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Week in Parliament

Debates on the railway budgets have always seen interruptions by members who want to pursue projects and demands related to their regions and States.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Parliament’s Budget Session resumed last week for its second part, with orderly business, and adoption of Jammu and Kashmir Budget and the Railway Budget for 2022-23 in the Lok Sabha.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar made a statement on the Ukraine situation in both Houses, with Rajya Sabha members making searching queries, seeking clarifications if there was a delay in giving advisory to stranded Indian students in the war-ravaged country to leave the country.

The Upper House devoted considerable time to discussing issues concerning the development of the North-Eastern States and the tribal population.

The Jammu and Kashmir Budget debate in the Lok Sabha gave another opportunity to the Opposition to question the Government how had the situation improved in the former State since the abrogation of Article 370. Crossing the Rs 1 lakh crore limit, the budget for the Union Territory (UT) provided the highest ever allocations for Home, Education, Public Health Engineering, and power departments.

The Opposition pointed out that the largest chunk of the funds had gone for law and order, which showed there were doubts about normalcy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said “real normalcy” had come to the region after the abrogation of Article 370. The Indian Constitution was fully applicable to the new UT and hundreds of Indian laws could now benefit people there. Article 370 was discriminatory against the people of the region and its removal was necessary for their interest, she said.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said if the Congress was opposed to the removal of Article 370, it should declare on the floor of the House that it would restore it, once it comes to power.

Debates on the railway budgets have always seen interruptions by members who want to pursue projects and demands related to their regions and States.

On the first day of the debate on Tuesday, the Lok Sabha discussed the Railway Budget for nearly 12 hours till midnight. As the railways is a big job-provider, members asked why was job recruitment slow in the railways. The members voiced fears over the “privatization” of railway services.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw rejected the speculation, saying the whole railway infrastructure was owned by the Government and it would remain so. The demands for grants for railways were voted in full on Wednesday, after another hour’s discussion.

The debate saw frequent interruptions forcing Speaker Om Birla to repeatedly warn members and urge them to maintain decorum. He said the members were given sufficient time to speak and they should listen to the Minister’s reply without disturbance. The Rajya Sabha debates on working of the Ministries of Development of North Eastern Region (DONER) and Tribal Affairs were meaty as members representing the region and tribal communities participated.

They belonged to opposite camps, but one after another, they presented different dimensions of the issues. DONER was created for the over-seeing socio-economic development of the eight states of the North-Eastern Region, namely, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and Sikkim.

The debate on the North East initiated by Ripun Bora of the Congress from Assam had several speakers from the North East like Bhubaneswar Kalita (BJP), Sushmita Dev (Trinamul Congress), Jharna Das Baidya (CPI-M), KG Kenye (Nagaland People’s Front), Ajit Kumar Bhuyan (Anchalik Gana Morcha); and former Assam Chief Minister and current Ayush Minister in the Centre Sarbananda Sonowal (BJP).

A major point of difference between the Treasury Benches and the Opposition was whether people living in the North East had become part of the national mainstream or not. The Treasury Benches proudly stated that all State Capitals of the region were now connected by railways.

The Opposition warned the Government that the region faced security issues because of its location on the border. DONER Minister G Kishan Reddy and Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda gave comprehensive replies to the debates on their Ministries. Munda said the Modi Government had ended historical injustice to the tribal population.

Law and Justice Minister Kiran Rijiju made a valuable contribution to the debate when he said the tribals were simple people who had small issues, but they were not given a hearing in Delhi. This neglect led to discontent in the region. The creation of a dedicated Ministry like DONER had helped them, he said.