Parliament updates: Both Houses adjourned sine die

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaking at the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, March 25, 2021.   | Photo Credit: https://webcast.gov.in/

The Parliament was on Thursday adjourned sine die, bringing the nearly two-month long Budget session to an end.

Here are the latest updates:

1.25 pm | Rajya Sabha

Venkaiah Naidu says, "We are concluding the 253th session of Rajya Sabha. The second session to be conducted under COVID protocol. Against 33 sittings, we are concluding after 23 sittings. This house worked for 104 hours during this 23 sittings. This means the productivity of the House was 99%. A total of 21 hours was lost due to disruptions."

"We need to strive to achieve 100% productivity. A total of 19 bills was passed in the Budget Session. "

Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die.

1.10 pm | Rajya Sabha

Farewell of three MPs from Kerala- Vyalar Ravi, K.K. Ragesh and Abdul Wahab.

Chairman Venkaiah Naidu pays them tribute.

"They are leaving the house but their contribution will leave an indelible mark. They are only retiring but they are not tired. Mr. Ravi is a four term Rajya Sabha member."

Vyalar Ravi gets emotional reading out his farewell speech.

Vyalar Ravi reading out his farewell speech in Rajya Sabha on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

Vyalar Ravi reading out his farewell speech in Rajya Sabha on Thursday, March 25, 2021.   | Photo Credit: https://webcast.gov.in/

 

"My political life began in college. I also found my parents Mercy Ravi there, unfortunately she is no more. I began my Parliamentary life as one of the youngest MPs in Lok Sabha," says Mr. Ravi.

Abdul Wahab says, "I came in Rajya Sabha, during during the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Then I worked with 'Sardarji Singh' and now Modi ji. If the Rajya Sabha is here I will try to come again. But one never know, considering the way the Parliament gave the right of Delhi government to Lt Governor, who knows  the Rajya Sabha powers will also be delegated to someone else."

Venkaiah Naidu replies, "Don't worry, Rajya Sabha will be there and God willing you shall return."

1.00 pm | Rajya Sabha

Finance Minister continues...

"Middle class is no longer risk averse. They are ready to move out of post offices to the stock market. The growth in DEMAT accounts clearly point to this trend. "

Ms. Sitharaman concludes her speech.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaking at the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaking at the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, March 25, 2021.   | Photo Credit: https://webcast.gov.in/

The bill is passed.

12.40 pm | Rajya Sabha

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's reply.

"I will try to address the questions that have been raised. 12 members spoke on the bill. This is a unique institution. India has always benefited by the various institutional mechanism that have been created. They were created to service the time they were created in. Many of the existing DFIs have outlived their time."

"It is clearly the need of the jour, in fact for the 25 years of India’s developmental story. Why do we need such an institution? This is not just for building roads. It is also for social infrastructure like hospitals and schools."

"It is not as if we are dependent on FDI or sovereign fund. It will establish a credible framework for both equity and debt investment. We will also offer space for domestic retail investors. The govt's stake will start from 100% but eventually it will be brought down to 26%. But, this 26% stake shall remain. It will be professionally run. The govt will only appoint the chairman."

Answering the questions on lack of safeguards, Ms. Sitharaman says clause 26 of the bill clearly shows that they have to submit their account report to the RBI every year.

"And the bill provides for, she said, that the govt can ask for report whenever it deems fit. These reports will be tabled in Parliament too. This institution will be able to access line of credit from RBI. This is not beyond oversight, every year the Parliament will get the report and the govt can ask for reports whenever they want."

12.30 pm | Lok Sabha

Bhratruhari Mahtab in the chair commends the arrangements made by Lok Sabha Speaker for conduct of the House. He reads out the statistics from the session: 24 sittings, 132 hours, the presidential address, discussion on motion of thanks for 16 hours, Union Budget discussion for 14 hours and 42 minutes, discussion on Demand for Grants for 21 hours and 43 minutes.

Seventeen government bills introduced, 18 bills passed, 84 starred questions answered, 392 matters under Rule 377 taken up, 163 reports tabled by standing committees, 3,591 papers laid on the table.

