Bangla for Bangladeshi professionals. And one by Armed Forces Medical Services for the military doctors in South-east Asia. These 14 courses had a total of 1131 professional participants from 47 countries.

In planning and executing Vaccine Maitri, we are naturally guided by a determination to make a difference at a difficult moment for global society. Our reputation as the ‘Pharmacy of the World’ has been reinforced in that process. So indeed has the faith in ‘Make in India’. But more than the vaccines themselves, our policies and conduct have emerged as a source of strength for the stressed and vulnerable nations of the world. They can see that there is at least one major nation that truly believes in making vaccines accessible and affordable to others in dire need.

The House should be aware that the supply of vaccines abroad is based on the assessment of adequate availability at home. This is continuously monitored and takes into account the requirements of our domestic vaccination programme as it unfolds in different phases. An empowered Committee oversees this entire process.

Quite appropriately, Vaccine Maitri began in the immediate neighbourhood, starting with the Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, as also Mauritius and Seychelles. The extended neighbourhood followed thereafter, especially the Gulf. Supplying smaller and more vulnerable nations was then the logic of reaching out to regions from Africa to the CARICOM. There was also contracts that our producers have entered into with other nations, either bilaterally or through the Covax initiative. To date, we have supplied ‘Made in India’ vaccines to 72 nations across geographies.

The House should recognize the enormous feeling for India that our initiative has generated. Those sentiments have naturally been expressed by leaders and prominent personalities of many nations. But more than that, our Ambassadors feel every day the warmth of ordinary people across the world for India. In the truest sense, this has been people-centric diplomacy at work. The world sees not just the selfless outlook of India but also of the quality of our products and capabilities. The Covid pandemic has been a test of fire for all of us. But I can confidently state that even in the midst of a global crisis, the Prime Minister’s initiative of such deep friendship has raised India’s standing and generated great international goodwill for us.

Rajya Sabha | 2.19 pm

Discussion on Ministry of Railways begins.

Opposition members troop into the well of the house. AAP MPs protest against National Capital Territory Bill (Amendment) Bill, 2021 introduced in the Lok Sabha.

After the protest, Sujeet Kumar of BJD says that freight traffic should be rationalised and optimised, connectivity be improved in NE and J&K.

Ram Vichar Netam of BJP applauds Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, says that Mr. Goyal has done thorough work free of tension, despite the atmosphere of uncertainity. He says that a great service was done to migrant workers to help them reach their homes. All the special trains that ran in mission mode is not an easy task. He appreciates the Railway Minister's unrelenting efforts.

Naranbhai J. Rathwa of INC says that before lockdown, when there was a discussion in Parliament on Ministry of Railways, we could always expect a new rail line or any new project for development. He says that now he feels the respect on the Ministry of Railways has come down. "In the last 7 years, the talk of privatisation has come up for Indian Railways. During UPA regime, railway infrastructure was improved. It is not that the Railways picked up projects after BJP came to power."

"This is the first time private parties are allowed to run trains. This doesn't help the poor. I don't think the government can gain with this new move. Centre should not privatise Railways."

Lok Sabha | 2.09 pm

Discussion and voting on Demands for Grants under the control of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for 2021-22

On allowing Ayurvedic doctors to do surgery

Dr Sanjeev Kumar from YSR Congress lauds the government efforts in containing COVID-19 despite lacunae. As a doctor, he argues Covid vaccine will be effective for 6 to 9 months. "The ₹ 35,000 crore for vaccination could be a waste. The money should be spent on primary healthcare."

The YSR Congress MP questions the government policy of allowing Ayurvedic doctors to do surgery. He said it threatens the respectability of Indian doctors globally.

Dr Heena Gavit of BJP says, "If we had not gone for a complete lockdown, we can't even imagine how it would have impacted in terms of infection."

"In Jan 2020, there was only one testing lab in the country for Covid, in one year 2410 labs have been set up...now the situation is that India has conducted the second highest tests in the world."

"An online training portal was launched for the training of frontline workers...60-million strong Covid warriors were prepared, Aarogya Setu App was introduced to strengthen the contact tracing process, evolving hotspots were identified for better management."

"The work of vaccine research was also under way, as a result we now have two vaccines..ours is the world's largest vaccination drive. R&D work for the vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech has been done in India under the aatmnirbhar programme."

"Covid-19 vaccination utilises the infrastructure of the universal vaccination programmes, a unique CoWin platform has been set up for effective management of the vaccination drive, 2.10 crore have been vaccinated so far."

