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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Parliament Highlights: No plan to privatise Railways, Piyush Goyal reiterates in Rajya Sabha

Parliament Today Highlights: Earlier, the Centre said it has not taken any decision yet on the nationwide rollout of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai was replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha on whether the central government had any plans to implement the NRC throughout the country.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 18, 2021 12:40:12 am
Parliament LIVE Updates: BJP Parliamentary meeting cancelled after demise of party MP Ram Swaroop Sharma Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is set to move the Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2021 in Rajya Sabha for passing today, ANI reported. 

Parliament Today Highlights: There is no plan to privatise Indian Railways as it belongs to the people of the country, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday after some members raised concerns over it. Replying to a discussion on the working of the Ministry of Railways, Goyal announced an investment of ₹50 lakh crore in the national transporter over the next 12 years. “I want to make it crystal clear that there is no plan or proposal to privatise Indian Railways, it will not happen. Indian Railways belongs to the people of this country, it will remain so,” Goyal said.

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Appropriation Bill 2021-22, authorising the government to draw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India for its working as well as implementation of its programmes and schemes. This completes two-thirds of the exercise for approval of the Budget for 2021-22. The bill was introduced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and later approved by voice vote. The Lok Sabha earlier discussed demands for grants of different ministries, including railways, education and health.

Earlier, the Centre said it has not taken any decision yet on the nationwide rollout of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai was replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha on whether the central government had any plans to implement the NRC throughout the country.  “Till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare the National Register of Indian Citizens at the national level,” Rai said in a written reply.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the supply of vaccines abroad is based on the assessment of adequate availability at home, which is continuously monitored by taking into account the requirement of the domestic vaccination programme as it unfolds in different phases.

Live Blog

No decision yet on nationwide rollout of NRC, Centre says in Rajya Sabha; S Jaishankar says supply of vaccines abroad is based on assessment of stock at home; Rajya Sabha passes Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Follow this space for the latest updates.

22:23 (IST)17 Mar 2021
Govt has received complaints against some e-commerce firms alleging violation of FDI policy: Piyush Goyal

The government has received complaints against certain e-commerce companies alleging violation of foreign direct investment (FDI) policy and necessary actions have been taken for investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, Parliament was informed on Wednesday.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said no representation from All India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AICCI) was received regarding banning of some big e-commerce companies from operating in India.

"The government has received complaints against certain e-commerce companies alleging violation of FDI policy and necessary actions under the provisions of Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 have been taken for investigation by the Enforcement Directorate," he said.

Replying to a separate question, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Hardeep Singh Puri said there are 1,569 tea gardens in the country covering total area of 4,20,671 hectares.

He said the Tea Board has provided financial assistance of Rs 217.77 crore to tea companies from 2017-18 till February 1, 2021. (PTI)

22:21 (IST)17 Mar 2021
No plan under consideration to bail out private telcos under financial loss: Dhotre

There is no plan currently under consideration to bail out private telecom operators that are under financial loss, Parliament was informed on Wednesday.

Also, no proposal is under consideration at present on the allocation of 5G spectrum to state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Minister of State for Communications Sanjay Dhotre said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

"At present, there is no plan under consideration to bail out private Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) which are under financial loss," Dhotre said replying to a question on whether the government has any plans for bailing out such telcos.

Dhotre said while the government has not given any exemption to the operators on Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) related dues, the Telecom Department, following a Cabinet nod, had filed an application seeking the permission of the Supreme Court to allow telcos to make the payment of the AGR dues in 20 years' time (or less if they opt). (PTI)

22:20 (IST)17 Mar 2021
BSNL expects 4G services rollout completion in 18-24 months: Dhotre

State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) expects the rollout of 4G services to be completed in 18-24 months, Parliament was informed on Wednesday.

The government has no plan to privatise BSNL, Minister of State for Communications, Sanjay Dhotre said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

BSNL had invited an Expression of Interest (EoI) on January 1, 2021, for prior registration/Proof of Concept (PoC) from Indian companies interested in participating in its upcoming 4G tender, he said.

"BSNL will follow the applicable Rules/guidelines/Public Procurement orders of the Government, including Rule 144(xi) of the General Financial Rules, 2017 in this regard," he added.