He says that the rate of productivity in Lok Sabha this session was 114%.

Lok Sabha adjourned sine die.

12.20 pm | Rajya Sabha

Discussion on National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021 continues.

Narendra Jhadav, Nominated MP, says the main challenge post-COVID-19 is to pull up the economy from the depths that it has fallen to. "The principal objective of the Budget was to facilitate real economic growth. In order to achieve high growth and sustain it, the Indian economy will need a strong infrastructure base," he says.

N.D. Gupta (AAP) says that if one goes through the draft of the Bill, it seems it has not been written here. It is drafted by some foreign agency.

"Considering there are no provisions for accountability or oversight, why are we creating this new bank when such institutions have failed earlier," he asks.

He continues: The govt., on one hand, is privatising the PSUs but on the other hand it is constructing a new one for this bank. Why this contradiction? It should be sent to a select committee.

K Ravindrakumar (TDP) says that the intention behind the Bill is good, the idea of sovereign guarantee is a good idea. According to recent estimate, India needs an investment of $4.5 trillion for constructing necessary infrastructure till 2030, he says.

Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) says that he applaudes the intentions for bringing this Bill, because development should be at the core of our policies. Just because the previous DFIs have failed, this need not fail.

"But I have questions. For example what will be quantum of foreign funds in this bank. Will it be 74%?" he asks.

12.15 pm | Lok Sabha

Ratan Lal Kataria (MoS Jal Shakti) says that the govt. has Jal Jeevan Mission. According to national water quality commission, more than 2,000 cases of arsenic poisoning in the water have been noted. Work is going on to address the issue.

Question Hour over.

Ravneet Singh Bittu (INC) asks "Where is Prime Minister Narendra Modi? He is conspicuously absent. Where are we to meet him ? In a political rally?"

Arjun Ram Meghwal (MoS parliamentary affairs) says the PM is very much attending the Parliament.

Papers being laid amid shouting.

Prime Minister Modi arrives in the House.

12.10 pm | Rajya Sabha

Discussion on National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021 continues.

Vishambar Prasad Nishad, SP, says that this bill should be sent to a select committee, considering the bill has no oversight mechanism.

While we consider this bill, we should also remember Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallaya who fled away leaving behind huge loans, he says. The bill should have checks and balances to avoid this situation.

Jharna Das Baidya, CPI(M), says the DFIS were set up pre-liberalisation era. Post liberalisation, the privileges extended to DFIs were withdrawn. The current bill doesn't contain adequate provisions for accountability for the shareholders and public at large, he says.

12 pm | Lok Sabha

Questions are being asked on Development of Yamuna Riverfront.

Minister of State for Jalshakti Ratan Lal Kataria says that there is no concrete information yet on the project proposed on Saryu river. He adds that there is a project worth ₹170 crores in Brindavan for purification. A world bank-funded project has been approved for Baghpat and the completion is scheduled for 2022, he says.

11.50 am | Rajya Sabha

Speaking on the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021, BJD MP Sujeet Kumar says: We all recognise the importance and need of world class institutions and infrastructure in our country. To make this infrastructure, we need financing. Many developed countries have legislation for Development Financial Institutions.

The bond market in India is not in the state to finance heavy infrastructure projects. Hence, a Bill like this is building a principle infrastructure financing institution. I hope the govt. will ensure adequate checks and balances and accountability, he says.

Setting this bank is not the challenging, once it is established to capitalise it and run it effectively will be a challenge, he adds.

TRS Banda Prakash too says that the challenge would not be in setting it up, but for it to meet the targets that have been set for it. "Initially the Central govt. will hold 100% shares which may subsequently be reduced to 26%," he says.

11.45 am | Lok Sabha

On NSS enrollment

Sunil B. Mendhe (BJP) asks a question on the National Service Scheme (NSS). He says that 35 lakh children are enrolled in NSS, of which 3.25 lakh are in Maharashtra alone. What are the plans for increasing this number, he asks.

