(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 14, 2009
YECHURY’S SPEECH IN RAJYA SABHA ON PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS
‘Provide Real Relief To People
In These Times Of Crisis’
Below we publish excerpts
from the speech delivered by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and leader in
Sabha, Sitaram Yechury during the discussion in the House on June 5,
the motion of thanks for the address of the president of
The second part of this speech would be published in the next issue along with the speech delivered by CPI(M) leader in Lok Sabha, Basudev Acharia.
I RISE today to speak on the
motion of thanks for the address
of the president of
We have seen in the past that
once elections are over,
many of the promises that are made are not followed through or
in the interest of the people of
Secondly, the president of
I fully endorse the president’s
remarks on the unity
and the resolve that the country has displayed and will continue to
our fight against terrorism and various measures that have been listed
the president of
With regard to para 11 of the president’s speech where the Communal Violence Act has been spoken of – about which we have been actually discussing during the last five years on a number of occasions with the government – there is a very serious problem involved containing centre-state relations. And this is a problem on which, I think, all the parties will have to put their heads together in order to resolve it. In centre-state relations, the rights of states are something that cannot be encroached upon. But we are all for a Bill of this nature to prevent communal violence and give relief and rehabilitation to the victims. At the same time, this aspect of centre-state relations has to be taken into account. Here, I would like to point out that there has been a very glaring omission in the president’s address about the question of the centre-state relations per se. One of the fundamental features of our Constitution is its federal structure. In this federal structure, there have always been strains and pushes and pulls on how a balance in relations between the centre and the states has to be maintained and in this, increasingly, we find states’ rights being encroached upon. This is something that is not permissible under our Constitution. Why I am saying this is because there is a reference to administrative reforms, but there is no reference to the need to improve the centre-state relations. I join the other parties and the President of India on the issue of one-rank-one-pension for our Armed Forces. They have been dutifully protecting the sovereignty of our country. We hail their efforts; we are proud of them. So, I think, this sort of a distortion needs to be corrected.
I fully agree with the president
when she says that
elections are a festival of democracy in
The second area where I think serious consideration has to be given is on the entire working of the constitutional scheme of things that we have. The legislature, according to our Constitution, is supposed to be a check on the executive. Apart from making laws, which is its primary duty, it also serves as a check on the executive. Now, this check on the executive is possible only when the legislature works. You had a year, the last year, when, I think, we sat for only 46 days in the whole year. On an average, the British parliament sits for 160 days. We are sitting for 46 days in a year! And what check can the legislature have on the executive when the legislature does not have time to even work on this aspect? So, I think there is a serious need for us to consider, if necessary, a constitutional amendment because there have been various committees in the past which have recommended that the parliament should sit, at least, for 100 days in a year but they have not been able to implement them. So, if necessary, there should be a constitutional mandate that parliament would sit for, at least, 100 days in a calendar year. And that is necessary if you want to establish our own constitutional scheme of things and implement them properly.
The third area which the
president spoke of is regarding
judicial reforms. This entire area of judicial activism has engaged our
attention also on a large number of occasions and it is clear the whole
constitutional mandate for the judiciary to have its obligation for a
review cannot be replaced by judicial activism. Judicial reform today
urgently required also for delivery of justice. Today, according to the
I have, by 2007 – that is the last year for which data is available –
cases were pending in
Therefore, I think the question of a limited proportional representation system, the question of correcting our constitutional scheme of things in terms of constitutional mandate for at least 100 days sitting of the legislature and the question of National Judicial Commission merit our serious attention, and I hope that the government will take up these issues in the coming days in the interest of our country and our system.
Having said this, the bulk of president’s address is naturally connected with what the previous government has achieved and what the current government plans to in the future. It is a road-map that has been given to us. In para 14, all the achievements have been listed and then it continues with the assurance that all the schemes will not only be continued, but will be strengthened. It is a very laudable declaration of intent. But often we find that the intent does not translate into practice. Take the programme of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. On an average, there are 10 crore job card holders in the country. So far, less than only 50 per cent have been able to be provided jobs and that too the national average works out to 48 days instead of 100 days of work. If this is the implementation of the flagship programme, then you can understand that translation of the declaration of intent into reality is something that is not happening at the lower level and that it needs to be corrected. Emphasis was given to building investments in agriculture or developing the infrastructure in agriculture. What has been our experience? If you see the targets, on the last occasion only 56 per cent of the target of irrigation has been achieved under the last government. If you look at rural electrification, it is more miserable — only 27 per cent of the target has been achieved by the last government. It is a different matter that even with this minimum which is reaching the people, people have voted for this government. But the fact remains that the gap is very wide and it will have to be ensured that these gaps do not recur in the future and that is why, when I defined my role as the opposition, I said, we shall be here to ensure that we put pressure on the government so that they continue to implement good schemes in the interest of the people.
Similarly, in para 20, the president talked of education in terms of ‘expansion’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘excellence’. I would prefer to use the terms ‘quantity’, ‘equity’ and ‘quality’ for the same. That apart, it is this eternal balance in education that needs to be achieved and if this is to be done then increase the allocations for education, notwithstanding all the claims that have been made of increased allocation. Yes, they have been increased undoubtedly but our complaint, so to speak, is that it has not reached the level that was promised to be reached, that is, 6 per cent of our GDP. And that promise has not been repeated here and which is why we are disappointed. Make it at least 6 per cent of GDP for education and 3 per cent of GDP for public health. These were the targets that were accepted by all of us five years ago and, therefore, this must be brought into the programme of the government and they ought to be implemented.
