People's Democracy

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

Vol. XXX

No. 22

May 28, 2006



Subhas Ray


THE second half of extended budget session began on May 10 and ended on May 23. Its first week (May 10 to 12) passed without both houses transacting any major business. But the second week was hectic and both houses discussed a number of issues. May 15 saw the members expressing serious concern on Doda killings in Jammu & Kashmir by terrorists. On the charge of the government going soft on terrorists in J&K, home minister Shivraj Patil asked the BJP to adopt a balanced approach. The CPI(M)’s Md Salim in Lok Sabha and Prasanta Chatterjee in Rajya Sabha condemned this killing of innocent people and said the security of such people should be the primary concern of any government. Moreover, the J&K people need more security in face of terrorist attacks there. They said the Kashmir problem could not be solved by bullet but by dialogue and developmental works there. The CPI(M) members then appealed to all that there should be no identity based politics on this issue.




The CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury in Rajya Sabha and Basudeb Acharia in Lok Sabha launched a frontal attack on the BJP and Sangh Parivar while discussing the communal violence in the country. (See the text of Yechury’s speech elsewhere in this issue.) Acharia moved a Calling Attention Motion on the issue, but it was later converted into a Short Duration Discussion. He faced a volley of interruptions from BJP benches while mentioning the Vadodara incident. Amid interruptions he said when the Gujarat chief minister was celebrating Gujarat Gaurav Divas on May 1, the 300 years old durgah of a Sufi saint was demolished by Municipal Corporation under the direct supervision of BJP and Bajrang Dal leaders. Giving details of the durgah and the RSS moves to destroy it, the CPI(M) members said the chief minister did not move for two days after this seven feet small durgah was demolished and violence erupted,.


This reminds us of what happened in Gujarat in 2002 when the state sponsored mayhem destroyed 300 religious places there. What we are witnessing is that religious places are being targeted in BJP ruled states like Gujarat and Rajasthan. In Gujarat it was not communal violence in 2002 but gruesome state sponsored genocide when some 1,100 people were killed, many burnt alive, thousands of houses gutted, hundreds of children orphaned, and 60,000 living in camps. We have also seen how the accused in the Best Bakery case were set free. It was after the Supreme Court intervention that nine of the accused were convicted for the first time. POTA was used not against those responsible for the genocide but against the innocent in the name of their involvement in Godhra train fire. During the six years of NDA regime we saw how education and culture were communalised. Saying that the Gujarat government had failed to protect the minority community, Acharia demanded a judicial inquiry and handover of all such cases to the CBI, for the Indian people want that our secular character must be strengthened, he concluded.




The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill 2006 was passed in both the houses. As the expression ‘office of profit’ is not defined in the constitution or in any act, it was proposed to enact this legislation, so as to save the holders of such offices from disqualification. From the CPI(M) side, Sitaram Yechury in Rajya Sabha and Basudeb Acharia in Lok Sabha supported the bill. They said they were supporting it not because they wanted any “profit” but because the issue was one of principle. They said many members of parliament have to discharge their responsibilities by working on various boards.


The CPI(M) members pointed out that the constitution has made a correct provision in its article 102 on the question, but there is no authentic definition of an office of profit and that is the problem. When we support this bill, we do so with a condition --- that a parliamentary committee should be formed to define as to what will be an office of profit, and the recommendations of that committee should be taken up for consideration and implementation. There is also the necessity for parliament to examine whether an MP can be on the board of directors of a private company simultaneously or practice in a court as a lawyer. Are these not the issues that need to be discussed? The CPI(M) members said double standards of this nature cannot do any good to this country, and the legislation cannot serve its purpose if such problems are not resolved.




While Lok Sabha discussed suicide by farmers in various parts of the country, Rajya Sabha took up for discussion the issue of wheat import and agrarian distress.