BSNL expects the rollout of 4G services to be completed in 18 to 24 months, Dhotre informed. (PTI)

22:18 (IST)17 Mar 2021
Whatsapp asked to review proposed privacy policy changes: Sanjay Dhotre

The government has asked messaging firm Whatsapp to review its proposed privacy policy changes, Minister of State for IT and Communications Sanjay Dhotre informed the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

WhatsApp has drawn massive criticism from users globally, including India, over concerns that data was being shared with its parent company, Facebook. WhatsApp, on its part, has maintained that messages on the platform are end-to-end encrypted and that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see the private messages on WhatsApp's platform. (PTI)

22:16 (IST)17 Mar 2021
16.5 lakh benefited under Aatmanirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojana: Union minister Santosh Gangwar

Around 16.5 lakh people have benefited from the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojana (ABRY) which was launched in October to encourage hiring in the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Union minister Santosh Gangwar said on Wednesday.

"As on 9th March, 2021, 16.49 lakh employees were registered for availing the benefits (under ABRY)," Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

The scheme has been introduced to incentivize creation of new employment along with social security benefits and restoration of loss of employment during the pandemic.

This scheme being implemented through the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), reduces the financial burden of the employers of various sectors/ industries and encourages them to hire more workers. (PTI)

22:00 (IST)17 Mar 2021
No plan to privatise railways as it belongs to people of country: Piyush Goyal

There is no plan to privatise Indian Railways as it belongs to the people of the country, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday after some members raised concerns over it.

Replying to a discussion on the working of the Ministry of Railways, Goyal announced an investment of ₹50 lakh crore in the national transporter over the next 12 years. "I want to make it crystal clear that there is no plan or proposal to privatise Indian Railways, it will not happen. Indian Railways belongs to the people of this country, it will remain so," Goyal said.

Keeping in mind development of the railways, the government may, however, bring in a few services under private sector in order to provide better services to the passengers, he added.

Participating in the discussion, several Rajya Sabha members raised concerns over the poor financial health of the railways, decline in job opportunities and delay in execution of major projects, besides privatisation of the national transporter.

Goyal said the government was committed to making Indian Railways world-class in every aspect. (PTI)

21:53 (IST)17 Mar 2021
Cong built 'substandard' buildings like Krishi Bhawan, Shastri Bhawan: Hardeep Singh Puri

Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday accused the Congress of constructing 'substandard' buildings like Krishi Bhawan, Shastri Bhawan and Nirman Bhawan, saying they are not fit for being used as offices.

He was speaking in parliament in response to a query by Congress leader Amee Yajnik on the number of buildings to be demolished during the development of the new parliament building.

'If buildings like Krishi Bhawan, Shastri Bhawan and Nirman Bhawan will have to come down, will you be sorry because you build those buildings and they were substandard buildings. They are not fit for offices,' Puri said during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha.

'...we are now going to relocate you. Madam, we will relocate you to a new parliament building where you will have enough space,' he told the Congress leader. (PTI)

20:58 (IST)17 Mar 2021
Lok Sabha adjourned

Lok Sabha has been adjourned till 11 am on Thursday.

20:09 (IST)17 Mar 2021
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'. (PTI)

20:07 (IST)17 Mar 2021
Govt to induct 3 joint secretaries, 27 directors, 13 deputy secretaries through lateral entry

The Centre proposes to induct three joint secretaries, 27 directors and 13 deputy secretaries in the central government through lateral entry, Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday.

Lateral entry refers to the induction of private sector specialists in government departments.

"At first, it was decided to make lateral recruitment to 10 posts of joint secretaries during 2018-19. Eight joint secretaries were appointed, and out of these seven are in position at present. Accordingly, it is now proposed to fill three posts at joint secretary level," Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh said in a written reply.

In addition, it is proposed to fill 27 posts at the director level and 13 at the deputy secretary-level through lateral recruitment on contract/deputation (including short-term contract) basis, he said. (PTI)

20:06 (IST)17 Mar 2021
Lok Sabha MP asks govt not to waste Rs 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 Rs 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 Rs 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 Rs 35,000 crore will be evaporated," 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)

20:04 (IST)17 Mar 2021
EC proposal to link electoral roll with the Aadhaar under consideration: Govt in LS

The Election Commission's proposal to link electoral roll with the Aadhaar ecosystem to root out multiple enrolments is under the consideration of the government, the Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday.

In a written reply, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the poll panel has proposed to link electoral roll with the "Aadhaar ecosystem" with a "view to curb the menace of multiple enrolment of the same person at different places".

He said this would require amendments to the electoral laws. "The matter is under the consideration of the government," he said.

