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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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Parliament In Sri Lanka Gets Dissolved, President Calls For Election

The U.S. State Department tweeted that it is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved

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Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena waves to supporters during a rally outside the parliamentary complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

ri Lanka’s president dissolved Parliament and called for elections on Jan. 5 in a bid to stave off a deepening political crisis over his dismissal of the prime minister that opponents say is unconstitutional.

An official notification signed by President Maithripala Sirisena announced the dissolution of Parliament effective midnight Friday. It said the names of candidates will be called before Nov. 26 and the new Parliament is to convene Jan. 17.

Sri Lanka has been in a crisis since Oct. 26, when Sirisena fired his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa. Both say they command a majority in Parliament and had been expected to face the 225-member house Wednesday after it was suspended for about 19 days.

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Sri Lanka’s sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe holds a copy of the constitution of Sri Lanka as he attends a media briefing at his official residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Foreign Minister Sarath Amunugama told The Associated Press Saturday that the reason for the president to dissolve Parliament was the need to go to the people to find a resolution to the crisis.

“On the 14th there was to be a lot of commotion and unparliamentary activities sponsored by the speaker,” Amunugama said. “The speaker was not planning to act according to the constitution and standing orders of Parliament.”

Sirisena’s supporters had been irked by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s announcement that he was going to call for a vote for either party to prove their support.

Miscalculation

“The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr. Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament,” said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director at U.S.-based analyst group Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. “At the end of the day, he is a victim of his own homegrown crisis.”

Sri Lanka, parliament
Sri Lankan civil rights activists hold placards during a demonstration outside the official residence of ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Wickremesinghe has insisted his firing is unconstitutional. He has refused to vacate his official residence and demanded that Parliament be summoned immediately to prove he had support among its members.

Tensions had been building between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of economic reforms introduced by the prime minister. Sirisena has also accused Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Wickremesinghe repeatedly denied.

Sirisena was critical of investigations into military personnel accused of human rights violations during Sri Lanka’s long civil war against a Tamil separatist group, which ended in 2009. Rajapaksa, who ruled as president from 2005 to 2015, is credited as a hero by the ethnic Sinhalese majority for winning the conflict. But he lost a re-election bid in 2015 amid accusations of nepotism, corruption and wartime atrocities.

Constitutional question

Wickremesinghe’s camp is likely to contest Sirisena’s move because of constitutional provisions stating a Parliament can’t be dissolved until 4 ½ years after its election. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.

sri lanka, parliament
Sri Lankan former President Mahinda Rajapakse addresses journalists at his residence in Colombo, Sept. 22, 2018. Rajapakse has been appointed the Sri Lanka’s new prime minister. VOA

“It’s totally unconstitutional,” said Harsha de Silva, a member of Wickremesinghe’s United National Party and a former minister. “Sirisena has relegated the constitution to toilet paper. We will fight this dictator to the end.”

The party said in a Twitter message that it will meet the elections commissioner to discuss the constitutionality of Sirisena’s move.

US urges caution

The U.S. State Department tweeted that it is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, “further deepening the political crisis.”

Also Read: Once a Hostage, Sri Lankan Sailor Now Helps Battle Somali Pirates

“As a committed partner of Sri Lanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity,” the statement said.

Earlier, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and two other lawmakers wrote to Sirisena warning that actions circumventing the democratic process could impact U.S. assistance, including a planned five-year aid package from the Millennium Challenge Corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars. (VOA)