People's Democracy

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

Vol. XXX

No. 13

March 26, 2006


Subhas Ray


IN Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) members staged an angry walkout on March 17 following the unsatisfactory reply to their queries about the privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports. They charged the civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, with concealing more than revealing on the question of private players and the sale of land to them.




During the discussion on the working of information and broadcasting ministry on March 13, the CPI(M)’s Brinda Karat said we are living in an age when the reach and impact of information technology are increasing. Yet the ministry lacks a comprehensive policy for the sector. One important point is the issue of FDI in media and we have to be extremely clear about what our policy should be about it. This issue also raises concern about our independent policies and democratic functioning. We have also been stressing the need of assuring autonomy to both Doordarshan and AIR so that they do not become the mouthpieces of a party in power.


As for freedom of expression, she said we support it but what is happening in its name is scandalous. She asked how many people creating and broadcasting obscenity had been booked. The way women are being portrayed is demeaning and insulting to them. Now the ministry has taken the initiative to have a regulatory code, but she asked what this regulatory body would be like. Are women going to be equal participants in it? Within what timeframe will it be set up and how will it function?


Dealing with the conditions of service in AIR and Doordarshan, she expressed concern over the number of complaints. Unfortunately, however, the minister did not have any dialogue with their employees. She urged the government not to remain a mute spectator to the decimation of workers’ and journalists’ rights in print and electronic media.


During the discussion on budget 2006-07, the CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury heavily criticised the government on the issue of additional resource mobilisation, gross tax revenue and non-collection of past arrears. Much of additional resources are to come by burdening the vast Indian masses, he said.  Among other things, he also dwelt upon the issue of tax dodging via the Mauritius route. (See the centre pages for the text of his speech)




On March 14, the CPI(M)’s Basudeb Acharia moved a calling attention motion in Lok Sabha on the brutal police attack on and killing of adivasis in Kalinganagar, Orissa. He said tribals are at the receiving end whenever a big mining or irrigation project is launched. The home minister admitted that the tribals were agitating for quite some time, as they were not getting proper compensation for the land acquired from them. There was a big gap in the compensation (Rs 36,000 per acre) they got and the price (Rs 3.36 lakh per acre) at which that land was sold to industrial houses. He said the tribals’ demand for rehabilitation and resettlement is quite justified as their very livelihood is at stake. The incident ridicules the UPA government’s Common Minimum Programme that promised immediate review of the strategy and programmes for development of tribal areas, to plug loopholes and to work out more viable livelihood strategies. It promised to put in place a more effective system of relief and rehabilitation of the groups displaced by development projects.

At Kalinganagar, the tribals’ crime was that they were resisting land acquisition for construction of an aluminium unit. Here the police moved to forcibly evict them from their homestead and agricultural land. Tribals had a tragic experience when thousands were evicted for the Hirakud Dam. That dam was constructed years ago but proper resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected people has not yet been done. In December 2000, too, a similar incident took place when four tribals were killed at Maikanch in district Raigarh, Orissa. What is happening is that the government, instead of taking people into confidence and negotiating with them, bureaucratically declares packages and asks people to surrender their lands. Nor are the affected people provided any job. Coal India Ltd has adopted a policy of denying employment to the affected people. Similarly, the Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd has not provided job to a single oustee. Acharia concluded with the demand of a mandatory national rehabilitation and resettlement policy in the country.



On March 17, initiating the Rajya Sabha discussion on the ministry of labour and employment, Chittabrata Majumder, CPI(M), strongly criticised the government’s calculated attempt to crush the trade unions and workers’ rights. Workers of Oswal woollen factory had to agitate for long because the employers refused to meet some of their demands. The case of Honda factory at Gurgaon is known to all. MNCs are not allowing their workers to form unions. Many unions are not getting registration from the labour department. The labour commissioner does not take initiative to convene a meeting and settle disputes. Even after agreements are reached, management does not implement them. This is the situation throughout India. In Sikkim, Trade Union Act and Industrial Disputes Act are not being implemented. We raised this issue with the labour department but the matter has not been sorted out.

Referring to the government’s own admission in Economic Survey 2005-06, he said labour laws are there only for seven per cent of the organised sector in the country. But here too the government is trampling upon the workers’ rights. It wants to impose the contract system upon organised sector workers as well. This exposes the hollowness of the UPA’s promises for protecting the workers’ rights.

Majumdar said anti-worker campaigns are going on in the country. Whenever a management compels workers to go on strike, immediately there is a hue and cry about the loss of man-days. Majumdar then juxtaposed the figures of man-days on account of strikes by employees (10.62 and 4.83 million man-days in 1999 and 2004 respectively) and lockouts by employers (16.16 million and 19.04 million). While the loss of man-days due to strikes sharply decreased during these five years, that due to lockouts increased. The government is conveniently ignoring the closures and retrenchments being effected without any prior permission.

