People's Democracy

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


No. 29

July 28,2002


Subhas Ray

ON July 16, a day after the monsoon session of parliament began, Lok Sabha discussed the opposition’s adjournment motion on the government’s failure to combat terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. The opposition pressed the government to explain how it would control terrorism and what is its policy in this regard. Simply holding Pakistan responsible cannot solve the problem. A dialogue with Pakistan is needed to reduce tension and create mutual confidence. But, instead, the GoI is out to create war hysteria, the opposition said.



During the discussion, the CPI(M)’s Somnath Chatterjee condemned the July 13 massacre in Qasim Nagar and conveyed condolences to bereaved families. After a similarly gruesome incident in the area during the last session, the union home minister had assured to take appropriate actions; but now this massacre shows the government’s monumental failure. The innocent people’s life is not secure in the hands of this government, Chatterjee said. He asked: Was there any intelligence failure? How are terrorists able to infiltrate into our territory? Who is to control the menace and save the innocent people? Chatterjee accused the government of misleading the parliament and the nation about combating terrorism, and asked the deputy prime minister cum home minister to apologise for the failure.

Referring to the summary rejection of the J&K assembly’s resolution, Chatterjee said we have seen how the people’s active participation in the war on terrorism controlled the menace in Punjab. But here the autonomy demand has been thrown to the wind. On the contrary, there is now the demand for trifurcation of J&K. It is a pernicious demand, made at a volatile time. Chatterjee asked: What is the government’s stand on this communal demand? He also wanted to know what economic development the GoI has effected in Jammu and Kashmir, since it announced a package for the state.



On July 17, during a short duration discussion in Lok Sabha, the entire opposition and even some NDA members took the government to task for allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in print media. Demanding that the government annul the decision, the opposition reminded how before 1947 the print media had created an anti-British, anti-imperialist climate in favour of India’s independence. Now foreigners in print media will be able to influence and meddle with our entire polity.

Rupchand Pal, CPI(M), said there is a hasty move to reverse the existing policy for print media where we do not need foreign investment. Pal charged the government with trying to destroy the whole fabric of the Fourth Estate. After 55 years of freedom, we have more than 50,000 registered newspapers and periodicals in the country, without any FDI. He also said the government was out to destroy the freedom of the press. No developed country has allowed any foreign investment in print media. Pal warned the government’s decision would enable the minority shareholders, with far below 26 per cent stake, to control the publishing companies. This opening up of the press spells danger to our legislature, executive and judiciary. In a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society, foreign investors will only pollute our public life, our values and outlook, and thus endanger our unity and integrity. Pal concluded with the demand that the government annul its decision and, instead, set up a new finance corporation to help the small and medium size papers and periodicals.



In Lok Sabha, on the same day, the opposition cornered the government on Vaiko’s arrest under POTA. Without approving of Vaiko’s pro-LTTE stand, the opposition focused its attack was how the draconian POTA could be abused. It asked the government to clarify that if Vaiko’s arrest under POTA was justified, how MDMK members could remain in the union council of ministers.

The CPI(M)’s Somnath Chatterjee recalled --- the same Vaiko had called us anti-people when we opposed the bill; today he is its victim. The supporters of the bill have evidently given the government draconian powers. Chatterjee here pointed out how the West Bengal government’s declaration about not using this lawless law was correct. He appealed to the members to ponder whether such laws should really be in the statute book of a civilised nation.



Rajya Sabha held a short duration on drought situation in many parts of the country. From the CPI(M) side, Matilal Sarkar expressed anguish over the severe drought situation in various states and said, besides human beings, animals too are dying of starvation. Ponds have dried up; the water table has gone down. The monsoon is eluding a large part of the country, causing crop losses worth hundreds of crores of rupees. The government has not come out with adequate relief. There is also discrimination in giving relief and distributing money from the National Calamity Relief Fund. He wanted to know how much money has been given under the food for work programme.

Sarkar said droughts or floods never come alone, and there is need to discuss them together. The ferocity of the twin menace has increased manifold. But the GoI is not serious about controlling them. It is not difficult to tackle the situation if the government is sincere about evolving short-term and long-term programmes, Sarkar insisted.

Tarini Kanta Roy, CPI(M), drew attention of the house to the recurring floods in Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar districts in West Bengal. He said the Torasa, Kalijani, Jaldhakka, Raidak and Gadadhar rivers, that originate in Bhutan and flow through these districts, have regularly caused floods in the state for two decades. The fury of these floods is such that vast areas are inundated every year and the state has to suffer heavy losses of life and property. Roy urged the government to discuss this issue with the Bhutan government to constitute an Indo-Bhutan Rivers Commission to tackle the problem.

In Lok Sabha, Moinul Hassan of the CPI(M) drew attention to the severe erosion caused by Ganga and Padma rivers in Murshidabad district of West Bengal, since long. The erosion of the right banks of both rivers has already engulfed lakhs of hectares of cultivated land, some towns, several villages, parts of the state highway, and mangroves, displacing lakhs of people from their homes. They are now compelled to live along the roadside and face a lot of problems. Hassan asked the GoI to immediately come forward with steps to check the erosion further, with a suitable rehabilitation programme, and give financial assistance to the state government in this regard.



In Rajya Sabha, the CPI(M)’s C O Poulose protested the disinvestment of Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd (FACT). He said it is the largest central PSU in Kerala, employing 6,200 employees directly and 10,000 indirectly, with an annual turnover of Rs 2,000 crore. Its assets value is around Rs 5,000 crore. It produces 15 lakh MT of fertilisers a year. It earned profits continuously for the last 14 years, contributed to India’s food security enormously, and won National Productivity Award, National Energy Conservation Award, Pollution Control Award and National Safety Awards several times. Now the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment is out to sell 51 per cent of its equity and give up management control. Poulose forcefully demanded that the government withdraw its move to sell the FACT.

Sarla Maheswari, CPI(M), drew attention to the workers’ and employees’ demands for which they held a national assembly of about 5,000 delegates in New Delhi, July 15, when central trade unions, federations and independent unions voiced concern over the government’s LPG policies. Maheshwari demanded that profit-making enterprises must not be privatised; quantitative restrictions must be reimposed on imports to safeguard the interest of our industries and agriculture; new national schemes for employment generation adopted; social security schemes incorporating unemployment insurance formulated; and all limits on bonus payment abolished.

Rajya Sabha has passed the Homeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill 2002, whose general objects Prasanta Chatterjee of the CPI(M) supported. He said millions of people in a poor country like ours could not pay even for food and basic treatment. Homeopathy treatment must be promoted in view of the socio-economic factors operating in our country. Allopathic treatment is very costly, it is going beyond the reach of the poor, and only the rich can afford it in the days to come. As homeopathic treatment is safe for all people and effective for chronic diseases, it must be introduced in public health centres and the Integrated Health Care System along with other systems of medicine. We must open proper research centres in homeopathy and introduce MD courses in many institutions. Chatterjee suggested holding a central workshop with noted homeopathic doctors to discuss this subject in order to improve the homeopathic treatment in the country.

In Rajya Sabha, the CPI(M)’s S Ramachandran Pillai raised the issue of harassment of Indians visiting the US. He strongly criticised the attitude of the US immigration authorities and security personnel towards Indian citizens visiting the US and said the US authorities are treating Indian citizens as terrorists. US authorities detained Indian citizens for interrogation for hours together in a number of cases. In this regard, Pillai cited the harassment of CPI(M) leader Somnath Chatterjee, Malayalam actress Samyukhta Varma and actor Kamal Hasan. He asked the government to take up the issue with US authorities and uphold the Indian citizens’ dignity.