People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIII

No. 25

June 21, 2009

 


BASUDEV ACHARIA’S SPEECH IN LOK SABHA ON PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS

 

 

Reverse Policy Direction For Inclusive Growth

 

Below we publish excerpts from the speech delivered by Basudev Acharia, CPI(M) leader in Lok Sabha during the discussion in the House on June 5, 2009 on the motion of thanks for the address of the president of India.

 

 

 

I rise to speak on the motion of thanks on the president’s address. The leader of the opposition, while speaking on the motion of thanks for the president’s address, was trying to explain the mandate which was given by the people of our country in the 15th Lok Sabha election as a mandate for bipolar politics. The mandate is not for bipolar politics for which the Bharatiya Janata Party has been clamouring for since long. The verdict of the people in the 15th Lok Sabha election is for multipolar politics. The percentage of vote secured by both the Congress as well as the BJP put together is a little more than 49 per cent. The verdict is in favour of multipolar politics in our country.

 

I am grateful to the president as she referred to the devastating cyclone, Aila, in the state of West Bengal, such as which the state has never faced. I quote what she said:

“Last week the state of West Bengal was affected by a cyclone inflicting damage to lives and property. Let us convey our heartfelt sympathies to the bereaved families. My government will extend all possible succour to the cyclone affected people of West Bengal.” As on June 4, 2009, the total number of affected persons has reached 67.5 lakhs; the total death toll has risen to 137; the number of fully and partly damaged houses crossed nine lakhs; the affected crop area exceeded 2.8 lakh hectares; and the length of embankment breaches increased to more than 500 kilometers. It is a national level natural calamity. The state government has so far spent Rs 134 crore for relief and rehabilitation providing relief and succour to the affected people.

 

The distribution of relief material along with dry fruit was 3,900 metric tonnes up to June 4. About four lakh tarpaulins have been distributed; about 1.2 lakh children’s garments and about 80,000 saris and dhotis have been sent to the districts. About 398 medical teams of the state government and ten Army medical teams are working day and night. About 26 ESI medical teams are working. More than 66 lakhs of Halogen tablets have been sent and 13 lakh water pouches, one litre each, have been distributed. About 729 water tankers and five mobile water purification units have been put to operation. Nearly 199 rural pipe water supply schemes have been repaired. About 8,900 tube wells have been disinfected.

         

The state government has submitted a memorandum, at least, one week back. The central team is now visiting two districts because four districts are adversely affected and the state government has asked for financial assistance to the extent of Rs 1,000 crore. That is as per the norms of NDDF.

 

There is a need to declare the cyclone as a national calamity as it is quite unprecedented and the state has never faced such devastation. It should be declared as a national calamity. So far the central government has assured to provide Rs 100 crore. I do not know whether that money has reached the state or not. If it has not reached, it should be sent immediately.

 

The president has referred to a bill, communal violence bill, which is pending for the last five years. This was committed in the national common minimum programme (NCMP) of the first UPA government that it would bring legislation with regard to prevention of communal violence. The president has assured that this bill would be brought before the House and the legislation would be enacted. But the point is this. Why is this bill pending for so many years? It is because there has been an attempt to encroach on the states’ rights. If certain provisions in the act exist, if that legislation is enacted and implemented, then the states’ rights will be encroached. So a balance should be brought before bringing the legislation to the House. We all want that legislation should be enacted to prevent communal violence, but it should be taken care of in regard to encroachment on the states’ rights.

 

There is a demand for change in the centre-state relations. There have been attempts in the past. We have seen how states’ rights have been encroached upon. Just now the speaker from DMK has spoken that in Tamilnadu, the DMK is asking for more autonomy. But the reference to centre-state relations in the president’s address is missing. Sarkaria Commission was constituted long back on this issue. Its recommendations are yet to be implemented. We are told that another commission was to be constituted to examine the centre-state relations. More powers are to be given to the states to strengthen our federal structure. For that, there is a need for constitutional amendment. The demand is coming. In the revenue which is being collected, the state’s share should not be less than 50 per cent. The chief minister of Bihar is also asking – I have seen in the newspaper – that all the central government sponsored schemes should be transferred to the state government. It was assured by the first UPA government, even in its common minimum programme it has been stated that centrally-sponsored schemes should be transferred to the state government along with the funds. So, there is a need for giving more powers to the state governments.

 

In regard to various programmes, what has been stated in president’s address, are all repetitions of what was stated five years back. You can find almost all the programmes in the national common minimum programme. But what is the fate of all these programmes? In the national common minimum programme it was stated:

“The UPA will pay special attention augmenting and modernising rural infrastructure, consisting of roads, irrigation, electrification, cold-chain and marketing outlets. All existing irrigation projects will be completed within three-five years. Household electrification will be completed in five years.”

 

That means, by March 2009, household electrification should have been completed. What is the fate of all these programmes? The aim was that every village was to be provided electricity; remaining 1,25,000 villages were to be covered by 2009. It was said that 2.3 crore below poverty line households would be connected. But what is the achievement by December 2008? It is only 17.95 per cent. About the targeted rural household electrification, of the targeted villages only 52 per cent have been electrified.

