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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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Kenya’s Parliament to Nationalize Country’s Main Airline Kenya Airways

A failed expansion drive and a slump in air travel forced it to restructure $2 billion of debt in 2017

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Kenya, Airline, Parliament
FILE - Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport near Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 28, 2016. VOA

Kenya’s parliament voted on Tuesday to nationalize the country’s main airline Kenya Airways to save it from mounting debts.

The loss-making airline, which is 48.9% government-owned and 7.8% held by Air France-KLM, has been struggling to return to profitability and growth.

A failed expansion drive and a slump in air travel forced it to restructure $2 billion of debt in 2017. The airline later proposed taking over the running of Nairobi’s main airport to boost its revenue.

Parliament’s transport committee, however, rejected that plan, recommending instead the nationalization of the airline in a report debated by the national assembly on June 18.

Kenya, Airline, Parliament
Kenya’s parliament voted on Tuesday to nationalize the country’s main airline Kenya Airways to save it from mounting debts. Pixabay

In a voice vote taken on Tuesday afternoon, the majority of lawmakers in the chamber voted to accept the report.

Kenya Airways Chairman Michael Joseph told Reuters the vote was “great news.”

“Nationalization is what is necessary to compete on a level playing field. It is not what we want, but what we need,” he said, referring to competitors such as Ethiopian Airlines which are state-run and profitable.

Air France-KLM could not immediately be reached for comment.

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The government will now draw up an implementation plan, with clear time lines, said Esther Koimett, the principal secretary at the ministry of transport.

“Parliament is our boss … we will obviously take the recommendations of parliament,” she told Reuters.

Kenya is seeking to emulate countries like Ethiopia which run air transport assets from airports to fueling operations under a single company, using funds from the more profitable parts to support others, such as national airlines.

“The government is keen to take a consolidated view of aviation assets of the country in order to make sure they work in a coherent and efficient way to support the (Nairobi aviation) hub,” Koimett said.

Kenya, Airline, Parliament
The loss-making airline, which is 48.9% government-owned and 7.8% held by Air France-KLM, has been struggling to return to profitability and growth. Pixabay

The committee’s report proposes that Kenya set up an aviation holding company with four subsidiaries, one of which would run Kenya Airways. Another arm of the holding company would operate Nairobi’s main international airport.

The committee’s report also recommended the holding company be given tax concessions for a period to be determined and that it be exempted from paying excise duty on all goods, including jet fuel.

Koimett dismissed concerns that nationalization could lead to further mismanagement. Kenya’s state-owned enterprises sector is riddled with corporate corpses and near failures caused by theft and poor management over the decades.

“Implementation is really the key thing … Ultimately all these things have to do really with ensuring that we get the right people in the right places,” she said.

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($1 = 103.7000 Kenyan shillings) (VOA)