During the discussion on farmers’ suicide, Hannan Mollah, CPI(M) said, several thousand farmers have committed suicide mainly in four states --- Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Kerala --- but of late Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have been added to this list. Farmers growing cottton, spices, coffee, coco, cashew, paddy and wheat are all getting affected. Our agricultural policies are responsible for their sad plight. Agricultural imports and WTO conditions are the main factors responsible for such a situation. The government tells our farmers to compete with the world while giving only 3 per cent subsidy. While 70 per cent of population depends on agriculture, investment is being reduced. Banks collect deposits from rural areas but provide loans to industrialists while depriving the farmers. The latter are not getting remunerative prices for their produce either. State procurements have been drastically reduced. Rajasthan produced 36 lakh tonnes of mustard last year and 43 lakh tonnes in the current year but the NAFED stopped the mustard procurement after purchasing 12 lakh tonnes only. Then there are private moneylenders charging exorbitant interest rates. All these factors combine to force the farmers to commit suicide. Therefore the UPA government has to help the farmers and procure the agriculture produce, to fulfil its promises in the National Common Minimum Programme.


As for agricultural labourers, their number is increasing but there is neither any minimum wage for them nor any social security cover. To improve the lot of the farmers, the Swaminathan committee recommendations should be implemented. The rate of interest on loans for farmers be reduced to four per cent and insurance cover provided for the crops in each district, Mollah demanded.


In Rajya Sabha, on wheat import and agrarian distress, Tapan Sen, CPI(M), initiated the discussion. He warned that the wheat import is going to multiply the farmers’ distress further. Referring to the Economic Survey 2004-05, he said the agricultural growth rate has been dwindling since the last one and a half decades. It was a mere 0.7 per cent in 2004-05 while the population growth is 1.8 per cent. This will lead to a pre-green revolution type situation when the country faced a severe food crisis, and force thousands more to commit suicide.


In this context, Sen said the people have given a befitting reply to the NDA liars of the ‘Shining India’ campaign, and the UPA government must draw a lesson from it. The problem lies in the policy and the kind of landholding pattern in India. Prices of our agricultural products are collapsing because of the opening up of our economy while private traders are fleecing the consumers as well as producers. The government has succumbed to international pressure and reduced subsidies on agriculture. It has to reconsider the need of wheat import and (sometimes) its export at below-BPL prices. Sen said it is unfortunate that the government is not interested in recovering loans worth lakhs of crores of rupees from corporate houses; otherwise many of our problems could have been mitigated.




In Lok Sabha, Khagen Das (CPI-M) drew attention to the need to provide remuneration to contract workers at par with regular employees in oil PSUs.  He said contractisation has reached an atrocious level in oil PSUs. Prior to 1991, contract work dominated the auxiliary and peripheral work while regular workers generally manned production and operational jobs. But post-liberalisation the situation has undergone a sea change and the regular operational and production jobs are also being assigned to contract workers, in violation of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970. A serious situation has emerged where two sets of workers are doing the same job under the same roof while one set of workers (contract workers) are receiving one-tenth of the wages or even less than what their regular counterparts are receiving. Das urged the government to find a lasting solution to this problem and provide interim relief to the huge mass of contract workers immediately.


In Rajya Sabha, Prasanta Chatterjee of the CPI(M) expressed grave concern over the withdrawal of payment of bonus on MIS and strongly recorded his protest against a recent order of the ministry of finance which states inter alia that with effect from February 13, 2006 no bonus will be admissible on maturity of deposits made in the monthly income scheme of postal department. Shamefully, the order was issued while bypassing the parliament and MPs could not have a chance to discuss this serious issue involving millions of people. During the last 12 years, the union government has brought down the MIS interest rate from 12 to 8 per cent and now there will be no bonus on new deposits. The government has already brought down the rate on all bank deposits. Naturally, small depositors are investing their money in share and equity markets. A recent survey found that 44 per cent of the population --- highest in the world --- has invested money in the share market. Obviously, this resulted in a surge in Sensex, leading to high price rise of all essential commodities in the domestic market. Millions of small depositors, who used to deposit their life-long savings in banks and post office schemes to have some secured relief for old age, are hard hit due to this anti-people policy of the union government. Chatterjee forcefully demanded immediate restoration of bonus payment at the rate of ten per cent on MIS postal deposits.


In Lok Sabha, Left members --- Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI), Basudeb Acharia, Md Salim, Santasri Chatterjee and Rupchand Pal (all CPI-M) --- strongly protested against the reported move to reduce the interest rate on provident fund to 8 per cent, and termed it as anti-people. The move has bypassed the parliament, ignored the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Labour and rejected the demands of central trade unions who represent crores of employees.

May 21, 2006