Demand to provide free face masks to the poor

NEW DELHI: A demand to provide free of cost face masks to poor and vulnerable sections of the society to help them combat the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic was made in Rajya Sabha on Monday.

Raising the issue through a Zero Hour mention, CPI (M) member Binoy Viswam said using soap and wearing a mask are the best preventive measures against the COVID-19.

But, 30 per cent of the population does not know the importance of this and disregards the need for masks either because of poverty or illiteracy, he said.

“For them, the urgent concern is that their food for the night and those poor people should be protected,” he said.

“I request the government to… Provide free masks to them. The masks must be of good quality so that the spread of COVID-19 can be prevented,” the MP said.

Raising the issue of manual scavenging, G K Vasan of TMC(M) said it goes against human dignity and more than 100 people lost their lives while cleaning the gutters and sewers last year.

The MP demanded that the government ensure that this practice is stopped by strictly enforcing laws.

“It promotes discrimination in our society as only persons belonging to particular sections of society are engaged in manual scavenging,” he said.

Besides, the scavengers are not provided with safety equipment, resulting in a threat to their life due to the toxic gases that emanate from the gutters, he said.

“In the interest of social justice and safety of these scavengers, I appeal to the government to enforce the laws strictly or to bring in a new powerful law so that we put an end to this shameful practice once and for all,” he said.

Anil Desai of Shiv Sena raised the issue of poisonous pesticides used in crops.

Some pesticides are not good and have harmful effects on the health of farmers, he said adding in recent years 63 farmers died while spraying these pesticides in cotton, soybean, and other crops in Yavatmal and other districts of Maharashtra.

The Maharashtra government took up this matter with the central government in March 2018 and recommended the banning of these deadly pesticides.

“The central government had issued a Notification on May 14, 2020, banning 27 pesticides which were considered harmful including ‘acephate’ and ‘monocrotophos’.

“But, at the same time, three of the deadly pesticides are yet to be banned. So, I would request the government to look into the matter and ban those pesticides as early as possible to save the lives of farmers,” he added,

P L Punia (Cong) sought the deployment of seven CRPF battalions in Chhattisgarh that were sanctioned in 2018 for anti-Naxal operations.

Construction of Batallion headquarters is mostly complete and 525 mobile towers for communication have also been installed, he said.

He said 10 CRPS battalions have been freed from Jammu and Kashmir recently and these can be used to deploy the promised seven battalions in Chhattisgarh to tackle the Naxal threat.

TMC’s Dola Sen raised the issue of contractual employees of BSNL not being paid wages since April 2019.

BSNL, she said, has offered VRS to its permanent works but has failed to pay the contractual workers.

Prasanna Acharya (BJD) demanded naming of the Paradip port in Odisha after Biju Patnaik “as per the central government policy of renaming important ports in the memory of great sons of India”.

Patnaik is one of the builders of modern Odisha, he said adding he was a pilot who rescued the freedom fighters of Indonesia from the clutches of Dutch in 1948.

“He was the founding father of Paradip Port Trust in Odisha,” he said.

P Wilson (DMK) raised the issue of Union Public Service Commission, the Staff Selection Commission and other recruiting bodies planning to hold entrance examinations from October 4 in various states simultaneously.

“These entrance examinations are going to be conducted flouting the ICMR norms endangering the public health and public interest,” he said.

“The competitive examinations are not like qualifying examinations which should be held without any delay,” he said.

Already 50 per cent of the vacancies, in each department, are not filled up in the central government, including the civil services. They are lying vacant for more than one year, he said.

“Heavens will not fall if the competitive examinations for UPSC, SSC and other entrance examinations are postponed,” he said seeking postponement of all competitive examinations which are to be held in October and November.

KC Venugopal of the Congress said banks are reluctant to give loans to small and micro enterprises (MSME).

“Recently, we had an interaction in the Parliamentary Standing Committee with the Tourism Secretary. He, himself, is saying that banks are very much reluctant to give loans to the MSME sector. So, they are all in a trouble,” he said, adding the RBI or the government should give a direction to increase lending to the MSME sector.

Through ‘special mentions’, BJP’s Roopa Ganguly demanded standardising guidelines to address loss and inconvenience to passengers due to changes in flight routes during COVOD-19, while Subhash Chandra Singh sought setting up of a committee to revise MNREGA norms to benefit migrant workers affected by the lockdown.

Ripun Bora (Cong) demanded stopping of privatisation of Guwahati airport while K K Ragesh (CPM) wanted Chitrakoot to be developed as a tourism centre.

Amar Patnaik (BJD) sought classical status to Odissi music. (AGENCIES)