Union Minister for Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju replies: We aim at creating a voluntary force of one crore, but we are hemmed in by a lack of budget. Suggestions have been taken on board.

Mr. Mendhe asks if 13-16 year-olds be enrolled in NSS.

Mr. Rijiju replies: There are two schemes being run currently. One is for college-level people and other for plus two students. No programmes yet for below matriculation level. Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghathan runs other programmes for students of that age.

Vinayak Raut (Shiv Sena) asks if some transportation facility or other financial assistance can be given to students enrolled in NSS for voluntary work.

Mr. Rijiju replies with the details of awards being given to student volunteers. When we give training, we do it through partner institutions with whom we have MoUs, he says.

11.35 am | Rajya Sabha

BJP MP Syed Zafar Islam speaks on the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021.

"This institution will have a dual role of financing and developing infrastructure. Since 2014, the PM Narendra Modi has been saying that he wants to build a new India. How will be such a new India be constructed?" he asks.

He says that China invests 50% of its GDP in fixed assets, which comes down to 8 trillion dollars. "We have to develop the modern infrastructure. The existing institutions engaging with financing infrastructure have many inherent issues and don't have have enough funds. They don't have long-term resources," says Mr. Islam.

Mr. Islam said that it is due to structural problems in the existing Development Financial Institutions that the NPAs rose. "Long term bond market needs to be developed. Going forward, we will be able to develop it," he says.

11.30 am | Lok Sabha

On data security

Bidyut Baran Mahato (BJP) asks a question on Aadhar aunthentication-based contactless services. Any help being extended to those not well versed with these kind of services, and on how to ensure security of data in this regard in the face of cyber attacks, asks Mr. Mahato.

Union Minister for Roads and Highways Nitin Gadkari replies: Eighteen RTO services can be availed from their offices without physical visits to RTOs. This includes issuance of learners' license, change of address in license, issue of international driving license etc.

Mr. Gadkari continues: This year, despite COVID-19 and farmers' agitation, toll tax collection is ₹34 crores, which is ₹10 crores more than the previous year. FastTag compliance is at 91%. We will end toll nakas and add GPS to vehicles and tolls will be deducted electronically. We are designing a new system of road, with a flyover on top and MRTS on top of that for Chennai and Pune.

11.25 am | Lok Sabha

On solar energy parks near National Highways

Chandraprakash Joshi (BJP) asks a question on plans for solar energy parks near National Highways.

Union Minister for Roads and Highways Nitin Gadkari replies: The first solar lane on Delhi-Meerut highway saw the panels being stolen by people. So we have had some bad experiences, but we are learning from it. Wherever we find space we will encourage solar power.

Mr. Joshi asks if there are any specific proposals with regard to Rajasthan.

Mr. Gadkari replies: Not just in Rajasthan. We are encouraging solar parks across the country with one caveat... that the land next to NH may be used for broadening of roads. We have also had issues with environmental clearances with regard to forest land. But we will persist.

11.20 am | Lok Sabha

On promoting public transportation

Manish Tewari (INC) says that in the year 2021-2022, the government will earn lakhs of crores as krishi cess. On top of this, you are going ahead with the green tax. I suggest that we should spend more on MRTS, and provide footpaths, bicycle tracks wherever roads are built, he says.

Union Minister for Roads and Highways Nitin Gadkari replies: The member is right. In India, the population growth and growth of vehicles is proportional. Use of public transport is an obvious solution to discourage use of private vehicles. We are attempting to make Delhi-Mumbai highway as an e-highway... with this our logistical costs will come down by 70%. For us, first priority is waterways, second is railways, third is roads and last is airways, but road transport is increasing highest at 85%.

As for old National Highway roads neglected due to building of new bypasses... we have plans to white-top the roads and make bicycle tracks and places for old people to rest, says Mr. Gadkari.

11.20 am | Rajya Sabha

Send Bill to Standing Committee, says Jairam Ramesh

Senior Congress MP Jairam Ramesh continues his speech on the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021.

