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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Parliament HIGHLIGHTS: Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi are all coming to face law of the land, says FM Sitharaman

Parliament HIGHLIGHTS: The ongoing second part of this year's Budget Session that commenced on March 8,  is set to conclude on April 8.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 18, 2021 10:08:20 pm
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 HIGHLIGHTS: Despite multiple adjournments during the days, Rajya Sabha Thursday passed the Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks on raising the FDI in the insurance sector to 74 per cent from the current 49 per cent. This comes even as the Congress and other Opposition parties insisted on referring the Bill to a standing committee.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman moved the Bill for passing in the Upper House. Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said it will put the people of country in “trouble”, adding that the Insurance Act 1938 is being amended for the third time under the BJP.

India will do away with toll booths and implement complete GPS-based toll collection within one year, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. “I want to assure the House that within one year all physical toll booths in the country will be removed. It means that toll collection will happen via GPS. The money will be collected based on GPS imaging (on vehicles),” Gadkari said during Question Hour.

Yesterday, the Opposition targeted the Centre over its handling of the pandemic while accusing it of absolving China from its blame for the spread of the coronavirus, during a discussion over Demands For Grants for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. However, the government said that its handling of the pandemic has made the country self-reliant and “future ready”.

Live Blog

Parliament HIGHLIGHTS: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman moved the Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2021 in Rajya Sabha for passing today. Follow latest news and developments from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha below

19:23 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Rajya Sabha passes Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Despite multiple adjournments during the days, Rajya Sabha Thursday passed the Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks on raising the FDI in the insurance sector to 74 per cent from the current 49 per cent. This comes even as the Congress and other Opposition parties insisted on referring the Bill to a standing committee.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman moved the Bill for passing in the Upper House. 

Sitharaman said the hike in foreign investment limit to 74 per cent is to help meet growing capital requirement of insurance companies, which are facing liquidity pressure. She added that the Bill is brought after extensive consultations by sector regulator.

The finance minister informed that Rs 26,000 crore investment has come after FDI cap in insurance sector was raised to 49 per cent in 2015.

Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said the Bill will put the people of country in "trouble", adding that the Insurance Act 1938 is being amended for the third time under the BJP.

18:45 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Not in 'public interest' to disclose quantity of uranium extracted in country: Govt in Rajya Sabha

There are a total of eight uranium mines in the country, but it is not in the "public interest" to disclose the quantity of uranium extracted from these mines, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Thursday.

In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said there are eight uranium mines in the country -- seven in Jharkhand and one in Andhra Pradesh.

"It is not in the public interest to disclose the quantity of uranium extracted from these mines," he said.

Uranium is processed through Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL), a public sector undertaking under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

Singh, the minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office, said the grade of the ore mined from various deposits is very poor in India compared to that of other countries.

The ore bodies are narrow and not suitable for extraction by mass mining methods, he said. These deposits are also not suitable for extraction by low cost in-situ leaching technology which is a common method of extraction of uranium concentrate in many of the major uranium producing countries. (PTI)

18:10 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Rajya Sabha adjourned four times amid uproar over bill on raising FDI in insurance

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

After Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman moved the Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2021 for passing in the Upper House, Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said it will put the people of country in "trouble". He said the Insurance Act 1938 is being amended for the third time under the BJP.

Amid sloganeering, BJP leader Bhupender Yadav said Kharge's statement was "factually incorrect". "The bill has been brought after full scrutiny," he said, and added that the Congress had also brought a similar bill in 2008 and, thereafter, it was sent to a standing committee.

As Opposition members trooped into the Well of the House raising slogans, Deputy Chairman Harivansh told them that amendments to refer the bill to a select committee has not been given.

"You did not give any amendments to refer the bill to a select committee. You had time. The House will decide now," he said, asking the protesting members to go back to their seats and allow the discussion to take place as the motion had been moved.  (PTI)

16:42 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Two lakh jobs added in IT sector since 2019: Ravi Shankar Prasad

The IT sector has contributed 8 per cent to the country's GDP and two lakh new jobs have been added in the sector since 2019, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

He said the government also intends to lay BharatNet in villages all over India and the prime minister wants this to be accomplished in the coming 1000 days. 

Replying to supplementaries during Question Hour, the minister said India has attained its image in the world due to digital India.

"The IT sector has contributed 8 per cent in country's GDP. A total of 46 lakh people work in it, which include 14 lakh women. After 2019, two lakh people have got jobs in the IT sector,"he said.

Prasad said the success of online education has been confirmed by the one year of the pandemic, as school education was not interrupted even during the pandemic. (PTI)

16:39 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Funds tie-up for demonstrative AUSC thermal power project by end of March: R K Singh

The financial closure or tie-up of funds for the demonstrative thermal power project with Advanced Ultra Super Critical (AUSC) technology is expected to be done by month-end, Parliament was informed on Thursday. 

The AUSC technology is designed to help power plants burn less coal for electricity production while reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The sponsoring agency for the Research and Development (R&D) phase of the AUSC technology is the Department of Heavy Industries (DHI). 

