People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 10, 2006
THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
On November 22, the first day of its winter session, the parliament adjourned after paying obituary to the deceased members, and disrupted on the second day by BJP. It was only on the last day that both the houses normally functioned.
ON TALKS WITH CHINA
The day saw a brief discussion on the Chinese ambassadorís reported statement on Arunachal Pradesh. BJP leaders in both houses insisted on passing a resolution against China as a invader in Arunachal and resorted to their patent canard against the CPI(M), which raised the decibel level high in Rajya Sabha. The BJP said the CPI(M) was refusing to acknowledge China as the aggressor in 1962 and not making its stand clear on Arunachal. CPI(M) leader, Sitaram Yechury, strongly protested, saying the CPI(M) stood by the fact that Arunachal is an integral part of India and shall remain so. Yet the BJP members resorted to interruptions. Yechury accused the BJP of spreading untruths about the Indian Leftís relationship with China. Requesting the chair to refrain the BJP members from filibustering with fascistic attitude in the house, he said the CPI(M) had constantly said the border dispute should be solved through negotiations. The stand the government of India is taking today vis-ŗ-vis China has been the CPI(M)ís consistent all through.
In Lok Sabha, Md Salim (CPI-M) termed the Chinese ambassadorís reported statement as inappropriate in time. It is good neither for Indiaís interest nor for Sino-Indian relations. Amid vociferous interruption by BJP benches, Salim said Arunachal is an integral part of India and we need not to prove it time and again. CPI(M) is totally committed to Indiaís integrity of India and our foreign minister rightly criticised the Chinese envoyís statement. But a problem of this kind can, and should, be resolved through debate and discussion. He said the BJP benches were among the people who do not want a cordial relationship between the two nations.
BJPíS UTTER HYPOCRISY
Before moving an adjournment motion on internal security and the growth of terrorist menace, leader of opposition L K Advani referred to former minister Shibu Sorenís conviction and said the prime minister owed an apology to the nation and an explanation to the parliament. But he was strongly rebuffed by the parliamentary affairs minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M)and Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI).
Lashing out at the BJP, Acharia ridiculed the BJPís concern for morality, saying that Advani and other ministers involved in criminal cases continued in the NDA government for six long years. Advani was chargesheeted for the Babri demolition on December 6, 1992, followed by RSS men killing hundreds of innocent people in riots. It is thus clear that Advani or any other BJP leader has no right to pose as defenders of morality and political probity.
ISSUE OF PRICE RISE
During the short duration discussion in Lok Sabha on the rising prices of essential commodities, P Karunakaran, CPI(M), said the wholesale price index, consumer price index and retail price index are no real expressions of the price movements. That is why the RBI suggestion for constructing a harmonious all-India index of consumer prices for macro analysis and policymaking deserves serious consideration. It would help the government and the RBI to respond quickly to price movement.
Karunakaran said the wholesale prices of all the basic items have shown sharp increase, from 12 to 84 percent, in one year. If we come to retail prices, the situation is more serious. While the income of an average Indian has risen by 6 percent, prices are up 19 percent. In case of farmers, while the prices of agriculture inputs have gone up, the prices of all agricultural products have gone down. In the service sector, the costs of health, education, transport and many other things for the public have gone up. But the government has taken only half-hearted measures. The basic measures we have to take at the national level are about import policy and WTO diktat. The CPI(M) and other Left parties had suggested some structural changes in taxation. Instead of giving tax relief and other concessions to big companies, the government should bring down the costs of agriculture inputs, he insisted. Both the centre and the states have to give some relief and compensation to the farmers.
Dealing with petroleum prices, Karunakaran said the crude price in international market has plummeted by 20 to 22 dollars per barrel, but the relief is yet to reach the people. About the public distribution system, he said ration shop owners are not able to run their shops because of APL-BPL classification. The PDS is now virtually defunct or at the best highly inefficient. There is need for government intervention to stabilise and control the market and the prices.
On the other hand, parliament has also passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2006. Rising to speak on the bill, the CPI(M)ís Alakesh Das said the Act was passed in 1955 but no definition has been framed so far. In 1972-73 the peopleís average intake was 2266 calories but it had come down to 2149 in 1999-2000, which clearly depicts 70 percent of people in India as BPL. Of them, 30 percent are continually starving. Though the billís objective is to control the production, supply, distribution and trade of certain commodities in the general publicís interest, the NDA government deleted 11 commodities from the list of essential commodities in 2002-03. But, Das demanded, the UPA government must consult the state governments before making deletions or additions of items in this list.
During the Lok Sabha discussion on the ongoing sealing drive in Delhi, the CPI(M)ís Hannan Mollah said it is an old problem, for which the house has to find a solution. Both the parties are indulging in allegations and counter allegations, without suggesting a solution. But it is a hard reality of which the people of Delhi are well aware. All of us know who are the people who caused it; otherwise unauthorised construction on such a large scale wonít have taken place. A Master Plan is formulated time and again, but not implemented. No ground survey is conducted before chalking out a Master Plan.
Today 55 percent people in Delhi are residing in unauthorised colonies. One wonders how this city has turned into an illegal city. However, this government needs to regularise all the unauthorised colonies immediately. As for the shops, 5 lakhs in number, only one lakh are regular. People from all over the country come to seek employment in Delhi and settle down here. While the government does not provide them the means of livelihood, its policies have proved patently wrong. To save Delhi and its people, the ongoing sealing drive must be stopped. We need to enact a law to stop sealing and include the same in the ninth schedule. There must be a flexible, mixed land-use policy. In respect of the listed categories, we have to decide which shops must be permitted in which areas. Rehabilitation must be the first priority before displacing the people and, if necessary, a constitutional amendment must be made in this regard.
