By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 22 Dec: As soon as the proceedings of the second day of the winter session of the Vidhan Sabha began, today, the opposition created a ruckus in the House on the issue of corruption, non-payment of dues to farmers for MSP procurement of paddy and wheat. Dues of sugarcane farmers, new farm laws passed by the Parliament and unemployment were also raised. In addition to this, the supplementary budget was passed in the House today.
As soon as the proceedings of the House started, the opposition members demanded a debate under Rule 310 (related to suspension of rules in case of discussion on issues of urgent public interest) on rising unemployment and on non-payment of dues to Uttarakhand farmers for MSP procurement of paddy and wheat crops by the state government and the central agencies. However, the Speaker granted permission to discuss these issues under Rule 58 (Calling Attention on matters of public importance).
The demands of farmers were discussed under Rule 58. While describing the new agricultural laws as against the interests of farmers, the Congress said the farmers had been forced to agitate against the government, but the central government was not showing any sensitivity towards them at all. Raising the issue of non payment of dues of the farmers for paddy by the government, Congress members Dr Indira Hridayesh, Qazi Nizamuddin, Pritam Singh and Manoj Rawat said the new farm laws did not have any provision related to the MSP. There was, thus, little chance that the government would pay to the farmers their dues. They said this was why the farmers were agitating. They were demanding inclusion of MSP in the new farm laws so that they could get ensured payment of their dues. The Congress members further demanded that the new farm laws ought to include mandatory punishment for those who failed to procure the farm produce at the MSP.
The Congress members further alleged that, although the government and the central agencies had procured 30 lakh quintals of paddy this season from the farmers of Uttarakhand, the farmers had not been paid. Qazi Nizamuddin claimed that, against the total dues to the tune of Rs 650 crores, the government had so far paid around Rs 100 crores only to the farmers. The pending dues amounted to around Rs 550 crores. This payment was pending despite the fact that, while hearing a PIL filed by certain farmers, the High Court had directed the government to clear the total dues of the farmers for the Kharif as well as the Rabi crops within a week’s time. The government and the agencies had, however, not complied with the High Court’s directions. The Congress members further claimed that the government was obliged to purchase the entire paddy crop under MSP but this had not been done in reality.
They further alleged that the Centre and the state governments had no concern for the welfare of farmers and this had forced the farmers to agitate. So far, 33 farmers had lost their lives in the agitation but the government was still not sensitive towards their concerns.
Another issue that was also discussed under Rule 58 was related to unemployment. Congress members Dr Hridayesh and Pritam Singh had demanded the discussion on the issue under Rule 310. The Congress members alleged that the government had made hollow promises of providing employment during the elections but had failed to provide it to the needy so far. Not only this, the Corona pandemic had resulted in loss of jobs for a large number of people across the state and the country. Many natives of Uttarakhand had returned to the state during the pandemic but could not get any employment here. They were again being forced to migrate out of the state.
The Parliamentary Affairs Minister, in response, claimed that the government had directly and indirectly provided employment to more than 7 lakh persons in the state in different ways. Between 2014 and 2017, the Subordinate Commission selections resulted in direct government employment on 801 posts, while in 2017 to 2020, about 6 thousand were selected and appointed by the Subordinate Commission. He added that, at present, the process of providing 7 thousand posts was underway in the Subordinate Commission. The process of selection to 1147 posts was also underway in the Public Service Commission.
The proceedings of the Question Hour continued as usual today. Today was the day for questions related to the departments of Satpal Maharaj and Yashpal Arya. In response to a question by Qazi Nizamuddin, Irrigation Minister Satpal Maharaj admitted that around 500 irrigation canals were totally or partially damaged in the state and many of them were in fact not functional for the past more than ten or more years. In response to another question by Nizamuddin, Maharaj revealed that the ground water table had gone down to semi critical level in 5 blocks of the state, including Bahadarabad. This response was objected to by Nizamuddin, who claimed that according to the Ground Water report of the Water Commission, in Uttarakhand, the water table was critically down in 2 blocks and down to semi critical level in 3 blocks. Maharaj cited overuse of tubewells by the farmers of Haridwar and US districts as the major reason for the critical level of ground water. Nizamuddin claimed that the water level in Haridwar district had gone down to critical level due to illegal use of ground water by Industry and not by the farmers. In response to a question, it was stated that all ration shops had been digitally linked to Aadhaar.
The opposition also questioned the virtual participation by Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat in the proceedings of the House and questioned whether there was any rule in this regard. On this, Assembly Speaker Prem Chand Aggarwal issued instructions to the government to make provision for virtual participation in the rules. This issue cropped up when Congress member Qazi Nizamuddin noticed a tweet by the CM while he was participating in the session in virtual mode. Nizamuddin reminded the Speaker that members were not permitted to use mobile phones while participating in the House proceedings. How was the CM permitted to use his phone? The Speaker said that he would see to it that everyone followed the rules.
On the second day of the winter session of the Legislative Assembly, five bills were introduced in the House, while one bill returned by the Raj Bhavan was tabled again. The annual report of the Uttarakhand Public Service Commission, the annual report of the Electricity Regulatory Commission and the first report of the Public Enterprises and Corporation Committee of the Legislative Assembly were laid on the Table of the House. Five Bills will be presented by the Government in the House. Apart from this, the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Medical Education University (Amendment) Bill returned by the Raj Bhavan was laid again on the Table of the House. Raj Bhavan had objected to the vice-chancellor’s term being changed to five years instead of three. Now the government had made it clear that the tenure of the vice-chancellor had been fixed for five years as per UGC standards.
Provision of funds (in crores of Rs) for major departments in supplementary budget were Education, Sports and Youth Welfare, 310.06; Medical and Family Welfare, 211.82; Water Supply, Housing and City Development, 516.65; Welfare schemes, 110.84; Rustic Development, 619.78; Labour and employment, 145.36; Public works, 222; Agricultural Work and Research, 139.37; Revenue and General Administration, 659.59; Finance, tax, planning, 470.81; Welfare of Scheduled Castes, 269.03; Welfare of Scheduled Tribes, 51.67; Transportation, 90.50; Industry, 36.65; One, 31.09; Police and Jail, 18.91 crores.
By Arun Pratap Singh