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Sachin Tendulkar asks second ever question in Parliament, govt responds

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New Delhi: Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar has played long and bold innings on numerous occasions on the cricket pitch but seems to be making his moves only gingerly on the political one.

The former ace cricketer on Monday elicited a response from a union minister in the Rajya Sabha to his written query – only the second so far, more than three years since he became a member of the upper house of parliament – about “changes in provisions for issuance of driving licences”.

The government said there was a proposal to replace Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 with a new law to facilitate technological intervention and information technology-based systems to ensure efficient and safe transport network in the country.

“Whether under the proposed new Motor Vehicles Act, the government proposes to make driving licence procedure more transparent and stringent in order to curb fake licences; whether it is also proposed to implement strict guidelines to test and train the driving licence applicants; and what steps are being taken in the new Act to safeguard the rights of pedestrians, drivers, physically challenged persons and to curb the incidents of road rage?” the cricket legend asked.

In reply, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways P Radhakrishnan said the ministry was working on a proposal to replace the Motor Vehicles Act with ‘The Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2015’.

“The bill proposes to have a ‘unified driving licencing system’ that envisages simplified application and issuance procedures for driver licencing system, adopting technology for driving testing facilities. A unified biometric system is proposed to be adopted to avoid duplication of licences,” the minister said.

“The Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2015, inter alia, proposes to include regulation for pedestrians, non-motorised transport and motor vehicles. It includes sensitising and educating drivers and other road users. It also provides special consideration to vulnerable road users such as women, children, senior citizens and differently-abled persons,” the minister said.

“Combination of penalties and fines to enforce traffic rules, strict enforcement for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, rash driving, electronic detection and centralised offences information to identify repeat offenders have also been proposed,” Radhakrishnan said.

Tendulkar became a nominated Rajya Sabha member in April 2012. He has only seven percent attendance in the house, as per PRS Legislative Research, against a national average of 78 percent.

He has so far not participated in any debate, nor has brought forth any private member’s bill in the house.

His attendance in the current session of parliament so far is 17 percent, as per PRS Legislative Research website.

Tendulkar’s maiden involvement in the house proceedings came on Friday through a written question to the railway ministry, to which he received a written answer from Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha.

(IANS)

(Image courtesy: Firstpost)

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Malawi Parliament Allows Cultivation of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes

Malawi Parliament Okays Cultivation of Cannabis or Marijuana

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Cannabis
Legalization of the industrial cannabis in Malawi has excited many famers who abandoned tobacco due to poor prices. VOA

By Lameck Masina

In Malawi, parliament has passed a bill which allows cultivation of cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes. Backers of the bill say cannabis will boost the economy, which is largely dependent on tobacco. Anti-drug campaigners and religious conservatives say the move will encourage recreational use of marijuana.

Former lawmaker Boniface Kadzamira first brought the cannabis bill to parliament in 2014 amid opposition from fellow parliamentarians. Now, Kadzamira says he feels vindicated.

“I am very happy that finally the bill has passed because when I was starting this issue people thought I was crazy,” he said.  “They called me names. The national assembly, in fact, the first day laughed at me; they booed at me. But I was determined because I had the facts on my fingertips.” Kadzamira says the facts included research showing that hemp — a non-drug product of cannabis — can be used to produce soap, lighting oil, medicines and other useful products.

Malawi is now one of five southern African countries  — along with Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho and South Africa — that have legalized industrial hemp. South Africa went a step further in 2018 by decriminalizing recreational use of cannabis. Ben Kalua is an economics professor at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi. He says legalization will help the country diversify its agriculture-based economy.

“It’s economically viable because it has a very long value chain. It has so many by-products of industrial hemp including fiber for construction. There are all products that can be derived from that plant compared to tobacco,” he said. Malawi has long relied on tobacco, which accounts for about 13 percent of its gross domestic product and 60 percent of its foreign exchange earnings.

Cannabis
Various varieties of the industrial cannabis which was grown on trial basis at Chitedze Research Station in Lilongwe. VOA

Over the years, however, tobacco prices per kilogram have fallen, largely because of anti-tobacco campaigns and fewer people smoking. Tobacco farmers like Hartley Changamala say they feel they now have an alternative.

He says, “Some of us are growing tobacco because we don’t have an alternative crop to bring us income. But those who knew that tobacco farming has now become useless have stopped. So with legalization of the industrial cannabis, I feel I can benefit a lot as a farmer.” Anti-drug campaigners and religious conservatives continue to argue that legalizing cannabis will encourage recreational use of marijuana.

Nelson Zakeyu, an executive director for the NGO Drug Fight Malawi, says, “Why I am saying this is that there is very minimal difference in appearance between the two: Indian hemp [marijuana] and this industrial hemp. So that’s where the danger is, because many will be [taking] the Indian hemp as if they are taking the industrial hemp. So, we will end up having abnormal citizens in the country.”

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Researchers say industrial hemp has a very low amount of the substance in marijuana which makes people high. Malawian President Peter Mutharika has until March 19 to sign the cannabis bill into law. The president has not indicated what he will do. (VOA)