(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 02, 2008
THE “extended” monsoon session, which began on October 17, lasted just a week, as against the original schedule of October 17 to November 21. This shows the ruling coalition’s fear of the parliamentary democracy. This explains the rejection of privilege notice against the prime minister who had assured to take parliament into confidence before signing the Indo-US nuclear deal. This bodes ill for our democracy.
On the opening day of this session, both the houses witnessed adjournments. The Lok Sabha adjourned immediately after making obituary references to two sitting members. But the Rajya Sabha was disrupted when the Left, supported by BSP, moved a privilege motion against the prime minister for not taking parliament into confidence before signing the Indo-US nuclear deal. In the din, the chairman adjourned the house for half an hour. The house reassembled to introduce the Prevention of Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill and the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulations) Amendment Bill before it was adjourned for the day.
On October 21, Lok Sabha was disrupted repeatedly on the issue of attacks on north Indian railway job aspirants in Mumbai by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena activists. Members strongly condemned the attacks and criticised the centre and the state governments for failing to take action. Mohd Salim, CPI(M), strongly said the MNS activists attacked and drove away the innocent job aspirants as if they are driving out animals. The MNS mindset is out and out parochial, anti-constitutional and against the integrity of our country, he lashed out. The state government was too busy providing security to Thackeray rather than taking action against him.
In Rajya Sabha, the CPI(M)’s Brinda Karat expressed concern over the Maharashtra attacks, saying these were a serious matter. The very basis of the constitution is being questioned. If we condone the extreme regionalism in Maharashtra today, we will be weakening the foundation of India. She accused that the alliance government of Maharashtra of supporting this kind of politics. The party, which led these attacks, had given an undertaking to the court that they would not do any such thing again. But this undertaking has been breached every month, at every place, and hoodlums have been instigated in every meeting. What was the state government doing all this time? Why was no action taken against this contempt of court? It is the responsibility of the central government to protect the constitution, but it has failed in preventing such incidents.
On October 23, Brinda Karat drew attention to a stunning report published by a newspaper regarding the Malegaon-Modasa bomb blasts on September 29. It said Hindu extremist outfits were behind these blasts. She pointed out that it was not the first incident of its kind. The anti-terrorist squad had, after an inquiry into the bomb blasts that took place at Nanded and other places, has categorically said that Bajrang Dal and other Hindu extremist outfits were involved in them. Also, as per a report of the Tamilnadu Police, similar Hindu outfits were behind the Tenkashi blasts. The member then said dual yardstick on the issue of terrorism cannot work. The media too are displaying some bias directly or. Whenever a terrorist or a similar incident takes place, they hold a specific community guilty at once by saying that the Muslims have committed this. Karat asked why the government is not invoking the law of the land against such extremist outfits as the Bajrang Dal or Hindu Jagran Manch. Amid interruptions from the BJP benches, she forcefully demanded stern action against the terrorists --- Hindu or Muslim.
In the Lok Sabha discussion on atrocities against minorities, with particular reference to the incidents in Orissa and other states, the CPI(M)’s Basudeb Acharia said this was a very serious issue and the report card was very grim. More than 50 Christians have been killed in Orissa. Many of them were set afire and burnt alive. The dwellings of 4500 Christians were demolished. More than 50,000 Dalit Christians were rendered shelterless and staying in relief camps. A young nun was gangraped in broad daylight. A Hindu woman was criminally assaulted and set afire. Though the Maoists had themselves claimed to have killed Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have been attacking the Christian community with guns, lathis, arms, swords etc. Acharia asked what the police and administration in the state of Orissa were doing. They remained silent spectators, doing nothing to prevent the communal goons from attacking the Christians. This reminds us of what happened in Gujarat in 2002 where there was organised communal violence. In Orissa too, in the last week of December 2007, the entire Kandhmal district was burning on the eve of Christmas. But all the police force was withdrawn and the Christians were left helpless. The Hindutva goons were given a free hand.
Acharia also referred to a statement by a Hindutva leader who had said, “You are just burning tyres. How many Isaai houses and churches have been burnt? Without kranti, there can be no shanti… there was a kranti in Gujarat; that is the reason shanti is there.” This is the mindset of Hindutva leaders, Acharia pointed out. We have not forgotten the gruesome incident that took place at Manoharpur in Mayurbhanj district in 1999. What crime had Graham Stains committed? For years he was engaged in the welfare of poor tribals there. From morning to evening, he had been treating the leprosy patients. One night, however, Bajrang Dal activists burnt him and his minor sons alive when they were sleeping in a jeep. Can the BJP disown Dara Singh who led the killer mob? While the BJP has not condemned this incident to date, the defence minister of the NDA government of the day sought to justify these gruesome murders in the name of an international conspiracy.
In Karnataka, when the BJP came to power for the first time, goons of the Bajrang Dal began to organise crimes against the Christians. The latter were killed; their churches and other institutions were demolished and desecrated. But the government of Karnataka was sleeping like its counterpart in Gujarat. Acharia also touched upon some recent incidents in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Rajasthan and other places.
However, he pointed out that innocent people were being arrested in Uttar Pradesh in the name of terrorism. What is required today is concerted action against all kinds of terrorism. If we allow the communal forces to raise their head, our country cannot remain united. This is where the centre has to do its duty to protect our national unity and integrity.
During the debate on Appropriation (No. 3) Bill in Rajya Sabha, the CPI(M) parliamentary group’s leader, Sitaram Yechury, put the government on the mat and sought increased expenditures for improving the people’s welfare. We have to look into the ground situation of the people in our country. Yechury urged the government to reconsider very seriously all the new measures regarding the FII etc, change its course and increase public investment for the sake of the real economy.