"The Finance Minister announced a Centrally-sponsored health scheme with an outlay of ₹ 64,180 crore over six years to strengthen the primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare centres, along with the provisions for existing and future national institutions for cure of new and emerging diseases. Support is to be given to over 17,000 rural and more than 11,000 urban wellness centres."

"Drinking water and sanitation is also important, around ₹ 60,000 crores have been allocated for that."

Rajya Sabha | 2.00 pm

Rajya Sabha resumes.

Shakti Sinh Gohil raises point of order, permission is denied.

Our reputation as pharmacy of the world has been reinforced, says Jaishankar

EAM S. Jaishankar makes a statement: "As Indians we are naturally internationalists". He makes a statement on Vaccine Maitri initiative. When it came to Africa, we raised the level of cooperation substantially. There was an external beneficial impact, India could manufacture HCQ and other medicines, supplied medicines to 150 countries. We brought back nationals of other countries from Wuhan. Vaccine progamme started in January 2021 and we started helping other countries. The basis of this was PM's address to UN general assembly in 2020."

"We also enhanced cold storage facility for delivery of vaccines. The international community has great expectation of us. As early as March 15, 2020, PM took the initiative of SAARC nations, the funds helped the region, on February 18 meeting of SAARC health officials, asked for a special visa scheme for doctors and healthcare, sharing technology. Exclusive session was conducted in Bangla by MEA for Bangladesh officials."

"Our reputation as pharmacy of the world has been reinforced. Made-in-India vaccines supplied to 72 nations. Our ambassadors feel the warmth of people across the world.

Jairam Ramesh of Congress says: "I hope minister recognises the roots of 2014 success to the previous year. the FERA was set up in 1973, we had huge investments in science and technology in public institutes, Bharat biotech Covaxin was developed in an institute in Hyderabad set up 16 years ago by public funds. while we pat ourselves on our back, let us recognise there has been a continuity, the foundation laid in past few decaded. The minister knows this history very well."

Binoy Viswam of CPI says: "We did not become pharmacy of India recently, charity has to begin from home. What about the poor in India? for them they can assure that help will reach?"

Anand Sharma of Congress: "We must place the contribution of our institutes built over decades such as ICMR. India became pharmacy of the world. We are the largest vaccine manufacturer."

Jaishankar says: "You will recall the saying, success has many fathers. Too many fathers claiming success today. They want to praise the initiative but going about in a roundabout manner. All of us know the enormous efforts of government in getting vaccine prices lowered, lowest in the world, it is available to many people."

 

Lok Sabha | 1.30 pm

Rajeev Ranjan (Lalan) Singh of Janata Dal (United) says, "This government has done excellent work. There will be Opposition and Ruling Party views but on certain issues there should never be any politics. Corona pandemic was one such issue but the Opposition was doing politics."

Mr. Singh to Opposition: "You should ask for forgiveness for politicising the issue. You ridiculed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to boost morale by asking people to clap and beat pots and pans."

The JDU MP says India has become self sufficient by making ventilators, by providing PPE kits, testing centres and kits, 1.5 million beds, 80,000 ICUs. "What were you talking about vaccine being abroad? Don't we have international obligation?"

"Don't create panic in this country, create self belief among citizens. Vaccine is our achievement and we will certainly spread it across the world."

Lok Sabha | 1.00 pm

Lok Sabha resumes.

Congress MP Ravneet Bittu says Pakistan has increased the number of drones ever since the farmers' protests started in Punjab. He said, "Punjab has come out of a difficult situation in the past with great difficulties. If Punjab goes back to violence, the government will be blamed."

Mr. Bittu urges Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to intervene.

Papers being laid on the floor of the House.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents statements regarding supplementary Demands for Grants for Jammu and Kashmir and Puducherry.

The House will now start debate and voting on the Demands for Grants for Health and Family Welfare.

Manish Tewari is speaking from Congress, says, "The discussion is taking place at a time when the world is engulfed if not overwhelmed by the second wave of the virus. While China locked up its own cities, it kept open air travel and that's how it spread."

Mr. Tewari questions how a joint World Health Organization and China has absolved China. "WHO is currently chaired by India. I want to know if the WHO whitewash of China is with connivance of India," asks the Congress MP.

"That's why I was insisting on the presence of Health Minister during this debate. I hope India does not allow the proliferators of the virus and negligent China to go scot-free. That's the biggest responsibility for India."

