People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 05, 2006
WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
budget session 2006 of parliament began on February 16 with the presidentís
address to a joint session of both the houses, whereafter both the houses were
adjourned for the day. The first half of this session will continue till March
17, meet again on April 3 and conclude on April 28. During this 15-day recess,
standing committees will scrutinise the ministry-wise budget proposals.
The reported move of a religion based survey in defence forces came up for a brief discussion in Lok Sabha. Mohd Salim of the CPI(M) said where there is a will there is a way, but where this is no will there is a survey. If the government really wanted to do justice to the minorities, it could have done so without propagating. It is unfortunate for this country that whenever some initiatives are taken in the interest of minorities, it is given a communal overtone in order to frustrate the move. He also reminded the BJP leader L K Advani that there was in 1980, under late Smt Indira Gandhiís regime, a high power committee headed by Gopal Singh to find out the socio-economic conditions of minorities and suggest remedial measures. That survey took place and its report was submitted but remains unimplemented to date. Now, this latest survey was only doing a headcount in the army, which was deliberately dubbed as a communal headcount.
that he was proud of our army, Salim said the army is called for help and rescue
whenever the minoritiesí life and property is at stake. Had the army been
called at an early stage during the Gujarat riot 2002, many minority lives and
properties could have been saved. Therefore nothing should be done to tarnish
such a secular character of our army. In fact what the minorities need are
education and job, and the UPA government must stick to its CMP in this regard.
both houses, Left MPs strongly condemned the recent statements of US ambassador
David Mulford and staged angry walkouts against the governmentís lukewarm
response to their demand for his recall. The CPI(M)ís Basudeb Acharia raised
this issue in Lok Sabha and Nilotpal Basu in Rajya Sabha. They recalled
Mulfordís statement to the press that implementation of the Indo-US nuclear
deal depended on whether India voted against Iran in the International Atomic
Energy Agency. Mulford had also written a letter to the West Bengal chief
minister, threatening him that American investments would not come to the state
if he went on criticising the US role in Iraq. The Left MPs asked: was it proper
that the ambassador of another country threatened the elected chief minister of
a state? They said nothing short of the recall of this man, who had trampled
upon all diplomatic conventions, was acceptable to them.
February 23, amid pandemonium, parliament was adjourned on the issue of reported
news about the governmentís interference in the CBI inquiry in Babri
demolition case against the BJP leader Advani. In Lok Sabha, slogan shouting BJP
members did not let the house to function, forced four adjournments and demanded
the prime ministerís resignation. His reply to the motion of thanks on the
presidentís address was also lost in the din. The situation was no different
in Rajya Sabha. There were sharp exchanges of words between the BJP and the
the day, a discussion was expected on the prime ministerís statement on
Indiaís vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran nuclear
programme. So some members saw it a ploy to avoid the Iran issue at this
juncture. The Left MPs especially attacked the government for succumbing to the
US pressure and sacrificing the nationís time-tested foreign policy.
had a long discussion on the motion of thanks on the presidentís address.
From the CPI(M) side, Basudeb Acharia and N N Krishnadas took part in it
in Lok Sabha and Nilotpal Basu and Dipankar Mukherjee in Rajya Sabha. Reminding
that people had voted for a change in 2004, they regretted that many of the
policies continue unchanged. There was an agrarian crisis and agriculture was
ruined during the NDA regime; now the crisis has got accentuated and marginal
farmers have become poorer. The number of agricultural workers continues to
increase, and so does rural unemployment. Farmers are still committing suicide
under the impact of liberalisation and globalisation. Still there are attempts
to disinvest the public sector undertakings and sell them at throwaway prices.