The president defines our
existence today as a
knowledge society. If we are going to be a knowledge society, it is
There are other issues of serious concern that we have. First, I would refer to para 24 of the president’s address where there is a mention of a new law that will be enacted, that is, the National Food Security Act. As per this the government intends to provide 25 kilograms of rice or wheat at Rs 3 per kilogram. Now, today, many state governments are already providing 35 kilograms of foodgrains for the people Below the Poverty Line, and that too at Rs 2 per kilogram. Many states are subsidising further from what the centre has been subsidising. But, if a new Act is being brought into force, then this new Act will have to take into account the already existing schemes. Even in Antyodaya scheme, I think, the allocation is more than 25 kilograms; it is 35 kilograms. So, you cannot have a new Act in the name of food security where the quantity is reduced. Whom are we fooling? You have reduced the 35 kilogram quantity to 25 kilogram and saying you are providing food security! That is something which is not acceptable. So, this needs to be corrected, and this is a very serious matter which has to be taken into account because what is happening in our country as a result of the price rise of foodgrains is very appalling. I am quoting from a United Nations Development Programme Report. With all the authority that it has, it states, “The price rise has been so unbearable for the Indian people...”. “The retail price of rice was 60 per cent higher in January 2009 as compared to the level two years earlier. Given that expenditure on food constituted over 62 per cent of the total consumption expenditure of the bottom 20 per cent in 2006-2008, the soaring cost of cereals led to 24.7 per cent increase in food cost for the poor. This is nearly 25 per cent increase in food cost for the poor. This, in turn, meant that their purchasing power declined by 14.3 per cent due to higher food prices alone.” Now, this is the impact that the uncontained price rise of essential commodities is having on the poor, and this is something simply not acceptable.
Here, again, the definitions
that we give for our BPL
keep varying, and this has been a perennial problem to which we have
drawing the attention of the government all along. I would quote from
the same report.
This is with regard to four states which, in our terminology, we
to them as BIMARU states, that is,
Today, as the Forbes’ List
mentions, you have a number
of billionaires in the country whose assets equal 25 per cent of the
GDP. Twenty-five per cent of the country’s GDP is accounted by 36
And, on the other hand, our colleague, Arjun Sen Gupta’s report tells
per cent of Indians live on less than Rs 20 a day. These are the two
ON SEZs, PPP &
Now, in this context, also in para 29, a reference has been made to the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill to protect the farmers and others dependent on farming from unfair displacement. This is an issue which has been hotly debated by us but it was debated in the context of the Special Economic Zones. There is no reference to the Special Economic Zones in this entire address. I have said it even earlier, and, I am repeating it now that certain serious changes will have to be brought in the Special Economic Zones Rules that have been notified. These could be on the question of the quantum of land that would be used for actual production and the rest being given to the real estate developers, on the question of tax concessions that have been given to them, on the question of implementation of labour laws within these Special Economic Zones, apart from the question of having a new law for Land Acquisition, instead of the antiquated law of 1894, which is still in operation. These are the issues that have not been mentioned in the president’s address at all but these are the issues that are agitating lakhs of people across the country.
Even when the election process was on, there were reports that various SEZs were merged together to create a larger SEZ in certain parts of the country. If it has happened, it is unacceptable. But these are the issues that cannot escape our attention and will have to be taken up very seriously.
In para 34 and para 33, that
precedes it, emphasis is
on the question of developing the country’s infrastructure. The route
been chosen for developing country’s infrastructure is the famous or
PPP, the Public-Private-Partnership. I will come to that subsequently
order to finance this infrastructural development, there is a
in para 34 that there will be a new form of disinvestment of the public
that will take place where the government will not allow its equity to
51 per cent, but, it will, nevertheless, allow or disinvest the rest of
capital that is contained in these companies. Now, this is in the name
raising resources for infrastructural development. But, there are
better ways of
raising resources for infrastructural development rather than
public sector. I heard the mover of the motion saying that they have
mandate for disinvestment in this election and, therefore, they would
with the exercise of that mandate. But, please remember, the public
the property of the Indian people. The governments that come and that
only the managers of this public sector and no manager can sell the
without the permission of the owner. And if the property is sold
permission of the owner, the owner will change the manager. So, let us
address the issue of resource mobilisation for infrastructural
without selling our family silver. And, here I would like to draw the
that there is a vast area of revenue mobilisation that is now untapped.
instance, let me give you some figures from the centre that monitors
economy, CMIE. In 2003-04, ten top corporate houses in
In para 33 of the address, it is stated that public private partnership is the key element of the strategy of building our infrastructure. Now, if PPP is the key element, what has been our experience? Today, you have user development fee that is charged from every passenger by the private airport authorities in our country because they say their passenger traffic has reduced and, therefore, they are not able to maintain their costs. So, it is the passenger who pays for the crisis. Why should we pay? If the capitalist has miscalculated and has expanded his capacity beyond his limit, hoping for an increase in passenger traffic, and now since he has expanded the capacity and passenger traffic has fallen, the losses that he is generating have to be recovered from passengers! This is the consequence of your own PPP. This is privatisation of your profits and socialisation of your losses, where people have to pay. So, seriously reconsider the models of PPP that have been followed so far. I have only given you one example. There are various examples, whether on the question of roads that are being constructed, or with other infrastructural areas that we have gone into. Now, these are issues that require a very serious consideration of the government, and we hope that these issues will be taken up by the government.
(To be continued)