Parliament updates: Both Houses adjourned sine die
 

"This Bill is an ambitious Bill. She [Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman] has provided it ₹20,000 crores. My question to FM is... this is a govt company. Huge resources are put in use... so why is there no oversight mechanism? It will not even come under ambit of CAG," he says. "You are creating an act in perpetuity without parliamentary oversight," he adds, noting that it is a highly undesirable state of affairs.

"What happens to the other organisations like LIC which is doing infrastructure financing? This govt. believes that foreign funding can built India's infrastructure... this has never happened," says Mr. Ramesh.

"The biggest challenge for us is to enhance the pool of infrastructure. We have to stimulate domestic saving and not be dependent on foreign funds," he says.

Mr. Ramesh concludes by saying that such a Bill should not be passed with just two hours of discussion and without sending to a select committee or a standing committee.

11.15 am | Lok Sabha

Bhola Singh (BJP) asks a follow-up question: "Will the green tax collected from particular areas be used for development of those areas?"

Union Minister for Roads and Highways Nitin Gadkari replies: The Constitution allows the Centre to impose tax only as principle. The rest of the details is in the hands of the State government.

11.10 am | Rajya Sabha

Finance Minister Nirmal Sitharaman moves the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021 for consideration and passing.

Why are we going back in time, asks Jairam Ramesh

Senior Congress MP Jairam Ramesh says that the idea of a development bank is not new. The first such bank was established in 1948, he says.

"When the history of industrialisation in India is written, the role of IFCI,  ICCI and IDBI will be crucial. We should recognise their role," he says, adding that in 1997, the Parliament passed the NABARD act, which led to the establishment of another finance institution.

"When Dr. Manmohan Singh presented his budget, he set up the Narsimhan Committee. The committee came to the conclusion that the era of Development Financing Institutions is over," he says.

"Thirty years after Dr. Singh presented the budget, we are turning back the clock," he says, adding "I want to ask the Finance Minister, why are we going back in time."

"This Bill is an ambitious Bill. She has provided it ₹20,000 crores. My question to FM is... this is a govt company. Huge resources are put in use... so why is there no oversight mechanism? It will not even come under ambit of CAG," he says. "You are creating an act in perpetuity without parliamentary oversight," he adds, noting that it is a highly undesirable state of affairs.

11.05 am | Rajya Sabha

Rajya Sabha session begins.

Shripad Yesso Naik lays paper on the table.

The House applauds as he stands up to lay papers because he has returned after more than a month. He was on leave following a road accident in which his wife was killed. Mr. Naik himself was  under treatment in ICU for many days.

Chairman Venkaiah Naidu reminds the House that as was previously agreed, no Question Hour or Zero Hour today.

11 am | Lok Sabha

Lok Sabha session begins with the Question Hour.

On green tax on old vehicles

Bhola Singh (BJP) raises a question on green tax on old vehicles. "There are nearly 250 buses in Bulandshahr which are under 10 years, rest all are older. Commuters will be inconvenienced if all are phased out. What solutions do you suggest?" he asks.

Union Minister for Roads and Highways Nitin Gadkari replies: We have held meetings on alternatives to fossil fuels, and for hydrogen based fuel as well as solar energy. As for solutions for old diesel buses in public transport... we have to look at it sensitively.

If diesel buses are retrofitted for CNG, the buses can run for a bit more time, he says.

 

Bill to amend law governing airport economic regulatory authority in LS

A bill which seeks to amend the law governing the airports economic regulator was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021 proposes to tweak the definition of "major airport" so as to extend its scope to determine the tariff for a group of airports.

The move, the government believes, will encourage development of smaller airports.

The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India has been determining the tariffs of aeronautical charges at major airports in the country.

Under the present Act, a "major airport" has been defined to mean any airport which has, or is designated to have, annual passengers in excess of 35 lakh. However, it does not provide for determination of tariff for a group of airports. - PTI

 

Lok Sabha

Bill for Consideration and Passing

  • Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Rajya Sabha

Bill for Consideration and Passing

  • National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021
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