People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXI

No. 19

May 13, 2007

LAST WEEK IN PARLIAMENT

 

Subhas Ray

 

AFTER a long spell of recess since March 22, the second part of budget session began on April 26, when Lok Sabha discussed and passed the demands for grants for the ministries of labour and employment, science and technology, and home affairs.
On the day, after paying obituary to three former members, Lok Sabha expressed shock over the terrorist attacks in Algiers on April 11, which resulted in the death of more than 30 civilians and injuries to more than 160. It condemned the attack on the offices of the Algerian governmentís prime minister and interior minister.

 

Lok Sabha also expressed its grief over the terrorist attacks in Casablanca, hurting the civilians and disrupting peace. The house conveyed the people of Indiaís solidarity with the Algerian and Moroccan civilians in their common struggle against terrorism.

 

On the issue of human trafficking by BJPís MP, Babubhai K Katara, and his subsequent arrest, the speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, strongly disapproved the memberís conduct. He said the house was distressed but firm to take all necessary action to protect the dignity of the house. He then debarred Katara from the house till the matter was decided.

 

LABOUR ISSUES

 

During the discussion on the labour ministryís demands for grants, the CPI(M)ís Santasri Chatterjee said the subject has become a discomfiture and has been neglected since long. But the UPA governmentís Common Minimum Programme assured that it would render fair deal to workers, protect their democratic and trade union rights, and enact a social security law for unorganised workers. But these assurances proved to be sham. The plight of workers in the unorganised sector needs no narration. Chatterjee insisted that the minister reply whether he was going to bring in a social security legislation for unorganised workers.

 

Regarding Employees Provident Fund, it is a pity that till date the government could not take a decision on the interest rate to be paid. All the standing committee reports have recommended that at least 9.5 percent interest should be paid to the EPF. Out of 30 crore workers in the country, just 10.74 percent are covered under this scheme. There is no proper implementing agency, no proper scrutiny or no proper monitoring. The social welfare scheme must be thoroughly discussed with the central trade unions, he forcefully demanded.

 

ESI is another welfare scheme for workers. It is under a dual administration. Medical benefits are regulated by state governments and all others given by the government of India. There is no funding from the government of India. Employers do not deposit their dues in either PF or ESI corpus. Workers are harassed like anything. Chatterjee said the time had come to seriously consider whether we will allow the employers, irrespective of public or private sector, to blatantly violate the laws of the land.

 

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

 

The CPI(M)ís Sujan Chakraborty, K S Manoj and Abu Ayes Mondal participated in the discussions on demands for grants for the ministry for science and technology. According to Sujan Chakraborty, even after having a vast pool of scientists, confident and dedicated to their cause, we have failed to advance our county. It is unfortunate that only 0.8 percent of our GDP is being spent on science and technology while the advanced counties are spending two or three percent of GDP or even more on it. He demanded proper planning and much more autonomy for science and technology. We must engage scientists of excellent calibre, search for them and bring back people from abroad so as to compete with the advanced countries. The ministry of science and technology must function as the nodal ministry for coordination and networking. About the proposed Science and Technology Commission, Chakraborty asked the minister to establish it without further delay, for networking the activities and innovations of organisations like the ICMR, ICAR, DRDO and many others.

 

The question of popularisation of science is very important. There have been some programmes like Rail Vigyan for the purpose. It would be much better if we select the eco-clubs in schools for it. There are eco-clubs in thousands of schools, and we must see how this already existing structure is used for dissemination of scientific temper, knowledge and values. Vigyan Melas must be organised in different districts and subdivisions from time to time. Knowledge and information about scientific and technological research must be disseminated from the lab to land. A specifically science TV channel must be started to promote a scientific temper, Chakraborty suggested.

 

K S Manoj expressed his grievances, saying whatever is being spent on research and development is not reaching the common people. Our R&D must be people oriented. During the Green Revolution we developed seeds suited to our environmental conditions at affordable costs. But R&D is now not benefiting the poor but only the MNCs. In Kuttanad in Kerala, there is a Rice Research Institute under Kerala Agriculture University. Here the scientists have made progress in developing a paddy variety that is resistant to salinity and drought. This was because farmers there were facing crop failures either due to saline waterís intrusion or due to droughts, and there is a long pending demand for such a variety. Similarly, there is a Central Plantation Crop Research Institute, conducting several research activities about the viral disease that affects the old coconut plants.