He was asked about the current status of the Election Commission's proposal to link Aadhaar with voter ID.

The minister said the poll panel has stated that it has taken multiple measures for the security and the safety of the electoral roll data platform. (PTI)

20:02 (IST)17 Mar 2021
BSNL expects 4G services rollout completion in 18-24 months: Dhotre

State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) expects the rollout of 4G services to be completed in 18-24 months, Parliament was informed on Wednesday.

The government has no plan to privatise BSNL, Minister of State for Communications, Sanjay Dhotre said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

BSNL had invited an Expression of Interest (EoI) on January 1, 2021, for prior registration/Proof of Concept (PoC) from Indian companies interested in participating in its upcoming 4G tender, he said.

"BSNL will follow the applicable Rules/guidelines/Public Procurement orders of the Government, including Rule 144(xi) of the General Financial Rules, 2017 in this regard," he added.

BSNL expects the rollout of 4G services to be completed in 18 to 24 months, Dhotre informed. (PTI)

20:01 (IST)17 Mar 2021
No proposal to appoint regulator for social media: Ravi Shankar Prasad

The government on Wednesday informed Parliament that there is no proposal with the IT ministry to set up a regulator for social media.

Union IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, said that the government has released Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, under the IT Act that specifies the due diligence to be followed by all the intermediaries, including the social media intermediaries.

"The social media platforms are enjoined to develop a robust grievance redressal system. Presently, there is no proposal with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to appoint a regulator for social media," Prasad informed the Lok Sabha.

The government in February had announced sweeping regulations for social media firms like Facebook and Twitter as well as OTT players such as Netflix, requiring them to remove any content flagged by authorities within 36 hours and setting up a complaint redressal mechanism with an officer being based in the country. (PTI)

18:55 (IST)17 Mar 2021
Decline in terror incidents in J-K in last three years but shelling from Pak increased: Govt

There has been a significant decline in terror incidents in Jammu and Kashmir in the last three years but instances of shelling from across the border have gone up abruptly, Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday.

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy shared this in a written reply.

"During the past three years, there has been a significant decline in terror incidents and attempts of infiltration from across the border in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the incidents of shelling from across the border have increased during the past three years," he said.

Reddy said the terror incidents in Jammu and Kashmir have come down from 614 in 2018 to 244 in 2020.

He said killings of civilians have come down from 39 in 2018 to 37 in 2020 and deaths of security personnel from 91 in 2018 to 62 in 2020. (PTI)

18:54 (IST)17 Mar 2021
Pak sending weapons through drones, govt tells Rajya Sabha

The government Wednesday said some instances of supply of weapons through drones from Pakistan have come to light and security agencies were taking action on it.

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said this in Rajya Sabha, while responding to a question on whether the central government is aware that Pakistan has started supplying weapons to infiltrators via drones.

"Certain instances of supply of weapons via drones from across the Pakistan border have come to the notice of security and law enforcement agencies," he said in his written reply. (PTI)

18:53 (IST)17 Mar 2021
India's reputation as pharmacy of world reinforced; made-in-India vaccines supplied to 72 nations: Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told Rajya Sabha Wednesday that India's reputation as "pharmacy of the world" stands reinforced the way it reached out to nations in the midst of a global crisis and supplied vaccines to 72 nations.

Making a statement on "Vaccine Maitri" initative, he said the supply of 'Made-in-India' vaccine to 72 nations after the world was reeling under COVID-19 pandemic prompted global leaders and world citizens extend warmth to India and its citizens.

Even as the COVID pandemic was in full fury, there were already global demands of India's pharmaceutical and medical capabilities which could be met largely due to the extraordinary ramp up of India's COVID-related capabilities, Jaishankar said.

Talking about low fatality rates and the high recovery rates, he said: "Our reputation as the 'pharmacy of the world' has been reinforced. So indeed has the faith in 'Make in India'. But more than the vaccines, 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." (PTI)

18:48 (IST)17 Mar 2021
Lok Sabha passes Appropriation Bill, completing two-thirds of budget exercise

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Appropriation Bill 2021-22, authorising the government to draw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India for its working as well as implementation of its programmes and schemes. This completes two-thirds of the exercise for approval of the Budget for 2021-22.

The Appropriation Bill authorising payment and appropriation of specified sums from the Consolidated Fund of India for 2021-22 was introduced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The bill was later approved by voice vote. The Lok Sabha earlier discussed demands for grants of different ministries, including railways, education and health.

