People's Democracy

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

Vol. XXX

No. 11

March 12, 2006


Subhas Ray


ON February 27, the first day of the week, the Economic Survey 2005-06 was tabled in parliament. The survey advocated initiatives to expedite tax reforms and infrastructure development, called for levying of user charges for various services and pruning of subsidies in various sectors, and talked of the danger of unprecedented price rise, a balance of payments problem and unemployment growth. The most dangerous aspect of the survey is that it advocated further squeeze of unprotected labour in the country, saying the “Indian labour laws are highly protective” while ignoring that about 90 per cent of our labourers are in the unorganised sectors where no labour laws exist. Hence its proposal for drastic labour ‘reforms.’ The survey was concerned over stagnating food production and languishing agricultural growth.

On February 28, the general budget 2006-07 was presented in parliament. Members of the Left parties said the budget failed to address the pressing concerns like the continuing agrarian crisis and burgeoning unemployment. Allocation for agriculture is meagre and most of the recommendations of National Commission on Agriculture have been ignored. The budgetary provisions for rural employment, health and education are not in keeping with the promises made in the NCMP. While the tax revenues have registered an overall increase, the shortfall in corporate tax and excise duty collections in 2005-06 causes concern. These members said the government should have taken the Left proposals for resource mobilisation seriously.




This week both the houses discussed the prime minister’s February 17 statement on India’s vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran issue. From the CPI(M), Sitaram Yechury in Rajya Sabha strongly expressed anguish over the way India voted on the issue, and so did Rupchand Pal in Lok Sabha. (See our last and the current issue for Yechury’s speech.)


In Lok Sabha, Rupchand Pal asked what the reason was for a change in the UPA government’s stand after September 24, 2005. Iran has been researching about peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Across the globe, experts on nuclear issue say that Iran’s uranium enrichment programme is of such a low level that it might take several decades to reach the weaponisation stage. Iran is agreed to open its nuclear facilities for inspection, but also says and correctly that it has the right to pursue an independent nuclear programme for peaceful purposes. Pal reminded that Iran always stood by India on numerous issues, and is ready to help us through a gas pipeline. To date, Iran has not done us any harm. Hence our people will not accept it if the government does something wrong on the Iran issue in the name of national interest. We have betrayed a country that never betrayed us, he reminded. Therefore the government, which has so far ignored the advice of the Left, should revise its position and not be a party to dragging Iran to the Security Council. Pal reminded that the US game is to divide the NPT countries too, and it is also preparing Israel for an attack. He said the change in India’s stand is a grave mistake, in violation of the UPA’s commitment in the NCMP, and unacceptable to the Left. He charged the government with running after the mirage of US support for a permanent seat in Security Council. It is high time the government do some introspection or be ready to face the consequences.




On March 1, Rajya Sabha passed the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2005. Supporting the bill, A Vijayaraghavan, CPI(M), said the act would give more opportunities for higher education to the minorities who, especially the Muslims, are lagging behind socially, economically and educationally.  The minorities are suffering from agony because of the hardcore Hindutva line of the previous government, and the present bill would help them gain some confidence.


No doubt there is possibility of misuse of this bill’s provisions. As per the bill, an individual from a minority community can start “a minority institution” if he has land and money. Citing examples, he said the Kerala government gave permission to several people of the minority communities to start unaided colleges but they have not fulfilled the promises they had made. So much so that the Kerala chief minister had to publicly admit that private self-financed institutions have played mischief and betrayed the people. So utmost caution is needed in this regard, he said. 


After the Supreme Court judgement on fee structure, meritorious but poor students feel worried if they would get a chance for higher education. The government must come forward with a law to ensure education for meritorious students in these colleges. But there is no such provision in this bill. Vijayaraghavan insisted that the government assure the house that poor and meritorious students in the country would be, by legislation, provided with opportunities for higher education. Once a minority institution is started, 50 per cent of seats must be reserved for the deprived and poor among the minorities.


A minority institution does not mean that it is for minorities alone. It is for meritorious students and must provide quality education to the minorities. Also, the government must make necessary amendments because clause 12 (b) (iv) gives an impression that the minority education commission has more powers than the state governments. While the states must be made to discharge their responsibilities, it is necessary to protect their autonomy and to give the state laws an equal standing as the central law.