"A total of Rs 900 crore as grant was approved by the Government through DHI. The projected expenditure is Rs 897 crore and the financial closure for the project is targeted by end-March, 2021," Power Minister R K Singh said in a written reply to Lok Sabha.

According to the reply, phase-II of the AUSC project envisages setting up of a full scale 800 MW Technology Demonstration Plant (TDP) to establish AUSC technology for the coal fired thermal power plants. 

The timeline envisaged for the TDP is 54 months from the date of approval of the project. The financing options for phase-II of the AUSC project would be worked out in consultation with the stakeholder ministries/organisations, the minister informed the House. (PTI)

15:20 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Rajya Sabha adjourned again amid uproar over Insurance bill

Rajya Sabha proceedings were adjourned briefly on Thursday amid Opposition uproar over the Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2021.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman moved a bill in the Upper House to consider for further amendment of the Insurance Act 1938. 

Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said the insurance amendment bill 2021 will put people in trouble. The Insurance Act 1938 is being amended for the third time. 

He said the Act was first amended during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's tenure when 26 per cent FDI was allowed in the insurance sector. Later in 2015 the law was amended further to allow 49 per cent FDI and now the amendment is for allowing 74 per cent.

"I want the bill to be scrutinised to address the gaps and it should be referred to a standing committee," Kharge said. (PTI)

14:59 (IST)18 Mar 2021
BJP govt does not believe in vote bank politics: Naqvi

During Question Hour in the Lok Sabha, Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the Modi government does not believe in vote bank politics and all sections of society including minorities are reaping benefits of welfare schemes launched by it.

"Our government does not believe in vote bank politics, neither it will in the future...All sections of society including minorities are reaping benefits of welfare scheme of the Union government," Naqvi said in response to a query by KC (M) member Thomas Chazhikadan.

He also asserted that the Union government is working for the well-being of weaker sections and economically backward people

Naqvi also added that the prime minister abolished the archaic and medieval practice of triple talaq to help Muslim women. (PTI)

14:44 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Any attempt to create 'imperialism of internet' by few companies unacceptable: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Union Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday told Rajya Sabha that any attempt to create "imperialism of internet" by a few companies would not be tolerated.

Speaking during Question Hour on the banning of Twitter accounts, Prasad said the government welcomes dissent but cannot allow misuse or abuse of social media.

Replying to G C Chandrashekhar (Congress), who raised the issue of climate activist Disha Ravi's arrest in the 'toolkit' document case, Prasad said India is proud to have nearly 140 crore social media users. LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook are free to do business in India. They have empowered ordinary Indians.

"The government welcomes dissent. The issue is not of use of social media, the issue is of abuse and misuse of social media.

"Internet is a powerful invention of human mind, but it should not become the monopoly of few. And we have taken a position, any attempt to create imperialism of internet by few companies is not acceptable," the Union minister said. (PTI)

14:20 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Nitin Gadkari addresses Rajya Sabha

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

"The policy will benefit scrapping centres, automobile industry, component industry and common man. India will become world no.1 manufacturing hub of all the brands that are being manufactured here. Scrap material that will be manufactured, will be useful in the production of electric vehicles. New vehicles will be light weight and the maintenance will also cost less. All the interest of stake holders will be kept safe."

14:10 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha resume proceedings

Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha resume proceedings

13:11 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Tentative timeline for application of Vehicle Scrapping Policy

Tentative timeline for application of Vehicle Scrapping Policy

13:09 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha adjourned till 2 pm

Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha adjourned till 2 pm

13:08 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Introducing Voluntary Vehicle Fleet Modernisation Program: Gadkari

"We're introducing Voluntary Vehicle Fleet Modernisation Program, which would scrap old vehicles & support people economically while buying new vehicles. Scrap centers, auto industry, components industry will be benefitted from this policy," Gadkari said. 

13:08 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Introducing Voluntary Vehicle Fleet Modernisation Program: Gadkari

"We're introducing Voluntary Vehicle Fleet Modernisation Program, which would scrap old vehicles & support people economically while buying new vehicles. Scrap centers, auto industry, components industry will be benefitted from this policy," Gadkari said. 

12:52 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Toll booths to be removed, GPS-based toll collection within 1 year: Gadkari

India will do away with toll booths and implement complete GPS-based toll collection within one year, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday. He said 93 per cent of the vehicles pay toll using FASTag, but the remaining 7 per cent have still not taken it despite paying a double toll.

"I want to assure the House that within one year all physical toll booths in the country will be removed. It means that toll collection will happen via GPS. The money will be collected based on GPS imaging (on vehicles)," Gadkari said in the Lok Sabha during Question Hour. The minister said he has instructed police inquiry for those vehicles which do not pay toll using FASTags.

There are cases of toll theft and GST evasion cases if FASTags are not fitted in vehicles. FASTags, which facilitate electronic payment of fee at toll plazas, was introduced in 2016. From February 16, vehicles without FASTag are required to pay double toll fee at electronic toll plazas across the country.

