People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIII

No. 49

December 06, 2009

THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT

 

 Subhas Ray

 

THE first winter session of the 15th Lok Sabha began on November 19, and the houses adjourned for the day after paying tribute to their deceased members. The second day saw both the houses adjourn on farmers’ issues. On the day, thousands of cane growers thronged at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, demanded immediate withdrawal of an ordinance, and forced the government to amend it. On November 23, the government came under fire over a leakage of the Liberhan commission report on Babri Masjid demolition before it was tabled in parliament. The entire opposition demanded immediate tabling of the report, forcing repeated adjournments of both houses. The home minister, P Chidambaram, assured the houses that the report, along with an Action Taken Report (ATR), would be tabled soon. The assurance failed to placate the opposition members. Next day, there was much commotion in the houses when the report and the ATR were tabled. In Rajya Sabha, there was a fracas between the slogan shouting BJP members and Samajwadi Party members, leading to an abrupt adjournment. The house did meet again but only to adjourn for the day. In Lok Sabha, a short duration discussion on Liberhan report was fixed on December 1.

In this session, Lok Sabha is likely to pass the Rubber (Amendment) Bill 2009; the Workmen’s Compensation (Amendment) Bill 2009; the Seeds Bill 2004; the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Central Establishments) Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2005; the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill 2005; the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2006; the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Bill 2006; the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2008; the Pesticides Management Bill 2008; the Plantations Labour (Amendment) Bill 2008; the Legal Metrology Bill 2008; and the Representation of People (Second Amendment) Bill 2008. There are 62 new bills to be introduced in Lok Sabha.  Among them, the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2009; the Jharkhand Contingency Fund (Amendment) Bill 2009; the Central University (Amendment) Bill 2009; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2009 will be taken for consideration.

 

CLIMATE

CHANGE ISSUE

On the government’s changed position on climate change, the CPI(M)’s Brinda Karat moved a calling attention motion in Rajya Sabha. She said, while in the United States, the prime minister was going to sign a bilateral agreement with the US president on the issue of climate change. The first question is: since we are heading towards the Copenhagen summit and since there are clearly differentiated positions regarding the summit, what was the haste for India to rush into a bilateral agreement precisely with the country with which we have the gravest of differences? This is in clear violation of the national interest. She said the CPI(M) completely disagrees with this stand that hitching our wagon to that of the imperialist US will defend our national sovereignty. Don’t do anything without taking the parliament into confidence, she warned, adding that unilateral statements and changing stances on the issue of climate change would put even a juggler to shame.

The member pointed out that on this issue of greenhouse gases, the Kyoto Protocol and subsequent agreements recognised the responsibility of the developed capitalist world. The predatory nature of capitalism eggs it on to grab the largest share of the common space; today the developed capitalist world has captured 75 per cent of that space while its share in the world population is only 20 per cent. Thus, there is very little carbon space left. This was why India had adopted the agreed position that (1) the control of emissions by the developed world has to be the basis for any further action; (2) whatever actions developing countries like India take would be linked to that. In all the negotiations so far, we rejected the pressure about the growing economies like China and India being equally responsible. The entire effort of the industrialised world is to delink the actions that are required today from the crimes they committed in the past to capture that space.

The third very important point was that the Kyoto Protocol had the concept of differentiated responsibilities, saying that the past polluters had to pay in terms of money and technology transfer. India always was in touch with the Group of 77 countries on this issue, this was the political strategy India had adopted, and this had a wide-scale consensus.  But now we find that a major shift has occurred in our stance. The concerned minister’s letter to the MPs said we are committed to Kyoto. The statement here said, “The prime minister has already stated that India will never allow its per capita emission to exceed that of the developed countries.” But the minister sent a note to the prime minister which indicates a shift. It said, “We will keep per capita emissions below that of the developing countries.” If this is not a major shift in our policy, she asked, what else constitutes a shift?

Moinul Hassan, CPI(M), said the minister’s note circulated to different departments says, “India will make low carbon sustainable growth, a central element of its Twelfth Plan growth strategy.  This will mean taking on commitments to reduce energy-to-GDP intensity and corresponding emission reduction outcomes for the year 2020.” What, he asked, is the basis of committing a reduction in our energy intensity of GDP? In total global emission, India’s share is less than four per cent and our position is 137th in per capita terms.  So we are not responsible for global warming; it is the responsibility of those who are polluting our world by their emissions, he said.

