People's Democracy

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


No. 50

December 13, 2009



Subhas Ray


THE first day of the second week of winter session saw opposition parties in both houses protesting against the decision to send a central team to assess the law and order situation in West Bengal. Led by the CPI(M)�s Sitaram Yechury, the opposition in Rajya Sabha vehemently protested against this move. Yechury said we have been the first victim of the misuse of article 356 in free India. It was misused twice in West Bengal and twice in Kerala. Our apprehension stems from there. Law and order is a state subject, and dispatching a central team to West Bengal is interfering in the state�s jurisdiction. He also pointed out that certain union ministers are patronising and protecting the so-called Maoists whose violence is a great menace to India�s internal security. He wanted the government to assure that this team would not visit any place without consultation with the state government.

In Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia, CPI(M), asked the home minister: Under what provision of the constitution was a central team sent to West Bengal while all the states are facing the problem of law and order? Was it done to please a minister in this government?

The home minister, P Chidambaram, defused the tension by assuring that this was not in any spirit of confrontation but in order to discuss the matter with the state government and to assist it in maintaining law and order there.




Rajya Sabha held a short duration discussion on December 2, on internal security. Rising to speak on the subject, Sitaram Yechury referred to terrorism, adding that the CPI(M) is of the unequivocal opinion that we must have zero tolerance towards it. We have to combat terrorism and fundamentalism of all hues. But while fighting this menace, we also have to tackle internal factors that give rise to terrorism. The prime minister said Maoist violence is the single largest menace to India�s internal security. But growing economic inequality is its breeding ground. If inequality widens, you lay a fertile basis for its growth, which we cannot afford. Therefore, the question that arises is of having inclusive growth and taking to the people the benefits of the development process. While the state needs to take necessary measures to tackle it, it must not push the people to this path by its repressive measures.

Yechury further said a charge has been labelled that the �Maoists� and the CPI(M) are cousins and that we have woken up to �Maoist� violence belatedly. The word �Naxalite� came from a village called Naxalbari in Bengal, where an armed uprising took place in 1967. This involved a band of people who had left the CPI(M) and later formed the CPI(ML). Thus, from the very beginning, the CPI(M) differed from their erroneous ideological understanding of the Indian situation. We have lost thousands of our comrades due to the �Maoist� attacks against us. No other party has lost more people to the Naxalite attacks, and that too not only in Bengal but across the country. But we have always combated their ideology and we will continue to do so. So to dub the CPI(M) and the Naxalites as cousins is a travesty of history and truth.

How the Maoists have come to Bengal now is an important point to note. The CPI(M) leader said they have been imported into Bengal by a constituent of the UPA and its government. That is a fact. They have raised the issue of Nandigram. But the �Maoist� chief of the Nandigram zonal committee himself told them: �You said at a rally at Sonachura recently that it was the CPM who brought us to Nandigram in 2007 and provided us with safe passage to flee. You know it is a lie.� Then he went on to give the details of how some members of parliament belonging to a certain party attended meetings along with the �Maoists� in that particular place and spoke together with them. Unfortunately, instead of fighting the �Maoist� menace, New Delhi is underestimating the threat by having in the government a partner who is patronising and protecting them, Yechury lashed out. There were occasions when our rulers created a Frankenstein but it consumed their own leaders. The Congress party propped up Bhindranwale, and suffered the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi. Then it hobnobbed with the LTTE, and suffered the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Yechury therefore warned that the ruling combination must desist from creating Frankensteins for the sake of remaining in power.




CPI(M) members in both houses raised the issue of Bhopal gas tragedy on its twenty-fifth anniversary. In Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury conveyed the CPI(M)�s homage to those who died and sympathies for those who are suffering. What to talk of meting out punishments to those guilty of criminal negligence, the government has not paid full compensation to the victims even after 25 years.

Yechury said there are three other important issues to take note of. First, toxic wastes are still lying around the Carbide plant. They are being discharged into the solar evaporation pond and contaminating the soil and ground water in approximately five sq km area around the plant. Both the central and the state governments displayed total neglect to the needs of the affected people and environmental cleansing. The second issue is of workplace safety. The disaster exposed the criminal neglect of workplace safety on part of the management. We need to learn lessons from Bhopal disaster and strengthen workplace safety everywhere, to protect workers from fatalities, injuries and physical disablement. In the last one year, he said, 127 workers lost life in 11 workplace related accidents, but not a single person was punished for violation of the safety laws. Now the government is to bring a legislation to amend the labour laws, which will only increase the workers� vulnerability.

Thirdly, the government is considering finalising the nuclear liability bill which seeks to cap the compensation to be paid in case of a nuclear accident. But the likely compensation cap at 450 million dollars or around Rs 2,000 crore is exceedingly low vis-�-vis the likely losses in a nuclear accident. When the compensation paid by the Union Carbide after the Bhopal disaster was distributed among the six lakh victims, it came to only 500 dollars or less than Rs 23,000 per head, Yechury reminded.

In Lok Sabha, Dr Anup Kumar Saha, CPI(M), reminded that this disaster involving the leakage of methyl isocynate (MIC), the deadliest chemical, claimed over 3,000 lives at once and an estimated 20,000 people indirectly, due to complications. But the government of India compromised with the killer US multinational by accepting a pittance of just 450 million dollars. The government has failed to bring the culprits, the Union Carbide, to book. The desperate hope of the crippled survivors for compensation and medical treatment remained unfulfilled. The victims of the world�s biggest industrial disaster have received only about one-fifth of the compensation due to them under the 1989 agreement. The Carbide factory continued to poison the nearby water sources, causing further damage to the survivors� health. The member demanded time-bound completion of rehabilitation work, adequate compensation to the victims, stringent punishment to killer Carbide and enactment of stringent legislations to prevent such incidents in future.