Speaker Om Birla later applied the guillotine, after which all the outstanding demands for grants, whether discussed or not, were put to vote at once and passed. After that, the Appropriation Bill was taken into consideration and passed by the lower house of Parliament.

The Lok Sabha will now discuss the Finance Bill, which essentially contains the government's tax proposals. Once the Finance Bill is passed, the budget exercise is complete. (PTI)

17:47 (IST)17 Mar 2021
India supplied medicines to 150 nations during pandemic: Jaishankar in LS

Even as the Covid pandemic was in full fury, there were already global demands of our pharmaceutical and medical capabilities, said External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar in Lok Sabha on Wednesday. "If we could meet them, it was largely due to extraordinary ramp-up of our Covid- related capabilities, he said.

Further, he said that India could meet the spiking requirement for Hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol and other relevant drugs across the world, adding that the Government has supplied 150 nations with medicines of which 82 are grants from India. (ANI)

16:46 (IST)17 Mar 2021
No decision yet on nationwide NRC, govt tells Rajya Sabha

The Centre on Wednesday said it has not taken any decision on the nationwide roll-out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai was replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha on whether the central government had any plans to implement the NRC throughout the country.

"Till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare the National Register of Indian Citizens at the national level," Rai said in a written reply.

The NRC was updated in Assam under the supervision of the Supreme Court. When the final NRC was published on August 31, 2019, a total of 19.06 lakh people were excluded out of the total 3,30,27,661 applicants, which created a ripple across India. (PTI)

On Wednesday, India said its engagement with China is "complex" and the two countries agreed that the future direction of ties should be built upon respecting each other's sensitivities, concerns and aspirations, reported PTI.

Rajya Sabha Wednesday passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021. Lok Sabha was adjourned till 1 pm after the House paid tribute to BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma and ex-MP Dilip Gandhi.

Moreover, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said in Rajya Sabha that India should take a cue from Australia and enact a law to make tech giants such as Facebook and Google pay local publishers of news content. Raising the issue through a Zero Hour mention, the former deputy chief minister of Bihar said, "The government must make Google, Facebook and YouTube pay print and news channels for the news content they are using freely."

BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma died by suicide at his residence in Delhi’s North Avenue, Delhi Police said on Wednesday morning. His body has been sent for postmortem. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party cancelled its Parliamentary Party meeting, scheduled for this morning, after learning about Sharma’s death.

Dilip Gandhi passed away at a hospital where was under treatment after testing positive for Covid-19.

Meanwhile, AAP MPs Sanjay Singh and Sushil Gupta Wednesday protested in front of Gandhi statue in Parliament over the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that was tabled by Centre in Lok Sabha on March 15.

Earlier this morning, Congress MP Manickam Tagore moved an adjournment notice in Lok Sabha "to discuss about vacancies under reservation of OBC, SC & STs in all Central Universities, IIMs & research institutions & to direct govt to take appropriate action for filling up those vacancies immediately".

RJD MP AD Singh gave a zero hour notice in Rajya Sabha over "acquiring of fertile land for NTPC Plant in Barauni, Bihar". And BJP MP Bhagwat Karad also moved a zero hour notice in Rajya Sabha demanding Covid-19 vaccination  for all in the severely affected districts of Maharashtra.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is scheduled to make a statement in both Houses regarding "India's Vaccine Maitri Initiative".

In Lok Sabha, MoS Jitendra Singh will make a statement regarding the status of implementation of the recommendations of the 338th Report of the Standing Committee in Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change on Demands for Grants pertaining to the Department of Space.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will move for leave to introduce a Bill to authorise payment and appropriation of certain sums from and out of the Consolidated Fund of India for the services of the financial year 2021-22.

On Tuesday, Union Minister Piyush Goyal said in Lok Sabha that Indian Railways will never be privatised but private investment is welcomed for increasing efficiency. Goyal also said that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the country’s railway infrastructure has seen a new vision. We wish to make Indian railways act as an “engine for growth” for the country, Goyal added. Goyal also said, Modi government has hiked investment in railways to Rs 2.15 lakh crore in 2021-22 fiscal, from Rs 1.5 lakh crore in 2019-20 fiscal.

The government also informed Parliament that inflation has remained low in the last seven years – except for a spike in some items – and the government is taking steps to bring it further down.

Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur, during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, said food items in the consumer price index (CPI) are showing a month-on-month decline. Commodities such as cereals, meat and fish, egg, vegetables and pulses have declined during January-February.

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