The Congress said while only 3.48 core people have been vaccinated while 5.74 crore vaccines have been exported. "We need to question the vaccine lockdown." He questions the imposition of complete lockdown instead of micro-containment strategy.

"Epidemiologists became economists and economists became epidemiologists"

"With the benefit of hindsight, we need to revisit strategy." He said in the past one year, epidemiologists became economists and economists became epidemiologists. "While they couldn't flatten the curve, they managed to flatten the economy," Mr. Tewari said.

"Events of the past year have been forced us to take a relook at the laws (like Disaster Management Act and Epidemics Act)," he says and cites a 2017 bill that had factored in coronavirus-like situation.

"While we need to compliment doctors and frontline health workers for what they have done in the past one year, we have also seen stories of private hospital overcharging. We need a regulator who can regulate both public and private sector hospitals."

"India's health infrastructure needs ₹ 6 lakh crore to make it robust. Please work on a five year plan with State governments."

"As of today, we use only 1 % of GDP used on Health. This needs to be stepped up to 3 %."

Mr. Tewari argues to increase spending on research and says, "The lesson from the pandemic is that we should learn to coexist with nature. Thankfully, we managed to contain this virus but may not be able to contain the next one."

Rajya Sabha | 12.45 pm

 

"613 old age homes are there in India, 30,000 old people stay there," says Ramdas Athawale, MoS, Social Justice and Empowerment.

Tiruchi Siva of DMK asks if the old age scheme be extended to more districts, to which MoS replies: "8,000 villages to be covered in 2024."

Rakesh Sinha of BJP asks if there will be any separate cell for trans genders in jail.

MoS Kataria says: "It is a good suggestion, we will consider it."

Anil Desai of Shiv Sena asks, "When fuel prices have shot up, why is the Centre not decreasing the price?"

Dharmendra Pradhan says: "Why don't you request Maharashtra CM to reduce the tax, highest tax being levied by Maharashtra government. I have family relations with Desai ji, very good chicken is cooked at his home, do not do politics here."

Fauzia Khan of NCP asks if there is any plan to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Dharmendra Pradhan says: "We have taken initiative to convert bio-waste from agricultural fields to fuel."

Minister Hardeep Puri on being asked if the existing Parliament building will be given to ASI for preservation: "Once the new parliament is ready then this existing building will have to repaired and made available for alternate uses, no comprehensive thought given on what use this should be put to, several suggestions but no decision taken."

Housing and Urban Affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri: "Some State governments will draw inspiration from Central Vista and make sure that all government buildings rather than be scattered all over, may consider this arrangement. It is an inspirational question, so far no demand from State government, but as it progresses, I expect State governments to take inspiration from Central Vista project."

Ami Yagnik of Congress says that the number of buildings to be demolished for Central Vista has not been provided by the minister, but an affidavit has been given in SC. She asks, "Is the affidavit vague?"

Mr. Puri says: "The points mentioned reflect a narrative, only decisions taken and announced so far - 90 acres of hutments of 1942 variety are being removed and the offices there are being relocated to KG Marg and Africa Venue, all those people in those substandard offices since 1947 will be moved, we have taken a decision, all affidavits have a context. new parliament building to be completed by 2022, when we come to next step which is a central secretariat complex at that stage some of the buildings... not a single historical or iconic building will be building. Entire narrative was built, not a single of those buildings will go down, we will have to demolish few buildings but only when alternate offices have been constructed, the city will not come to a halt, why are you gettnig excited madam? You built Krishi Bhavan, Nirman Bhavan, substandard buildings they were, we will shift you to new parliament."

Mr. Puri says: "It is an evolving plan, new parliament , central visa avenue and offices of central secretariat spread out, idea is to bring all those offices in central vista secretariat, will have space for 50,000 people, connected by underground tunnel, we have a master plan, still to take a final decision. rumours were spread that ₹ 27,000 crore will be spent, decisions will be taken step wise, along Central vista, nine buildings will come, PM's residence and VP residence will be built."

RS adjourned till 2 p.m.

Rajya Sabha | 12.35 pm

On ethanol blending programme

Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan saya that many countries took initiative to mix ethanol with petrol.

"From 2004-14, the ethanol blending programme was sidelined. Only 0.67% under ₹500 crore worth blending was done in 2014. This year, it has increased to 8.5% which is worth ₹18,000 crore. Ethanol is made from sugar molasses, so we made a policy for broken rice and corn that are in surplus production. This is being used for ethanol blending. We will increase it to 20% by 2024," he says.