There is a huge buffer stock in godowns but people cannot purchase foodgrains
because the PDS issue prices have gone up excessively. They are still reducing
subsidies meant for the poor. Capital formation and public investment in
agriculture are declining gradually. Institutional credit has also been reduced,
making farmers more dependent on moneylenders. There is a rise in the prices of
CPI(M) members said the need is not only to strengthen the public distribution
system but also to universalise it. All that it requires is a few thousand
crores. These members also reminded the government that there are some 22 crore
agricultural workers in the country but there is no law for them. They said some
bold measures are to be taken to arrest the crisis in the agricultural sector,
on which some 70 per cent of our population is dependent.
for the reforms needed for agriculture, Nilotpal Basu said the National
Commission for Farmers, headed by M S Swaminathan, has given some suggestions
like constitution of a fund to assist the farmers affected by crop losses,
reduction of interest rates on farm loans to 4 per cent, conduct of an all-India
debt survey and appropriate measures for debt relief including waiver for such
farmers as are in distress. The question is not so much of increasing the total
quantum of agricultural credit as of what kind and under what conditions it will
be available so as to benefit the small and marginal farmers. The situation
today is such that no institutional credit is available to farmers even after
crop failures. They go to moneylenders who charge exorbitant interest.
with agriculture in Kerala, Krishnadas said more than 327 farmers had committed
suicide in the last four and a half years. Because of removal of quantitative
restrictions on imports as per the WTO agreement, prices of pepper, cardamom,
areca nut and certain other agricultural products have steeply fallen. But the
government is not bothered about protecting these farmers. In Kerala, lakhs of
workers engaged in fishing, bidi making, handloom, coir, cashew nut and other
traditional industries have either lost their jobs or are on the verge of losing
their jobs. So the government has to take care of these traditional industries
and protect the life and livelihood of their workers, he said.
CPI(M) members also took up the question of so-called reforms. Though the CMP
talked of economic reforms with a human face, the ongoing Ďreformí process
in the country has failed to stimulate growth, investment and employment. During
their interventions, CPI(M) members also raised the issues of education and
health, drinking water problem, power generation and supply including the issue
of Enron fiasco, infrastructure, telecom development, airport modernisation, EPF
interest rate, and a host of other issues. Their contention was that
privatisation of public utilities and services has failed to solve any problems,
rather it has aggravated them, despite the repeated attempts at presenting it as
a panacea for all ills. As for FDI, CPI(M) members said they are in favour of it
only where it helps generate employment and brings in new technology. But the
government is bent upon opening our retail sector to foreigners, which they said
would be opposed.
the issue of a separate freight corridor, Acharia said the promise was that
there would be two separate freight corridors --- Kolkata-Delhi and Mumbai-Delhi,
and the RITES report had also recommended a freight corridor from Kolkata to
Delhi. Acharia therefore wanted to know why Kolkata had been replaced by
with foreign policy, CPI(M) members said the CMP had promised that our foreign
policy would be independent and that the UPA government would oppose
unilateralism and work to develop a multipolar world. There is no problem in
having friendly relations with any particular country, but can we go along with
it if a country tries to impose its hegemony on the whole world? Shall we not
demarcate from that country? Shall we not protest when our national self-respect
gets jeopardised? Lamenting the government of Indiaís lame-duck position on
Iraq and Iran, CPI(M) members wondered whether the hypocritical talk of
Indiaís strategic partnership with the US in the name of spreading freedom and
democracy all over the world, is really in our national interest.
Rajya Sabha, Dipankar Mukherjee waned that the NDAís fate would befall the UPA
government if it continued with the same policies, adding that the Left could
not be a party to such ruinous policies. He said a common man is not concerned
with 8 or 10 per cent growth. The point is whether or not the common man has
been given priority in the presidentís address. During his intervention, he
also pointed out the governmentís promise to provide electricity to every
house and its claim that 87 per cent of the villages had been electrified while
in reality only 40 per cent of the households are getting electricity.
On February 24, the railway budget 2006-07 was presented in parliament. However, it by and large failed to do away with regional imbalances and was tilted in favour of some states, and of rich commuters for whom AC first and second class fares have been reduced. The budget proposed privatisation of maintenance and cleaning of stations, ticket centres and outsourcing of various aspects of railways to private parties. It was a step towards implementing the recommendations of the infamous Rakesh Mohan committee that suggested virtual privatisation of the entire railways. The proposed freight corridors to connect the major metros and posts surprisingly halted at Sonnagar where there is no port, thus depriving Kolkata and its port. It was a political move on part of railway minister, and not in the interest of railways and the country.