Making the tags compulsory would also help in ensuring that vehicles pass seamlessly through the toll plazas, as the fee payment would be done electronically. Gadkari said new vehicles have FasTags fitted in them, while the government has said it will give free FASTags for old vehicles. (PTI)

12:47 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Personal vehicles failing fitness test will be seized and destroyed: Gadkari in Lok Sabha

Announcing a vehicle scrapping policy in Lok Sabha, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said that all personal vehicles that fail the fitness test, or have not secured re-registration in time, will be de-registered and scrapped. 

11:54 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Sushil Modi interview: ‘Google is depriving traditional media of its revenue share’

BJP Rajya Sabha Member Sushil Modi speaks to The Indian Express about getting tech giants like Google and Facebook to compensate traditional media for using their content.

What are the concerns you raised in Parliament today about Google and Facebook?

Traditional media is going through its worst phase financially in the recent history — first because of the pandemic and now because of giants like Google which are eating into their revenues. Traditional media invest thousands of crores… they collect and verify the news and disseminate it. Google is using this content and earning a lot of money through advertisement revenues. This is depriving the traditional media of its revenue share.

How do you suggest the government should address this?

About two weeks ago, Australia passed a code under which these tech giants are compelled to share their revenue with print and electronic media. These platforms tried to retaliate by trying to block content from Australia but they have to relent and negotiate with the government. India should study the Australian model and draft a similar law or code… 

You mentioned Facebook blocking content in retaliation. Do you think this was a warning shot to lawmakers elsewhere?

They tried but could not succeed. They had to surrender and come to the negotiation table. The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken to the leaders of India, UK and Canada. All democratic countries should study Australia’s experience… Read the full interview here. 

11:26 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Congress MP gives Adjournment Motion Notice over NCT Delhi Act in LS

Congress MP Manish Tewari has given an Adjournment Motion Notice in Lok Sabha demanding 'discussion on the proposed amendments to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act', ANI reported. 

11:03 (IST)18 Mar 2021
BJP MP gives Zero Hour notice in RS over demand for SC Bench at Bengaluru

BJP MP KC Ramamurthy has given a Zero Hour Notice in Rajya Sabha over the 'demand for setting up of Supreme Court Bench at Bengaluru'. 

10:45 (IST)18 Mar 2021
Nitin Gadkari to brief Parliament on vehicle scrapping policy

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday will brief both Houses of Parliament about the contours of the vehicle scrapping policy, which was announced in Union Budget this year.

At 12 noon in the Lok Sabha and thereafter at 2 pm in the Rajya Sabha, Gadkari, the Road Transport and Highways Minister, is expected to talk about the much-touted policy.

Under the policy, old vehicles are supposed to undergo mandatory fitness tests in automated fitness centres to be set up across India. The government has sanctioned 26 such centres to be set up across India either by state governments, or under PPP, or even by private players directly. Failing the test, the vehicles are to be scrapped. Government vehicles older than 15 years are also likely to be marked for mandatory scrapping. The cost of re-registration of older vehicles, like after reaching 15 years, will be significantly increased in a bid to dissuade vehicle owners. Read the report here. 

Here are some highlights from yesterday's Parliamentary proceedings

Govt considering electoral roll-Aadhaar link to curb duplication, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

The government is considering a proposal to link electoral roll with Aadhaar with a view to “curb the menace of multiple enrolment of the same person at different places”, Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad informed Lok Sabha in a written reply on Wednesday.

“Electoral roll database system does not enter into the Aadhaar ecosystem, and the system is used only for authentication purpose keeping a tight air-gap between the two systems. These measures effectively prevent theft interception and hijacking of the voter system,” the reply stated.

The minister said that the proposal would require amendments to existing laws and is “under the consideration of the government.”

91% suburban trains restarted, freight trains speed doubled: Goyal in Rajya Sabha

Expressing optimism that the railways has bounced back after the Covid-induced lockdown last year, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told the Rajya Sabha Wednesday that upto 91 per cent suburban trains have been restarted.

“Another positive development during the pandemic has been doubling the speed of freight trains. Imagine the impact this will have on logistics and the MSME sector if goods are delivered faster,” he said.

While the speed of freight trains earlier was 22-23 km per hour, it is now up to 45 km per hour, the minister told the Upper House.

Supply of Covid-19 vaccines to other countries is based on availability of adequate vaccines at home, and an empowered committee is overseeing the entire process, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. He added that the domestic requirement of the vaccine is being monitored continuously even as India sends vaccines to friendly nations across the globe.

In a statement, Jaishankar said, “The House should be aware that the supply of vaccines abroad is based on the assessment of adequate availability at home”, adding that “this is continuously monitored and takes into account the requirements of our domestic vaccination programme as it unfolds in different phases”. He said an “empowered committee oversees this entire process.”

The EAM further said, “…(in) planning and executing Vaccine Maitri, we are naturally guided by a determination to make a difference at a difficult moment for global society”, adding that India’s “reputation as the ‘Pharmacy of the World’ has been reinforced in that process.”

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