Joining him, Moinul Hassan of the CPI(M) questioned the present situation of the Aam Aadmi in the country. Do this Aam Aadmi and his family have enough to eat, especially as compared to what they used to have earlier? Can he afford to make any saving from his income in the midst of the high cost of food and other necessary items? Can he think of borrowing money for building a house or buying a vehicle? There are no doubt numerous schemes and programmes; yet we cannot feed our hungry people. The system needs to be improved immediately. The minimum support price (MSP) for agriculturists is one of the important issues which needs to be properly addressed, as our farmers are suffering. Jute growers are not getting proper price for their jute. After the finance minister announced various programmes for the education of minority and backward classes, nobody knows the present status of these programmes. In regard to the ongoing financial crisis, he asked what the direction of the government was. Many small and medium enterprises in our country have lost their capital. Lakhs of people have lost their jobs.
Rajya Sabha has passed the Unorganised Sector Workers’ Social Security Bill 2007. The CPI(M) members in the house fought the bill clause by clause, moving a number of amendments to it. Tapan Kumar Sen sought division in voting on two of his amendments to the bill. The bill narrowly escaped defeat.
During the discussion, the CPI(M)’s K Chandran Pillai said we have to take four documents into consideration while discussion this bill. One is the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA combine. Second is Shri Arjun Sengupta’s report on the unorganised sector enterprises. Third, we have to consider the parliamentary standing committee’s unanimous recommendations and, fourthly, the objects and reasons cited in the bill. But the government has not shown any respect to these documents. The bill showed the government’s approach to this sector was casual at the best. Word like “sector” and “advisor” have been deleted from the bill, without making any substantive changes. Pillai then raised issues like detailed narration of the scheme in a separate schedule in the bill, demand for a separate fund for these workers, accrual of the benefits to only a limited number of workers etc, concluding that the bill needs to be drastically modified. The parameters for identifying the BPL in rupee terms are Rs. 300 per month for rural areas and Rs 500 per month for urban areas. So a good number of unorganised workers are not going to be covered in this category. Nor are we considering the agricultural labourers with small landholdings in the category of unorganised workers. Inclusion of Anganwadi workers has been recommended, but they are not been included in the bill. The ambiguity in definitions is to be rectified. We have to incorporate a minimum standard of benefits nationally available to the unorganised workers. A good mechanism should be there because of immense possibilities of dispute. There is no penal provision in the bill; that too must be taken into consideration.
Tapan Sen termed the bill as one sans substance. There are only some schemes, appended to the bill, as the vehicle of delivering social security benefits to the unorganised sector workers who constitute 93 percent of the country’s workforce and contribute no less than 65 percent of country’s GDP. The government’s emphasis is only on such schemes as are only for the persons below the arbitrarily drawn and highly defective “poverty line.” The fact is that 95 percent of the unorganised sector workers are above this so-called poverty line, defined on the basis of household consumption standards. Thus they fall out of the bill’s purview and its benefits.
Sen also said the bill must recognise certain basic rights for the targeted beneficiaries, and it must be justiciable if a beneficiary does not get these rights. The provisions in the bill any kind of enforceability and justifiability. There is not even a well defined grievance redressal mechanism, stipulated in detail by the standing committee after a thorough scrutiny of the NCUS recommendations. Entrusting this job to district magistrates and general administration while bypassing the labour department, amounts to deception. Concluding, Sen asked the labour minister to include in the bill these basic amendments --- withdrawal of restriction on BPL, a defined coverage, a grievance redressal mechanism and a clear funding arrangement.
Lok Sabha has passed the National Jute Board Bill 2006. From the CPI(M) side, Santasri Chatterjee said the jute industry gives direct employment to 2.6 lakh workers and livelihood to another 1.4 lakh people in the tertiary sector and allied activities. The industry contributes to the exports to the tune of nearly Rs 1,000 crore. The main point is to improve the condition of jute farmers, who are not even getting remunerative prices. The centre lacks political will to protect their interests. In West Bengal, speculators have practically taken over the industry. Industrial houses are now purchasing raw jute at low prices and amassing huge profits. The West Bengal government has intervened, but that is not sufficient. Intervention from the government of India is all the more necessary to provide the jute workers and farmers a decent living. The plight of jute workers is deplorable; they are paid very low, and lack ESI, provident fund and social security benefits.
Lok Sabha has passed the Indian Maritime University Bill 2007. Samik Lahiri, CPI(M), said when the bill was introduced in the house, it was referred to the standing committee that made some unanimous recommendations to the ministry. But, while introducing this bill, the minister did not mention why many of these recommendations were rejected.
In our country, maritime transport has been a subject of study since ancient days, but we have to take note of the rapid technological developments have taken place in the world. Our seafarers and other persons associated with maritime study are doing good work in this field. All over the world, Indian seafarers and Indian maritime personnel are recognised as good human resource. Since 1980 we have been demanding that a university must be established for further development of these studies. However, in 1991, efforts were made to privatise the maritime study centres in Mumbai and Kolkata. At that time, several members objected to these efforts, a committee called COMET was constituted and it suggested establishment of a university in the country and upgradation of Kolkata and Mumbai marine engineering colleges. The 124 private institutes functioning in our country are not regulated by any law, and there are no schemes with the government for their cadets. The problem with the government is that it is not taking a holistic view of the maritime study. But we need a university so that our country may supply 20 percent of the maritime human resources to the world. Our Southern sea coastline along with East Coast and West coastline should be developed. The member then demanded upgradation of the Kolkata and Mumbai colleges to the university status. Saying that the principals of the Mumbai, Kolkata and Vizag colleges are not being appointed by the executive council, which is rendering these centres insignificant, he also demanded democratisation of these centres.