People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 28, 2006
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.
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,.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.