(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 11, 2008
THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
THE slogan shouting members of Left parties in both Houses strongly protested the curtailment of food grains to Kerala and other states. In Rajya Sabha the members walked out of the House. In Lok Sabha they insisted the minister to assure food grains supply to Kerala as per the commitment of the central government.
Brinda Karat initiated a discussion on the working of the ministry of Rural Development. She said from 1992 to 2003, the number of landless workers has increased from 22 per cent to 32 per cent and their rights are diminishing. The farmers are in acute distress in the country but no mention has been made about the effect of this distress on the agriculture workers. They don’t have a national minimum wage fixed. The migration of a male labourer from the village puts extra responsibility on the woman of the family. Such family becomes female headed. Unfortunately, they does not find place in any programme. The estimates of poverty are made by the Planning Commission but the identification of the poor is made by the ministry of Rural Development based on very impracticable criteria. The entire sham process of identification of poor is a pre-conceived notion to depict a picture of less number of poor in the country. The Planning Commission’s planning based on flawed statistics is ridiculous. The 54th report of the Standing Committee expressed concern over the instruction of the Planning Commission to the state governments to restrict the number of identifying BPL people to below the arbitrarily cut off level. She demanded the need to change the criteria immediately.
The number of districts under Rural Employment Guarantee Act (REGA) has doubled but there is only 33 per cent increase in its allocation. She demanded an increase in the allocation for the schemes of rural development. Many people are not getting minimum wages under REGA scheme mainly because the productivity norms prescribed therein are very high. Therefore, in stead of task rate, the basis of time rate should be determined for minimum wage. The method of financial allocation requires some changes. It should be allocated properly after consulting the states. It should be ensured that money is always available in pipe-line so that the flow of work does not get affected. The geographical conditions of different zones should be taken into account while implementing the scheme. There should be flexibility in this regard, she suggested. The centre and states should join their hands together for successful working of the SHG and SGSY schemes. At present, the women are not getting loans because there is a major problem in revolving fund. The privatisation of rural banking system has added more problems to the miseries. She urged upon the minister to consult the Rail minister to formulate a policy to the effect that retail outlets to sell the products made by such Self-Help Groups are put up at all the railway stations, besides a guaranteed market for Self-Help Groups. She insisted the minister to consider provision for land to the landless people under Indira Awas Yojana to construct their houses. The maintenance of roads constructed under PMGSY rest with the state governments but they have no money for it. Hence, this scheme should be extended and the central government should provide some money for its maintenance to the state governments at least for some years. The amount for Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) needs to be increased she said. As regards reduction of wastelands of about 8.58 million hectres, she asked the details of the wasteland and the allottees of developed wasteland. The government is promoting Jatropha cultivation for which Rs 1500 crore is ear-marked. She wanted to know about Rs 1500 crore corpus in details and social impacts of Jatropha cultivation.
Hannan Mollah of CPI(M) in Lok Sabha participating in the discussion on the Demands for Grants for Rural Development said there is a need to enhance budgetary allocation for ministry of Rural Development. In order to cater to the needs of the entire districts in the country under NREGS, there must be 100 per cent increase in its budgetary allocations. It is necessary to make the villagers aware of NREGS so that they could stand and fight for their right if need arises. Once the job seekers names are registered and acknowledgements sent to them, they will have to be provided employment within a fortnight otherwise they will have to get unemployment allowance. So, the government should pay much attention towards this so that they get receipt on the applications for this purpose, he said. There is disparity in the minimum wages in our country. It is highest – Rs 125 in Kerala and the lowest - Rs 50 in Gujarat. So, wages should be increased where it is less. People should get loan opportunity from the post offices. The government should give necessary directions in this regard so that poor people are paid at the right time when needed. Hannan suggested ‘Food for Work’ programme in stead of money. In order to achieve these objectives, the FCI and the Ministry of Agriculture will have to be involved. He said surplus land and wasteland should be distributed amongst the landless people. The IWDP programme is not being affected in the North-Eastern region properly where it has to be addressed more sincerely. He also dealt with housing, roads, drinking water and sanitation problems in rural India.