 

Now, again, it has been reiterated and the target has been fixed. So, within five years, the UPA government could not achieve its target. We do not know how certain targets have been fixed to be met within 100 days. The actual number of households without electricity is about 8.4 crore. Similarly, with regard to the rural roads, what was the aim? The aim was that every habitation with over 1,000 population and above 500 for hilly and tribal areas are to be provided roads; the remaining 66,802 are to be covered by 2009. The Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sarak Yojana (PMGSY) is a cent per cent centrally sponsored scheme. But what is the performance. Only 55 per cent of the target has been achieved in terms of length and 34 per cent has been achieved in terms of habitation.

 

Then, much has been stated about the extension of the irrigation capacity. The NCMP emphasised that irrigation would receive the highest investment priority and all ongoing projects would be completed according to the strict time schedule. But the Bharat Nirman committed only an additional irrigation capacity of 10 million hectares to be created by 2009, which is an extremely low aim, which would irrigate 4.5 per cent of the sown area. What is the performance? Even this modest aim was not attained. Only 5.8 million hectare or half of the target has been achieved so far. Therefore this is the fate of the programmes which are mentioned in the first UPA government’s national common minimum programme.

 

Similarly, much has been said about the rural health mission. But what is the ground reality? Today 4,711 sub-centres are listed as functioning without services of both ANM and health workers. About 68.6 per cent primary health centres are functioning with one or no doctor; 807 of them have no doctor at all. There is a shortfall of specialists CSD, which is 64.6 per cent. Then, 1,188 and 1,647 PHCs are respectively functioning without electric supply or without regular water supply.

This is the situation even after the national rural health mission which was called a flagship programme was launched five years back.

 

The situation is so serious in our country that thousands of children die in our country because of completely preventable water-borne diseases and 56 per cent of our children are underweight and 70 per cent are anaemic due to malnutrition. Seventy per cent of our people do not have access to sanitised toilets and two-thirds of our people do not have access to potable drinking water near their habitation. Nearly two-thirds of the pregnant women are anaemic. These are the mothers who are producing the future India. There is a need to look into all these. That is why, in the NCMP it has been committed that two to three per cent of the GDP would be spent during five years for health. What has been spent? It has been increased from zero point some percentage to 1.05 or 1.06 per cent. It has not reached to three per cent within the five years. This has been reiterated in the address by the president.

 

Much has been stated about inclusive growth. What is the situation that is prevalent today in our country? This is not our report. This is the report of a committee constituted by the government of India under the chairmanship of Dr Arjun Sengupta. In his last report which was submitted nine months back, he stated that 77 percent of our population are depending on Rs 20 per day. Seventy-seven per cent of the people are depending on Rs 20 per day and on the other hand there are 36 rich people who are in the billionaires list. This hiatus between the poor and the rich, the gap between the poor and the rich, has been widened during these five years rule of the UPA in the name of inclusive growth.

 

We welcome the act to provide food security. We have been wanting, we have been asking for it. The prices of almost all the essential commodities are rising. The former minister of Finance is here and he replied to as many as five debates on this issue. The demand for food security and the demand for universalisation of public distribution system are there. Now, there is a proposal to bring a legislation, within hundred days, to provide 25 kilogram of wheat or rice at the rate of three rupees per kilogram, which is good. 25 kilograms of wheat or rice will be provided to the BPL family. When we are talking of inclusive growth, the guidelines which have been framed in regard to determining population below poverty line, are faulty. A large, substantial percentage of the people, who are genuinely poor, are excluded from the BPL list.

 

Many state governments are providing rice or wheat at Rs 2 per kilogram and the quantity being provided is also to the extent of 35 kilograms. You are reducing it from 35 kilograms to 25 kilograms and also increasing the price. In the case of Antyodaya Yojana, 35 kilograms of rice or wheat is being provided to the poorest of the poor. In their case also, the quantity will be reduced.

 

There is a need to amend the Essential Commodities act which was diluted during the NDA regime. There is no attempt to amend and make this act more stringent. There is a need to contain and control the rising prices of essential commodities. The purchasing power of the poor of this country has been reduced by 14 per cent.

 

I will now come to the issue of economic recession. The president has, in regard to economic recession, said that the slowing down of growth on account of global recession is expected this year as if there is no impact of it already on our economy. There has not been any mention of how many workers have been retrenched. In textile sector, more than five lakh workers have been retrenched. In gems and jewellery sector, two lakh workers have been retrenched. Retrenchment is going on and there has been deceleration in exports. There has been adverse impact on our economy. What measures does the government propose to take in order to tackle and address this situation to prevent retrenchment?

 

The impact is not so much in regard to financial institutions. It is because of the role played by the Left parties. We had prevented the UPA government from bringing legislation to privatise pension funds. We had prevented this government. They wanted to raise FDI in insurance sector which they could not do so. When we were extending support to this government, we prevented this government from raising it.

 

They wanted to allow foreign banks. They wanted to allow foreign equity in our nationalised banks, in our banks. It is because of our efforts that the impact of economic recession has not been so much on our financial institutions.

 

There is a need to reverse the policy direction. We will not be able to have an inclusive growth – about which we have been talking for so many years – unless such policies are reversed.

 

The mandate that the people have given is for stability. They should not think that the people of India have supported this policy, and we, the Left, will play the role and we will oppose it inside the parliament and outside the parliament whenever we see that this government is bringing any anti-people policy. We will oppose it tooth and nail inside and outside the parliament when they bring such measures.