In Rajya Sabha, on February 27, Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat of the CPI(M) expressed grave concern over the mockery of justice in criminal cases. Yechury drew attention to what happened in the Jessica Lal murder case, how the investigation was tardy, how the police was in league with the accused and how the witnesses were forced to turn hostile. If this happens to page three celebrities, we can well imagine the fate of common citizens. We have witnessed a series of cases, including those in Gujarat, in which witnesses were intimidated, cases were distorted, and finally the accused went scot-free.


Yechury referred to the Law Commission chairman’s word that in recent times it has become very common that witnesses in criminal cases turn hostile due to the threats they receive from those close to the accused. In its consultation paper, the Law Commission referred to a recent Supreme Court judgement that talked of witnesses’ anonymity and their protection. The Supreme Court also wanted the parliament to enact a law on the subject, at the earliest. Referring to the Jessica Lal case, Yechury said that if the system of delivery of justice could be manipulated to such an extent as to deny justice, as it happened right under our nose in Delhi, it only displays our government’s incompetence. This cannot be tolerated, Yechury warned.


Brinda Karat pointed out that the accused in the Jessica Lal case are the sons of important politicians. We are all on trial today because of the son of a person who is a minister in the Haryana government. Some other politicians also connived in this case. The question is of political accountability and the role of investigating agencies. Within a few months of the probe, the Delhi Police concluded that the investigation was contaminated and recommended strong action against the erring police officials. But no action was taken against them. She forcefully demanded a time-bound probe and action against all the guilty police officials.



In protest against George Bush visit to India, the Left and SP members staged a walkout in both houses on March 2, and squatted in the portico of Parliament House while holding placards and shouting slogans against US imperialism. Later they went to the Parliament Street in a procession to join the thousands of protesters.


On March 3, Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) raised the issue of recent Indo-US agreement in nuclear and other fields. Drawing attention to the anti-Bush demonstrations by lakhs of people throughout the country, he charged the government with keeping the parliament and the country in dark about the deals on nuclear and other important issues. He said it was very clear from Bush’s statement that the deal favours the US. What is agonising is that he has forced us to come to such agreements and he then quoted Bush: “If India and China continue to grow at the current rates and consume hydrocarbons the way they are, they will drive up oil prices, hurting the American consumer.”


As for the agreement on agriculture, Acharia warned that the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture Research, Education and Biotechnology would hurt more than 60 per cent of our population. WalMart and Monsanto people were present when this agreement was signed, through which our agricultural market would be opened up for multinationals. Our scientists have expressed apprehensions about what will happen to our farmers. The interests of the US and other western countries have been served at the Indian people’s cost, while keeping the parliament and our people in dark. So Acharia demanded a thorough parliament discussion on these deals.




On the same day, parliament passed the railway budget 2006-07. From the CPI(M) side, P Karunakaran, Santasri Chatterjee, Minati Sen, A P Abdullah Kutti, Sunil Khan, A V Bellermin, Basudeb Barman, Sujan Chakraborty, C S Sujatha, Basudeb Acharia and P Rajendran participated in the debate. While supporting the rail budget, they strongly opposed the government’s move to push privatisation in the railways. These members demanded extension of rail lines, doubling of lines, introduction of new trains, modernisation and cleaning of stations, construction of overbridges, electrification of railways in their respective states, track renewals, passenger amenities, and safety and security of commuters.


Rajya Sabha has passed the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Bill 2005. It seeks to regulate the refining, processing, storage, transportation, distribution, marketing and sale of petroleum, petro-products and natural gas. The CPI(M)’s Dipankar Mikherjee described the bill as techno-complex, saying it is no longer limited to only public sector; the private sector has also come in. The government has not given any importance to the suggestion of a national fossil feedstock policy. The adulteration of petroleum products is a very serious issue, but this is not included in the brief of the proposed board in spite of the standing committee’s recommendation. The concept of common carrier must be re-examined, he said. He also criticised the board’s composition as very vague, one that cannot make a regulatory system really work. Unfortunately, the regulatory board is being considered as a rehabilitation centre for bureaucrats, while specialists must be inducted therein. There is no reason why a Planning Commission member in charge of energy sector should be heading the search committee for the biggest regulator of this country. It is clear from the experience of electricity and telecom regulatory bodies that the proposed regulatory board should not be independent of parliament. Mukherjee demanded that the bill be sent to a parliamentary committee for a re-examination clause by clause.

March 5, 2006