Lok Sabha passed Demands for Grants of the ministry of Home Affairs. From the CPI(M) side, Md Salim, Varkala Radhakrishnan and K S Manoj participated in the discussions. Md Salim said the government is taking into account strategic aspects of our security related issues but there are a number of non-strategic aspects of our security related issues. Nowadays, wars are not fought on the borders but they are fought inside the country. Bomb blasts, insecurity, terrorists and naxalite attacks, starvation, unemployment etc., are non-strategic aspects of our security related issues. The union government and state governments start blame game on each other in respect of terrorist attacks. If we do not secure food security, shelters, rural-urban infrastructure, drinking water, etc., we cannot offer security to a country of 110 crore strong people only by making provision for security. Therefore, we would have to include inclusive growth in our security system. Funds have been enhanced for police modernisation but we would have to fix priorities either it is border area development or police modernisation. For the development of people living in border areas we have to give priority to construct roads and bridges in these areas. What steps the ministry of External Affairs and the ministry of Home Affairs have been taken to extend it up to zero level, he asked. We have to develop border trade. Local market at border level needs to be strengthened. The Liberhan Commission constituted to look into Ayodhya episode of 1992, has not submitted its report as yet. Relief for the riots victims of Gujarat was provided last year. It was said that relief would be provided to the riot victims of Gujarat on the lines of riots victims of 1984. For this purpose, funds have been raised in the Budget but these people are yet to be rehabilitated and are living on the roads. It was promised in the Common Minimum Programme that a comprehensive bill would be brought to prevent communal violence but it has not been done so far. A bill to this effect should be brought in through dialogue process and consensus. No mastermind has ever been apprehended in any bomb blast case in the last 11 years in our country. It shows that our intelligence gathering is not up to mark. There are problems of internal refugees like Kashmiri Pandits. Similarly, there are a number of such refugees in Jammu who have migrated into our territory after 1947, 1965 and 1971 from Western Pakistan. Their status is yet to be resolved. We should have an information sharing mechanism in order to fight with interstate crime syndicate.
V Radhakrishnan insisting upon to bring fundamental changes in investigating system, said, our conviction rate is far below the international standards. This cannot be prevented unless and until you come prepared on the recommendations of the Law Commission, implement them and bring out a law making drastic changes, he said.
K S Manoj of CPI(M) said we should not forget that many police personnel had to sacrifice their life which defending the country. During the period from 1989 to 2007, there were 19,000 police personnel who lost their life. They have to work in stress and strains. Out of Rs 3740 crore allotted for modernisation of para-military forces, Rs 1607 crore has been unspent. The existing Police Act, 1861 is very much outdated. This should be amended. Defence personnel retire at a very young age. If they are retained in the state police, we will get more trained manpower and the amounts spent for training could be spared, he suggested. In Delhi the last recruitment for police was held in 1990. A regional representation is not there in Delhi police. He requested the government to restore recruitment devise in the state in view of ensuing Commonwealth Games of 2010. Attacks on minority institutions have created sense of insecurity among the Christians in the country. Government should provide special protection to these institutions in places where such incidents have occurred. Regarding grants on national calamity he said, there is undue delay in sanctioning these grants to the state. Many freedom fighters of Punnapra-Vyaler struggle, Kayyur, Karivekoor, Kavumbai, Morazha and Malabar Special Force should be awarded Swatantra Sainik Samman pension. There should be no further delay in this regard. In view of terrorist threats, enhanced security be provided for all the metro rail stations, he said.