Rajya Sabha | 12.25 pm

On alleged abuse of sedition law

Chhaya Verma of Congress asks if there are any plans to amend 124 A IPC framed in 1860 by the British.

MoS Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy says that the Act was amended in 1948, and 1955. This is not a new Act. "We are going to make big reforms. A committee has been constituted to suggest changes to IPC, and we are seeking inputs from all," he adds.

Ms. Verma says that there has been a 165% increase in sedition cases, of which only 2 % has ended in conviction. Are these fake cases? she asks.

Mr. Reddy replies: "Sedition was not tabulated in NCRB earlier. After the Modi government came to power, we started tabulating it separately. Crores of people comment on India's integrity through social media... considering that, the cases are not much, only in double digits."

Convictions not determined by government, but by the courts, he says.

K.T.S Tulsi of Congress asks why the 160% increase in sedition cases in 2019? In 2019, 94 were arrested of which only two were convicted. All others were faulty cases. How is the govt. going to stop using 124A to muzzle freedom of press and speech? he asks.

Mr. Reddy replies: Centre does not order any State to take action under this law. This law has been in existence in Congress time. In Congress-ruled Rajasthan, nine cases of sedition were registered in 2015.

States lodge these cases, Centre does not give any direction, he says.

Manoj Kumar Jha of RJD says if a large number of people are getting acquitted, do you plan to train policemen to differentiate between critique of nation and critique of government?

Mr. Reddy replies that the government has never lodged any false cases against anyone, be it the anti-CAA protests or the farmers' agitation.

Centre did not take any action... people are free to say anything, we do not stop anyone, he says.

Rajya Sabha | 12.20 pm

On crimes against Dalit women

Ayodhya Rami Reddy of YSR Congress asks if the government is considering providing assent to the Disha bill passed by Andhra Pradesh.

MoS Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy replies that many steps have been taken by the Central government to prevent crimes against SC/ST women. He says that 190 special courts have been constituted for SC/ST women, and the Centre is committed to their welfare.

 

G.C. Chandrashekhar of Congress asks how the government is planning to curb crimes against Dalit women in nine States? Mr. Reddy repeats that law and order is a State subject, but adds that the Centre has changed relevant Acts to aid the State policies.

Rajya Sabha | 12.15 pm

On IIM faculty selection

Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena says that the quotas have not been in IIM faculty selection. MoS Rattan Lal Kataria says that the govt. will look into the matter.

Also read: Over 60% OBC, SC positions vacant in IIMs

Ram Kumar Verma of BJP asks as to what action will be taken against States who don't take action against atrocities on SC/STs. MoS Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy replies that law and order is a State subject.

Rajya Sabha | 12.10 pm

On educational support for SC/STs

Shamsher Singh Dullo of Congress raises a question on the scam in scholarship funds set aside for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe students.

MoS Rattan Lal Kataria replied that now, post-matric scholarship to SC students will be in 60:40 ratio. The amount has increased to ₹60,000 crore from ₹1,000 crore in past five years, he says, adding that over 4 crore Dalit students will benefit from this.

Ram Chander Jangra of BJP asks if Centre considering direct loaning by banks to students of backward communities. Mr. Kataria says that a loan of ₹2 lakh is provided to select students.

Rajya Sabha | 12 pm

Question Hour begins.

On schemes for SCs

L. Hanumanthaiah of Congress enquires about specific schemes for upliftment of Scheduled Caste population in country. Rattan Lal Kataria, MoS of Social Justice and Empowerment, replied that ₹1,36,000 crore has been allocated for schemes related to SCs this year.

To this, the Congress MP asks if there has been any survey done on the number of people uplifted. Mr. Kataria replies that such data is collected during Census, and no such separate survey has been conducted.

Rajya Sabha | 11.50 am

On gender pay gap

Amar Patnaik of BJD speaks on the gender pay gap in India.

Article 39 of the Constitution promises equal pay for men and women, but gender pay gap exists in our country, he says.

"We rank 149 in economic participation. The economic gender gap is larger than political gap. Women are paid 34% less than men. A woman is projected as caretaker of family... this stereotype remains and is popularly knows as motherhood penalty," he says.

"Iceland has done [much to reduce the gap] through legislation. There, more women are now in positions of decision-making. Like the women reservation bill, it should be made compulsory for men to take paternity leave, this will bring parity," says Mr. Patnaik.

Other issues raised include the rising number of ATM frauds, the fake call centres of banks on Internet, the lack of banking facilities in rural areas, and encroachment of land around Chandi temple in Meerut region.