 

Manoj accused the government of not taking any keen interest in preserving the traditional knowledge. The latter must also be integrated with modern technology. We must have a detailed mapping of our natural resources and techniques for optimal exploitation of these resources. We have to use the technology for satellite mapping, weather forecasting and locating marine resources. Following the tsunami, fishermen complain that some ecological changes have occurred in the marine ecosystems and the fishery resources are affected. Another area is of water scarcity. Water conservation should be done to meet this challenge. Manoj also lamented that there is a lot of duplication and wastage of funds due to lack of coordination among the various departments engaged in R&D.

 

Abu Ayes Mondal said there was a proposal to introduce a new scheme of research support to new faculty appointees in universities and academic institutions, to enhance their research capabilities. However, there is the need to upgrade the existing facilities so that research workers are able to get the required sophisticated analytical instruments to pursue research in frontline areas. Mondal also demanded that the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting must continue its efforts to upgrade the computing and infrastructure facilities with an aim to become internationally competitive.

 

INTERNAL SITUATION

 

There was a conspiracy to throw India into a communal holocaust by circumcising Nathuram Godse and thus projecting him as a Muslim, at the time he killed Gandhi, but the country was saved from it because Godse was known as an RSS member. This was pointed out by the CPI(M)ís Mohd Salim in Lok Sabha during the debate on the home ministryís demands for grants.

 

Taking up the issue of communal situation prevailing in the country, Salim said some elements tried to incite communal passions among the people through the Malegaon bomb blasts, Varanasi bomb blasts and serial bomb blasts in Mumbaiís suburban trains, but the people of this country did not fall prey to the attempt. Some people always try to hype communal feelings and these are the people who see terrorism through a parochial, communal prism. Terrorism threatens the whole world, as is evident from the terrorist attacks in Algiers and Casablanca, but they link Islam and Muslims with it. But there are people who are fighting Muslim fundamentalists and are in favour of secularism, rule of law and peace.

 

Turning to the BJP benches, he said there is nothing wrong in inter-religious marriages in a democratic and secular country. However, it is also a fact that there is no flare-up if famous and rich people from the Hindu and Muslim communities marry each other but fundamentalists raise a hue and cry in their narrow political interest if poor and ordinary people do any such thing. While the government is claiming an improvement in the communal situation in the country, we find that the properties, churches and graveyards of not only Muslims but also the Christians are being targeted in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Goa.

 

Some initiatives have been taken about Kashmir in the last three years. But it is not enough to construct a few bridges or open some colleges; we have to integrate the people of Kashmir with the rest of the country. The people of Jammu and Kashmir stood for India because it is a secular, democratic, liberal country, but now they have some apprehensions as this image of India is being blotted. The issue cannot be solved through bullet but only through dialogue.

 

Salim also referred to the situation in Chhattisgarh where there were a number of incidents in recent past. About seven dozen persons were killed and 50 percent out of them were tribals. But those incidents were never discussed in the house. The police are shirking their job while one tribal is killing another. In the name of Salma Judum, tribals have been converted into a so-called police force whose task it is kill the tribal Maoists. Their Ďpolice officersí are getting only Rs 2000 a month, which no police officer in the country gets. If we view things from this angle, we would never be able to control or contain the Maoist or militant threat. The panacea is the land reform. We have to reach the fruits of growth to the depressed people and the inhabitants of backward areas. We also have to overcome their mental and other kinds of separation from the rest of the country, and fulfil their democratic expectations. Salim said the home ministry cannot really claim any improvement in the situation until a common Indian feels secure in any part of the country.

 

Dealing with the budget provisions, he said 71 percent of the budget was earmarked for the police. The budget provisions are not realistic as we find a difference in the budget estimates and revised estimates. Under Demand No. 53, the budget estimate was Rs 964 crore but was revised to Rs. 1472 crore, i.e. 50 percent more.