People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 29, 2004
The Week In Parliament
THE utter frustration of the BJP over losing power continues to manifest through its mindless obstruction of parliamentary business. The latest ruse for disrupting the parliament was the non-bailable warrant issued against the Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharati by a Karnataka court in a case relating to the causing of riots in Hubli in 1994. Another “cause” was the reported remarks made by the union petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar against Savarkar. The BJP’s consistently irresponsible behaviour – be it the issue of tainted ministers, the decision to boycott standing committees or the present ruckus over Savarkar and Uma Bharati issues – forced the speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, to remark “even school children behave better”.
The Uma Bharati issue rocked both the Houses of parliament on the last day of the week, i.e. Friday, the August 20th. In Lok Sabha, the issue was raised immediately after the House assembled for the day. The speaker firmly asked the members not to disturb the question hour and requested them to raise it later. Immediately after question hour, the Congress and RJD members started waving a ‘fact-sheet’ on the case against Uma Bharati demanding her arrest and resignation.
FLOOD & DROUGHT SITUATION
In the limited normal business transacted by both the Houses of parliament after its reconvening on August 16, there was discussion on the serious flood and drought situation in the country. From the CPI(M) side, N N Krishnadas and Minati Sen participated in Lok Sabha while Prasanta Chatterjee spoke in Rajya Sabha.
They said, every year our country is facing these twin problems and despite repeated discussions in both the Houses, the situation has not changed. It has in fact even gone from bad to worse. This time the flood and drought situation is worse than the previous one. The CPI(M) members demanded that this problem be seen in the national perspective and initiate both long term and short term measures to control the calamities.
Krishnadas drew attention to the situation in Kerala, which was facing a very severe drought situation. Almost all revenue villages have been declared drought-affected. The aggregate losses, comprising all the sectors of agriculture, will come to more than Rs 2,000 crore this year. In fact, the state has been facing this problem for the last three years. There have been recurring incidences of forest fires and loss of wildlife due to drought conditions. He criticised the central government for not spending any amount to tackle the situation. Moreover, the union agriculture minister stated in a press conference that the drought situation in Kerala is not that serious. “More than 1,000 farmers have committed suicide in the state. Does the government consider Kerala part of the nation or not?” asked Krishnadas angrily. He felt the tradition of neglect towards Kerala continues even today.
In Assam, nearly five million people have suffered heavy losses. The situation in Bihar is much grave this time, Prasanta Chatterjee pointed out. According to the Planning Commission, floods were occurring due to breaches in embankments resulting in submerging of large areas. He asked what steps were being taken to save embankments from breaches.
Minati Sen stressed that the government must fulfill the long pending demand of setting up Indo-Bhutan Joint River Commission to overcome the tide of flood ravages. She said the entire North Bengal region was affected due to the rivers emanating from Bhutan changing course due to deforestation and consequently causing floods in Bengal. These floods affected the roads, human and animal resources, agricultural lands, tea estates, forest areas, sanctuaries etc. The CPI(M) members concluded with the demand for adequate allocation of funds to challenge the menace of floods and droughts in the country.
SHORTAGE OF POWER
On August 17, there was a discussion in Lok Sabha on the situation arising out of shortage of power in the country. From the CPI(M), its leader, Basudeb Acharia and Sujan Chakraborty participated in the discussion. They stressed the need to address the country’s electricity problems much more seriously as it was part of the critical infrastructure for ensuring development of the country. Even today, there are more than one lakh revenue villages which are without power. Several states are suffering due to the shortage of electricity in the manufacturing and agriculture sector.
The CPI(M) members stressed that the potential for generating hydel power in the North East must be tapped. Today, only less than 15 per cent of hydel power is being tapped. They criticised the non-implementation of the policy on hydel power which was announced by the government in 1998. Among the problems requiring the attention of the government were inadequate power generation capacity, lack of optimum utilisation of the existing generation capacity, lack of grid discipline and inadequate inter-regional transmission links. They also drew attention to the fact that thermal power plants, which were set up in the 1950’s have not been renovated and modernised. Regarding generation, the Ninth Plan target was 46,000 MW but it was subsequently reduced to 22,000 MW. There is a huge gap in demand and supply and to meet the demand huge funds are required.
Expressing dissatisfaction at achievements in the non-conventional sector and nuclear power generation, the CPI(M) members wanted the government to plan for setting up more thermal power plants in the country since there are enough coal reserves. They criticised the union ministry of environments and forests for inordinately delaying clearance to thermal and hydel power projects.
to the neglect of Eastern states, the MPs questioned what was the status of the
proposal for a joint venture of National Thermal Power Corporation and West
Bengal State Electricity Board. They criticised the centre for not clearing this
proposal till date. Similarly Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) has a plan to set
up two power plants in Bankura and at Durgapur in West Bengal. The CPI(M)
members demanded clearance of these projects. They said the Electricity Act was
aimed at privatisation in generation and distribution and asked the government
to re-look into the matter. They wanted involvement of Panchayats very
categorically in the rural electrification. Saying that a new policy must be
drawn up, they concluded.