During the discussion on Appropriation (Railways) bill, 2008, Prasanta Chatterjee of CPI(M) in Rajya Sabha supporting the bill said there are certain positive developments in recent years in railways. We are glad that the direct railway service with Bangladesh has been opened up and the opening up of Agartala train service is likely to be materialised. For several years the Indian Railways are scaling down some of the budgeted physical targets over various plan heads such as new railway lines, gauge conversion, doubling, signaling, electrification etc., at the revised estimate stage. What is dangerous for the country is that the Indian Railways are on the threshold of privatisation. He questioned whether the Railways have assessed as to how much resources and technology the PPP would bring and have they formulated a cogent policy vividly defining all terms and parameters of PPP. Have the Railways explored the possibilities of augmenting the capacity of their own production units before entering into PPP, Chatterjee asked. During the period 2001-02 and 2005-06 the Railways have surrendered 1,12,664 posts. There is net reduction of 6436 class ‘C’ employees and the number of class ‘D’ employees was 93,243 during the period 2003 to 2006. Closing down of printing presses and outsourcing of printing jobs will throw thousands of employees on the streets. This action of the Railways has aggravated the unemployment problem further. Not only that the Railways have awarded licenses to corporate business houses for selling hot and cold beverages, packed and cooked food items at the railways stations, the corporate houses, on the other hand, handed over the stalls to franchisees, thus, earning profit without making any investments. After a lapse of 23 years, the Railways have adopted a policy to evacuate the commission vendors from the stations, pushing them into jeopardy. Strangely, while the commission vendors are demanding licences on easy terms to run their small units at the stations, the Railways are forcing them to accept services in Class ‘D’ posts for only a few years, and forgo their legitimate claims for 23 years. The poor people traveling on trains are being forced to eat junk food instead of hot puri-sabji or roti-sabji. Indian Railways are not allowing Self-Help Groups to sell their products at all the Railways stations. Rail Minister announced that licensed coolies would be given jobs in the Railways. When and what is time-frame for this noble project, he asked. Dealing with the plight of daily railway passengers in the suburban trains, lack of amenities in long distance trains, safety and security of the commuters, conversion of metre-gauge into broad gauge in the North Eastern region, extension of underground metro with the railway stations at Sealdah and Howrah, Chatterjee concluded.
CPI(M) members in both houses of parliament strongly reacted against the US interference in India’s internal matters. Brinda Karat forcefully demanded the government to summon US Ambassador to express India’s displeasure at the unwanted ill advice of US to demand certain measures from Iran regarding its Nuclear Energy Development and said, on the occasion of the visit of the Iranian President to India, the US State Department has thought it fit to indulge in another act of gross interference in India’s relations with other countries. The US statement reflects the imperialist arrogance of a self-appointed world policeman. We condemn this statement in the strongest terms. The External Affairs spokesman has responded by saying that India does not require advice. It is an appropriate statement. We have to give a clear message that India is not prepared to go along with the aggressive warmongering stance of the Bush administration which threatens military attacks in Iran. The Indian government should recognise that Iran, as a signatory to the NPT, has the legal right to enrich nuclear fuel under international safeguards. The Iranian nuclear issue has, therefore, to be left to be dealt by the IAEA.
Rupchand Pal said we have been noticing for quite some time that the US is pressurising India on how India should conduct its bilateral relationship with Iran. It has been pressurising India not to proceed with Iran-Pakistan-India Gas Pipeline Project and the latest incident is the audacious and arrogant observation made by the US Deputy Secretary that during ensuing visit of the Iranian President as to how India should conduct itself in its bilateral relations with Iran, how the Iranian President should be treated etc. The Indian spokesperson has objected to that and given the right rebuff. This is an infringement on our sovereign position and on our sovereign right. We want a confirmed statement on the floor of the House denouncing this attitude of the US Deputy Secretary, Pal insisted.
Demanding the Government to take immediate steps to address the problems being faced by Indian workers stranded in Ajaokuta Steel City of Nigeria, Saman Pathak (CPI-M) in Rajya Sabha said, it is a matter of grave concern that over 80 Indians, some with families have been stranded in the Ajaokuta Steel City in Nigeria for the last ten days after the federal government revoked the deal that gave control of two state-owned steel firms to Global Infrastructure (Nigeria) Limited for ‘asset stripping’. The stranded Indians include 47 employees of the Ajaokuta Steel Co. Ltd. and 20 of the Nigerian Iron Ore Mining Co. Most of personnel held up in the city are virtually under house arrest in their quarters, two kilometers from the steel city. Armed policemen and security officials of the company were reportedly guarding them, fearing attack from the local Ebira youth. Most of the employees had not been paid salaries for nine months. Pathak urged upon the government to look into the matter and take immediate steps to address their problems.