Both the houses discussed the internal security scenario in the country --- under an adjournment motion in Lok Sabha and a short duration discussion in Rajya Sabha. From the CPI(M) side, Bajuban Riyan (Lok Sabha) and Moinul Hassan, Prasanta Chatterjee and Brinda Karat (Rajya Sabha) took part in the debate.
In both houses, the CPI(M) members expressed concern over terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, North East, naxalite affected states and in the states that are prone to communal violence. They emphatically said these must be taken as a challenge and as a danger to internal security and the law and order situation of the country. It is good that there is a decline in violence in the UPA regime, in comparison to the NDA regime. But it is not enough. Terrorist groups are active throughout the country and we are not able to trace them in time, with major parties uninterested in containing these activities. The political parties need to campaign against terrorism ideologically, as only police or paramilitary or sophisticated arms cannot solve the problem. Issues like inadequate employment opportunities, lack of access to resources, underdeveloped agriculture, artificially depressed wages and lack of effective land reforms underlie the growth of extremism. About cross-border terrorism in Tripura, the government of India must take steps to improve the situation. It must improve the infrastructure facilities that are provided to our jawans. The CPI(M) members also warned that terrorism will grow further if we are not able to solve the problem of alienation felt by various communities in different parts of the country.
Referring to the case of Afzal Guru, the CPI(M) members said every case has to follow the normal procedure, the constitution and the laws. As many as 22 mercy petitions are pending with the president; Afzal Guruís is not alone. The oldest case is that of 1997. But the BJP did not object to any of the petitions. Then, why are they so worked up about this particular case? Isnít it in order to communalise the situation? The CPI(M) members said we cannot fight the dangers to internal security by destabilising the secular, democratic character of the country.
The communal situation is deteriorating in many areas, with minority fundamentalism and majority communalism continuously feeding each other. But what remains of civilisation if a majority community cannot protect the minorities? The recent blasts at Malegaon were a very calculated move to create communal tension and thus to weaken our national unity. But the people responsible for rioting, killing and violence against the innocent minority people are not punished, leading to the feeling of alienation in the whole community. For example, there is Sri Krishna commission report regarding Maharashtra violence, but the culprits responsible for worst acts of communal violence have not yet been punished. Unless these people are punished, situation in the state will not improve. Two years ago, there took place the rape and murder of a young woman in Manipur, and there was a big agitation for withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Now that the Jeevan Reddy commission has submitted its report to the government, the CPI(M) members wanted to know what the governmentís approach is to its recommendations.
JOBS AND WAGES ISSUES
In Lok Sabha, Khagen Das (CPI-M) raised the issue of extension of National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme to the entire North East. He said due to decades of deprivation and neglect by the successive central governments, the region has been facing serious problems of poverty and unemployment. The peopleís vulnerability here is well recognised, with a vast majority of the population living below poverty line. The poor and the vulnerable, a substantial portion of whom are tribals, have to bear the brunt of terrorist activities. The entire burden of generating employment and providing livelihood falls on the state governments. Yet only 4 percent people in the region are covered by the programme. The scheme must cover all the districts in these states so as to provide the much-needed safety net for the poor people living in these remotest areas.
In Rajya Sabha, the CPI(M)ís Chittabrata Majumder said under the Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees Condition of Service and Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1955, wages are fixed through the recommendations made by wage boards set up for journalists and non-journalist employees of the newspapers. But the last wage board for the newspapersí employees including journalists was appointed in 1994; it submitted its report to the government in 2000 and wages were from 1998. Since 1998, these employees have not get any revision in their wages, though they are suffering because of erosion in real wages due to galloping prices. Majumder forcefully demanded that a wage board for journalists and other employees of the newspapers and news agencies must be set up forthwith.
In the same house, Tapan Sen (CPI-M) drew attention to the situation arising out of the sacking of 3500 workers of Liberty Footwear in Karnal, Gharonda and Kutel in Haryana by employers in utter violation of the rules. He said a majority of the sacked workers are Dalit and more than 500 are women. The whole problem started when the employers refused to implement the tripartite agreement under section 12(3) of the Industrial Disputes Act.
Unfortunately, the law-enforcing machinery, which is also a party to this tripartite agreement, sided with the employers in this violation. The employers dismissed 127 workers in this process and there is an indefinite stoppage of operations in the factories. In protest, workers first went on a relay hunger strike from October 23 and later an indefinite hunger strike. The health condition of these workers is critical and many had to be taken to hospitals. In this grave situation, Sen appealed the central government to intervene immediately and save the hapless struggling workers.
In a special mention in Rajya Sabha, Saman Pathak (CPI-M) demanded the inclusion of Gorkha Darjeeling Hill Council in the sixth schedule of the constitution. He said a decision for inclusion was taken on December 6, 2005, in a meeting held between the central government, the West Bengal government and the administrator of the Gorkha Darjeeling Hill Council. On the basis thereof, a proposal was passed by the West Bengal assembly and sent to the central government. So the people in the area are disappointed and agitated over this delay. Pathak urged upon the government to bring in a proper bill for this purpose at the earliest.
December 3, 2006