People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXVI

No. 02

January 08, 2012

 

THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT

 

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

 

AMID objections from the opposition, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill 2011 was finally tabled in Lok Sabha on December 22, 2011, and it was decided to extend the session for another three days for discussion and consideration of the bill after a short Christmas break.

 

The Lokpal Bill was eventually passed in Lok Sabha by voice vote, even as the Left parties, BJD and AIADMK walked out. But there was high drama in the Rajya Sabha over the bill and the over 12 hours debate ended abruptly at the stroke of midnight without the house taking a vote on the bill, as the house was adjourned sine die on the plea that the scheduled time had run out.

 

LOKPAL BILL

DEFICIENT

In Lok Sabha, CPI(M) group leader Basudeb Acharia joined the discussion on this particular bill, the Constitution (One Hundred and Sixteenth Amendment) Bill 2011 and the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making Disclosures Bill 2010. He said the people of the country were eagerly listening to the Lok Sabha debate as to how we would uproot the problem of corruption, the biggest the country is facing today. The CPI(M) has since long been demanding that an effective and strong Lokpal must be constituted but the bill under discussion had many shortcomings. One of our suggestions was that there must be an independent investigative agency under the Lokpal; otherwise the Lokpal cannot be able to deliver and will remain a dysfunctional institution. Acharia said the government must not act with a close mind but be receptive to the suggestions made by members of the house and the public at large, demanding that the prime minister must come under the ambit of Lokpal. In addition to the safeguards like internal security, national security and public order, Acharia also suggested a fourth safeguard --- that any agreement signed between India and another country must come under the ambit of Lokpal. He linked corruption to the indifferent attitude and inaction of the government and also to the neo-liberal policies being pursued by it. Plunder and loot of public assets are taking place. Dimensions of corruption have undergone a sea change from in the post-reform era; a number of scams have taken place. The Lokpal must enquire into these aspects of corruption also and into the nexus between corporate houses, bureaucracy and the corrupt persons. But the bill is completely silent on the repeated demand that corporate houses must be brought under the ambit of Lokpal. Further, there are several instances on the CBI being misused by the government to its advantage. Therefore, there is the need to make the CBI independent and accountable. Lokpal too must be accountable to either the parliament or the Supreme Court. Acharia concluded by pointing to the urgent need of electoral reforms as well. At the same time, the government must enact a model act and then ask the state governments to constitute their respective Lokayuktas, so as to safeguard our federal structure.

 

Speaking on the same bill later in Rajya Sabha, the CPI(M)ís parliamentary group leader Sitaram Yechury expressed happiness that Lokpal Bill was passed in Lok Sabha after 44 years. But there were four main weaknesses in the bill. The first point is that while we all say there must be Lokayuktas in states, a correction is needed on the question of our federal structure. The constitution made India a ďUnion of States,Ē and if the centre tries to make a law against the statesí interests, it would be going against the interest of India itself. The second point is that we want a better Lokpal and suggested amendments for the purpose but the government refused to accept them. There must be a democratic procedure for the appointment and removal of a Lokpal. Third, if we really want to fight corruption, corporate funding of political parties must be banned, and corporate and foreign funded NGOs must be brought within the ambit of the Lokpal. The last and most important point is about an investigative agency under the Lokpal. On the question of the CBI, Yechury said all matters under the Prevention of Corruption Act and to be investigated by the CBI must come under the Lokpalís jurisdiction and superintendence. He asked the government to accept these amendments for the sake of making the Lokpal an effective institution.

 

OTHER

ISSUES

During the discussion on the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2010 and Constitution (One Hundred and Fourteenth Amendment) Bill 2010, A Sampath said the bill would give more powers to the judiciary which has acted as a more or less independent institution. But like the parliament, judiciary too is not above accountability. On the long pending demand for a National Judicial Commission, the member asked why there was a delay in constituting an all-India judicial service, like other services. He also said there must be an amendment to the Contempt of Court Act. He also touched on issues like under-representation of women among the judges of the Supreme Court and High Court; the male dominated nature of the profession; the number of people from the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, OBCs or minorities in the judiciary; declaration of assets by judges; the need of having the Supreme Courtís benches outside Delhi, which article 130 of the constitution allows; the practice of public interest litigation; etc. Many of the judges seek appointment after retirement and so they want to be in the good books of political leaders. The memberís contention was that the bill needs a thorough revamping, must be sent back to the standing committee, and later re-introduced in the house.

 

Speaking on the Export-Import Banks of India (Amendment) Bill 2011, Moinul Hassan said it would have a big impact on our trade and commerce. The bill proposed to increase the EXIM Bankís capital from Rs 2000 crore to 10,000 crore but labour intensive industries or agriculture are not getting any help from this bank. It is serving only the corporate houses of our country. The growth of trade deficit in our country is much alarming and the government must encourage small exporters through this bank. There has been a continuous depreciation of Indian rupee because the FIIs are pulling out huge amounts of money from the Indian market. But the RBI did not intervene timely. The member also talked of the billís provision to nominate two directors to the EXIM Bank, a substantial increase in NPAs of the banks due to default on the part of private cooperatives and some other issues.

 

On the Factoring Regulation Bill 2011, Tapan Sen said in Rajya Sabha that the bill was on the problem of delayed payments from which our small and medium enterprises, which are the biggest employers and big contributors to our manufacturing output and exports, are suffering. These enterprises supply products to big industries but donít get payments in time. But instead of directly addressing the problem, the government has tried to create a toothless agency of commission agents for it. Some provisions are there for penalty, but none for penalising the debtor who has taken the supplies. As the small and medium enterprises have little negotiating power, the government must ensure that they get timely payment from the big industries. However, the government has not analysed why the acts of 1993 and 2006 failed. Thus there is no guarantee that the present bill would succeed.

 

In the same house, P Rajeeve opposed the Constitution (One Hundred and Eleventh Amendment) Bill 2009. He said cooperative societies were incorporated according to the prevailing rural realities in states, but the centre is now trying to encroach upon the statesí right to legislate with regard to these societies. After hearing the views of all stakeholders, the standing committee on agriculture recommended against the bill that is a direct attack on the directive principles of state policy. The cooperatives provide soft loans to farmers at the harvest time. Now, if the RBI directed interest regime is there in cooperative societies, what would be their future? In Kerala, cooperative societies are involved in public distribution system also and organise fairs during festivals like Onam, Christmas, Bakreed etc as well as at other times. But the central government is not ready to provide them any kind of assistance; on the contrary, the amendment bill may do away with them altogether, the member warned.