In Rajya Sabha, the CPI(M)�s Tapan Sen moved a calling attention motion on the disinvestment of profit making central public sector enterprises. He said when the finance minister of today was the leader of opposition in 2001, he had said, �If the objective of the government is to bridge the resource crunch by disposing of capital assets in order to meet consumption expenditure, it would simply not be permissible under any amount of fiscal prudence.� But he has done a somersault precisely on the same �fiscal prudence� issue. Why was it so, Sen asked the minister.

It was said that the social sector expenditure and capital expenditure of public sector units would be met with the disinvestment proceeds. But, Sen accused, the disinvestment process is designed to pave the way for privatisation of the country�s blue chip PSUs. Earlier, the UPA government under Left pressure had to desist from any disinvestment of Navratna PSUs. Now, with the changed situation, the UPA has gone back upon its word.

Rejecting the argument of people�s ownership of PSUs through the purchase of PSU shares, Sen said the PSUs are under the control of the parliament which is elected by people. He asked: Can there be a more effective and broader mechanism of ensuring the people�s ownership other than parliamentary control? Referring to the shareholding profile of the already disinvested public sector units, he said a very miniscule part of their shares has gone to the public. In BHEL, of 32.8 per cent shares disinvested, the public holds only 1.9 per cent. In SAIL, the pubic holding is 1.9 out of the 14.18 per cent disinvested. In BEL and GAIL, public holding is 2.4 and 1.6 per cent respectively. Most of the disinvested shares have actually gone to big corporate entities, FIIs, financial institutions, NRIs and other companies. All this was done in the name of resource crunch but yet the government forewent tax revenue to the tune of Rs 4.5 lakh crore while unpaid tax arrears came to Rs 1.98 lakh crore last year.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   




On the Central University (Amendment) Bill 2009, P K Biju of the CPI(M) said the government must lay down stringent measures to avoid further delay in creation of 12 central universities promised by the previous UPA government. As there will be an expansion of the professional and technical education through the private finance initiative (PFI), we need a strong regulatory framework to rein in the predatory private interests. The second thing is the private public partnership (PPP). The government needs to partner with the government controlled non-profit making autonomous bodies for the establishment of new institutions. The member said the licence given for setting up foreign universities in India would adversely affect the common man�s prospects to secure education. The government needs to desist from commercialisation of higher education and come forward to strengthen our public education sector, he said.

Lok Sabha held a short duration discussion on natural calamities in the country. Participating in the debate, P Karunakaran of the CPI(M) said we are increasingly facing the vagaries of nature, which cause huge damages to farmers. Floods and drought have become virtually permanent, leading to huge losses to production, property, human and cattle life every year. But the government is unable to contain them; rather their intensity is increasing. This situation leads to hoarding and black-marketing. Yet the centre has not evolved a permanent disaster management mechanism. It needs to take long-term measures in this regard.

As far as relief is concerned, the centre sends a team to the states for spot study. But sometimes the team may not see the actual situation prevailing there. This is one of the main reasons for delay in giving relief. While the Calamities Relief Fund is not a special fund, the main issue is of the National Calamities Relief Fund. Many items are not included in it. For example, it does not include sea erosion, from which Kerala with a long seashore suffers. In Wayanad district, some places disappeared due to landslides. But the latter are not included in NCRF. Last year, Kerala experienced a severe flood and a central team visited to assess the damage but no special fund was given. This was unfortunate. The people of Kerala strongly protested but the centre released Rs 61 crore only. The member concluded with an appeal that the government must take into account how climate change affects crops and the life of farmers.

CPI(M) members in both houses strongly protested the sudden increase in coal prices by Coal India Limited. The CPI(M)�s Shyamal Chakraborty in Rajya Sabha and Bansha Gopal Chowdhury and Saidul Haque in Lok Sabha said the CIL has raised the basic price of coal by 15 per cent --- from Rs 2,000 to 2,300 per tonne. The coal required for power generating units has been decontrolled and placed for auction. The minimum price fixed for the auction of Raniganj coal has been increased twice, thus affecting power generation in Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal severely. DVC and NTPC (Farakka) have enhanced their electricity charge by 73 and 95 paise per unit respectively. Other power generating units are also out to increase their tariffs. Thus the rise in coal prices has a cascading effect. In the midst of sharp rises in the prices of essential commodities, this sudden rise in coal prices has further worsened the people�s life. So the CPI(M) members demanded immediate withdrawal of this hike.

P Karunakaran expressed concern over the pathetic condition of Indian labour in Gulf countries due to the global economic meltdown and the crisis in Dubai in particular. He said most of these employees and workers, taken there through the recruitment agents in India, stay in shanty labour camps. There is no security for them. Unfortunately, we have no special legislation to monitor the recruitment agencies, though India gets from the Keralite workers Rs 24,000 crore annually. (Half of it goes to the state of Kerala whose economy much depends on these contributions.) Hence, the member said, we have to take some measures with regard to these workers� wages, safety, job security, flight convenience etc.