Rajya Sabha | 11.40 am

On a new U.P. High Court Bench

Vijay Pal Singh Tomar of BJP says that U.P. needs another High Court Bench.

He says: The State has 23 crore population, and the area is also huge. Over 9 lakh cases are pending in the HC, of which 50% cases belong to 22 districts who have been protesting for another Bench.

The U.P government has recommended twice for another HC bench in U.P, he adds.

Rajya Sabha | 11.35 am

On drug pricing

Vivek Tankha of Congress brings to the attention of the House the exorbitant price of drug for spinal muscular disease.

 

"There is a disease called spinal muscular disease for which there is only one drug. Around 2,500 children are born with this disease. The drug for this is manufactured in the U.S. and costs ₹16 crore. Out of ₹16 crore, ₹7 crore is tax," says Mr. Tankha.

There is a little girl called Shrishti in Bhilai who is on ventilator. Her parents are desperate for help, he says, adding that we cannot depend on 'draw of lots' to help these children.

He says that the government should bargain and get a better price for these drugs, and that the tax waiver should be made compulsory for such drugs. There should be a revolving fund with States, and CSR should also be used for this purpose, he adds.

Rajya Sabha | 11.30 am

Make tech giants pay for news, says BJP MP

BJP's Sushil Modi says the government must make Google, Facebook and You Tube pay to traditional media for using their news content.

"Media makes heavy investment in gathering news, and they deliver credible information. Advertisement is their main revenue. But a large share of revenue is cornered by these tech giants now, and because of this, print media and TV channels are facing financial crisis," he says.

Mr. Modi adds: "We should follow the Australian model by which they compelled Google to pay for using content of news media, now France and other European countries are also making similar laws. Government should enact a law to compel Google to pay for news."

Rajya Sabha | 11.20 am

On housing for construction workers

Mahesh Poddar of BJP calls attention to housing situation of construction workers

Some farmers are protesting at Delhi borders, they are constructing permanent structures, while we do not pay attention to construction workers who spend their lives under tin sheds, he says.

"During coronavirus pandemic, their living condition have come to the nation's notice. Portable houses should be constructed for the construction workers," he says.

On deteriorating standards of public discourse

K.T.S. Tulsi of Congress points out the deteriorating standards of public discourse.

"Young people look up to us as role models. Would not name anybody, but I place these statements before you to make your own judgement. Even the most reprehensible crime like rape is justified by some warped logic," he says.

Chair asks that some of his comments regarding this be expunged.

Rajya Sabha | 11.15 am

On recognition of freedom fighters

Muzibulla Khan of the BJD says that many freedom fighters in India have not got due recognition.

"When Kashmir was attacked by Pakistanis, Biju Patnaik was sent on rescue mission. He fought for independence movement of three countries — Russia, Indonesia and India. A leader like Biju babu did not get Bharat Ratna... he should get it," sas Mr. Khan.

On tourism in Marathawada

Fauzia Khan of NCP asks that special attention be paid to Marathawada area in Maharashtra.

She says that generally, the percentage of tourists for religious purposes is said to be 30-35%. However, in Marathawada in Maharashtra, there is Shirdi which is visited by many people who revere Sai Baba, Patri at Parbani which is said to be the birthplace of Sai Baba... so special attention needs to be paid to this area, she says.

Lok Sabha | 11.10 am

Lok Sabha adjourned over BJP MP's death

Lok Sabha Speaker and members condoled the untimely death of BJP MP from Himachal Pradesh Ram Swaroop Sharma . Sharma was found dead in his apartment at around 6.30 a.m. He was the elected MP from Mandi.

Speaker Om Birla informed the House of the incident, and after obituary references, he adjourned the House for two hours.

 

Sharma used to stay in Delhi with his PA and cook. He was under medication.

Lok Sabha has been adjourned till 1 p.m. today.

Rajya Sabha | 11 am

Rajya Sabha begins.

Laying of the Committee Reports and Statements are in progress.

Zero Hour commences.

Jharna Das Baidya (CPIM, Tripura) raises the issue of subsidised and unsubsidised price of LPG. She says that the hiked prices are intolerable for the common man.

Agenda

Lok Sabha

Discussion and Voting: Demands for Grants

  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways
  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

Rajya Sabha

Discussion and Voting: Working of the Ministy

  • Ministry of Railways
  • Ministry of Tourism
  • Ministry of Food Processing Industries

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