 

DAILY NECESSITIES,

FERTILISERS, SEEDS

In Lok Sabha, the CPI(M)’s Basudeb Acharia moved a calling attention motion on the shortage of fertilisers and seeds in the country. He said the statement by the minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers said the situation is quite comfortable in regard to urea, DAP, MOP and complex fertilisers and the availability of certified seeds. But the ground reality is contrary to his claim. Quoting the statewise figures of urea availability, he said there is wide variation between its requirement and availability in Chhattisgarh, Haryana, J&K, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The fact is that fertilisers are not reaching many farmers; they are being sold at double the price.

Acharia said there was increase in the production of urea, DAP and other fertilisers during the last 62 years from 3 million to 53 million metric tonnes; and still we have to import urea. Last year the total urea production in our country was 109.70 lakh tonnes and of phosphate, 34.64 lakh tonnes whereas we imported 56.66 lakh tonnes of urea, 66.1 lakh tonnes of DAP and 43.66 lakh tonnes of MOP during the same period, spending thousands of crores of rupees. In West Bengal, the public sector Durgapur fertilisers unit was closed in 2002 and the state is forced to import the entire required amount. Same is the case with Gorakhpur and Barauni public sector units which the NDA regime closed in 1998 and 2002. The Haldia unit (West Bengal), Talchar unit (Orissa) and Ramagundam unit (Andhra Pradesh) were also closed. As a result, we had to import 56.63 lakh tonnes of urea, 66.31 lakh tonnes of DAP and 43.66 lakh tonnes of MOP.

Charging the minister of evading the question of when these units would be reopened, Acharia said the first UPA government decided to reopen them in 2007 but no action has been taken. Due to huge shortage and delayed monsoon, farmers could not cultivate more than 10 lakh hectares of land. In reply to a question, the minister admitted that there would be less production of kharif crops. The total food production will come down to 200 million tonnes from 232 million tonnes last year. There is a shortage of foundation seeds everywhere. Seeds are not being made available though 25 per cent of production depends on certified quality seeds and foundation seeds. In order to increase rabi production, farmers must get subsidised seeds and fertilisers, the member said.

On November 26, Lok Sabha held a short duration discussion on the rise in prices of essential commodities. From the CPI(M) side, Basudeb Acharia said whenever the questions of price rise, food security, non-availability of food items were raised in the past, the only reply from the government was that we had abundant stock of foodgrains. Yet the government has failed to control the prices of essential commodities because of its policy of allowing futures trading and dismantling the public distribution system. People are dying of starvation. A large number of people were forced out of the PDS though they cannot afford to purchase grains from the open market. Even in PDS, based on faulty criteria, there are two different kinds of prices. The Estimate Committees has recommended for universalisation of the PDS. To provide 35 kg of grains per month to each family, the subsidy required will be Rs 1,20,000 crore, while the government is already giving Rs 50,000 crore. Though the government has the money, it has no political will to give the rest and thus save the people from hunger and malnutrition. The NDA regime diluted the Essential Commodities Act by issuing two notifications in 2002; these need be withdrawn forthwith. The act itself must be made more stringent to check hoarding and black-marketing. It would be a crime if the government remains indifferent on the issue, the member said. 

In Rajya Sabha, Prasanta Chatterjee, CPI(M), raised during zero hour the issue of misuse of railways fund. He said the rail minister is treating the Indian Railways as her personal fief. She recently constituted a Culture and Heritage Committee while the government is talking of austerity measures. The creation of posts like full-time committee chairman and members with high salaries is against the Sixth Pay Commission recommendation which forbids the creation of new senior administrative posts. Violating the usual practice, the railways are renaming stations without consulting the states. On disaster management, Chatterjee said the 2008 audit observed there was no preparedness to face the disasters, relief equipments were not strategically located, the railways could not provide organised relief in many cases, and we had less than 25 per cent of the frontline staff required to respond to disasters. Instead of properly addressing such crucial issues, the railways are playing with the safety of people’s lives, he accused.