But this is only one side of the coin. The other side is the tremendous increase in production due to development of technology. But employers are cornering the benefits of this increase and not sharing them with workers and consumers. Rather, the development of technologies is leading to an increase in the working hours, without any benefits to workers and employees. As per the law, a working day is of eight hours in a factory, but most of the workers are forced to work for 12 hours without any extra remuneration. What is worrying is that the government is itself violating the laws. The law allows no contract work in jobs of a perennial kind. But government organisations too are engaging contract labourers in such jobs.

The government has also slashed the interest rate on Employees Provident Fund from 12 to 8.5 per cent and is proposing to further bring it down to 8 per cent. This move is an affront to the retired workers and pension holders. Not only that. Retirees may also lose their earnings if the government is allowed to invest their earnings in the share market.

Majumdar also dwelt upon the fraudulent Consumer Price Index series 2002, aimed to further dupe the workers and people. The trade unions have proposed that a technical committee with TU representatives should be formed to examine various aspects of the new series and take a final decision. But this has not been done. Instead, the new series has already been announced as a decision. Majumder concluded by asking of what use a discussion with trade unions was.



Lok Sabha has passed the demands for grants for the ministry of home affairs. In the debate, Suresh Kurup, Khagen Das, V Radhakrishnan, Sebastian Paul and K S Manoj participated from the CPI(M) side. Pointing to the series of bomb blasts, communal violence, growing naxalite violence, insurgency in the north-eastern states and extremism in Jammu and Kashmir, they warned that the country’s unity and integrity country are threatened. These CPI(M) members demanded special legislation to deal with communal forces and with the anti-women offences.

Suresh Kurup demanded a proper inquiry into the attack on Emmanuel Mission in Kota, Rajasthan, and that a serious view be taken about mounting atrocities against women in the country, in Delhi in particular. He drew the home minister’s attention to some happenings in Kerala and the people’s apprehension that certain extremist organisations are having a field day all over Kerala.

Khagen Das demanded deployment of adequate central paramilitary forces in West Bengal to counter the Maoist activities and murders, implementation of the Shukla commission recommendations on priority basis, implementation of the Boparai committee recommendations to promote employment of the educated unemployed, taking up the issue of Indian militants’ camps with Bangladesh; freeze of bank accounts of Indian insurgent groups; time-bound completion of border fencing in north-east states and West Bengal; adequate compensation for and rehabilitation of the people affected by border fencing; and adequate deployment of BSF to effectively manage the Indo-Bangladesh border.

V Radhakrishnan and Sebastian Paul dwelt on the need to change the Police Act and revamping of the police force in accordance with today’s conditions. Our Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act came into effect a century ago and cannot tackle, for example, the cyber crimes of today. The issue of protection of the witnesses must be taken into consideration. 

K S Manoj urged the home minister to take necessary steps to restore to some charitable societies their registration, which was withdrawn by the Rajasthan government, and to activate their frozen bank accounts. He expressed concern on the increasing number of custodial deaths.




On March 17, Rajya Sabha discussed the way the government is moving regarding the Delhi and Mumbai airports and the issue of their modernisation. Initiating the discussion, the CPI(M)’s Dipankar Mukherjee said the Airport Authority of India (AAI) was formed through an act of parliament, by merging the National Airport Authority and International Airport Authority. Then the parliament was told that it was necessary to merge the Calcutta, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai airports with the National Airports Authority of India so that more revenue comes and other airports could be developed. This merger was effected in 1998 but, bypassing the parliament, the government decided to take out Delhi and Mumbai from the AAI’s ambit. The question is: is the government saying that the decision taken in 1995 was wrong?  How come that closer integration of and revenue from these airports were then necessary but today they are not? What are the parameters for a world class? Even if you feel that the AAI is incapable of putting up a world-class airport, you cannot take a decision while keeping the parliament in dark. If the AAI is unable to achieve that goal, who is responsible? How did you manage the AAI for six years after the merger?

So far as money is concerned, if a private company with a reserve of only Rs 62.5 crore can borrow to the extent of Rs 2300 crore, why cannot the AAI with a reserve of Rs 3000 crore get the money for modernisation? Why is it not being allowed to do it? Why the insistence on privatising these two airports for getting world-class service? Mukherjee charged the Empowered Group of Ministers with going beyond its terms of reference by changing the eligibility criteria. This is a big issue and the parliament must be apprised of it. He said this was a glaring example of promoting private sector at the cost of national exchequer, and insisted on a suitable reply from the government.

March 19, 2006