People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIII

No. 51

December 20, 2009

THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT

 

Subhas Ray

 

THE third week of the winter session was an eventful week, with the BJP, the irresponsible opposition party, trying to drown the debate on the Liberhan report in a din of noises. When the home minister, P Chidambaram, was replying to the debate in Lok Sabha on Liberhan report on Babri Masjid demolition, BJP members shouted slogans for about 75 minutes. During the debate, other members charged the BJP with breaking every single promise made to the Supreme Court, the central government and the National Integration Council on protection of the structure.

Both the houses had had a discussion on this subject. From the CPI(M) side, Sitaram Yechury and Moinul Hassan spoke in Rajya Sabha and Basudeb Acharia and P Karunakaran in Lok Sabha.

 

BABRI

DEMOLITION

Yechury said the Liberhan commission, detailing the circumstances that led to demolition of the Babri Masjid, has come to conclusion that the demolition was carried out with great preparation and not in any outburst of emotions. The central issue is how this mosque was demolished and who is responsible for this. Though the commission took 17 long years to prepare its report, it confirms that the demolition was not an act of spontaneity. Stating that many commissions’ recommendations remain implemented, Yechury said the moot question is whether we want justice to be done. He also termed the government’s Action Taken Report (ATR) as completely unsatisfactory, adding that its implication is that nothing can be done till a court decides the issue. He therefore asked the government to club all the cases together, move the Supreme Court and ask it to give an early verdict on it.

Yechury pointed out that in fact the Sangh Parivar’s attempt has been to demolish secularism, one of the pillars of modern India. Judging from the entire sequence of events, it was not simply that a mosque was demolished and over 3,000 people died. Rather the very concept of modern India was challenged. This challenge cannot go unmet and justice has to be done.

The CPI(M) leader pointed out that three distinct visions emerged in the 1920s --- one of the RSS, another of the Communist Party and a third of the Congress --- about what an independent India should be like. The Left wanted not merely the establishment of a secular democratic India but the transformation of political independence into economic independence for the people, without which we cannot sustained our secular democratic fabric either. On the other hand, while the Muslim League talked of a separate Islamic nation, the RSS talked of a Hindu Rashtra. Now we have to politically isolate these forces that seek to destroy the country’s plurality. India can be strengthened only if we strengthen the bonds of commonality amid our diversity, not by imposing any kind of uniformity. Yechury said during this discussion on the Liberhan report, we must make a resolve to deliver justice.

Yechury also asked: If the Congress’s vision was one of a secular democratic India, why was such a heinous crime committed in its regime? It is not the question of one person’s betrayal; there was a whole system at work. The question is of the collective responsibility of the cabinet. The important point is that we saw a very virulent communal campaign in the years preceding the demolition. There were 79 communal incidents in 1989 alone, the year of Sila Pujan; 505 people died and 768 were injured. Then, during Mr Advani’s rathyatra in 1990, 312 communal incidents took place; 483 were killed, more than 2000 injured; 210 mosques damaged or desecrated in that period. This very build-up ultimately led to the Babri demolition. Yechury therefore asked the government to have a re-look at its ATR and strengthen it; otherwise the credibility of the system would go down further and that is very dangerous for the future of India. It must also expedite the action against 18 persons the commission has named.

Moinul Hassan wondered where the central government, the UP government, the prime minister and the chief minister were on the fateful day when the Masjid was demolished. It was nothing but calculated vandalism by communal and fundamentalist forces, challenging the secular fabric of our country. He accused the then central government and its sleeping prime minister of having compromised with the communal forces, warning that any permission to mixing politics with religion would be dangerous for the country.

In Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia rejected the argument of spontaneity, saying we have seen how the RSS spread the communal venom after 1986. While Mr Advani’s rathyatra flared up the basest of passions, the Congress compromised with communal forces; it even joined hands with the BJP to pull down the V P Singh government. Earlier the Congress government appeased the Hindu fundamentalists by opening the locks of the Masjid in 1986 and appeased the Muslim fundamentalists by amending the divorce law following the Shah Bano case. This was the Congress brand of secularism. While the states then ruled by the BJP assisted the karsevaks, the then prime minister, Narashmha Rao woke up only after the Masjid was demolished. Acharia said thousands of Muslims were killed in the subsequent riots, and the responsibility thereof must be fixed.

P Karunakaran said we cannot tolerate either majority or minority communalism as both are dangerous to the nation. Against them, the government in power needs to act in time. However, late V P Singh lost his government just because he stood for the secular values while the Congress compromised with communal forces for narrow political ends. We cannot forget these facts while analysing recent history. The nation needs communal harmony to face its myriad of problems while communalism diverts attention from real problems. Fundamentalist, communal forces always oppose the progressive values and do not want the nation to develop, Acharia said.

During the debate, BJP members tried hard to prove the commission’s report was a bogus one with lots of ambiguity. An overwhelming majority in both houses rejected their plea.

 

CLIMATE

CHANGE

In Rajya Sabha, the opposition slammed the minister for environment for his statements on the issue of climate change. From the CPI(M), Sitaram Yechury said the minister had assured the parliament and the country that there were two red lines not to be crossed. One, no binding emission cuts will be acceptable to India. Second, there will be no deadline of peaking of our emission. But what the minister told the media contradicted whatever was stated earlier. Yechury said we do not know what the government was talking about when it announced 20 to 25 per cent voluntary reduction, presumably in carbon intensity. Today, crores of our countrymen do not have electricity, 70 crores survive on bio-fuels. So the announced quantum of reduction can be effected only at the expense of two-thirds of India. This will also widen the gap between the rich and the poor in the country. He asked the minister to assure that per capita emission standards would not be diluted, historical responsibility of the advanced countries would be taken into account, and the change in the cut-off date from 1990 to 2005 would not be accepted. He insisted that our cuts must be conditional upon a mandatory cut in emissions by the developed countries and that technology transfer must be beyond the purview of intellectual property rights.

On this issue, led by Yechury, the entire opposition walked out in protest.

From the CPI(M), M B Rajesh and Saidul Haque participated in the short duration discussion on the issue in Lok Sabha. They said climate change is today the single largest threat to the existence of humanity. The Inter-Government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has pointed out greenhouse gas emissions are approaching the levels beyond which devastating climate changes could occur. According to IPCC, the level of carbon dioxide has increased tremendously, and it would have the worst effects on the poor, especially in developing countries. According to an international study, 375 million people the world over are going to be affected by global warming, and India is likely to be among the worst affected countries, with erratic and non-seasonal rainfall, melting Himalayan glaciers, floods and droughts, changes in cropping patterns resulting in a sharp drop in food production. Rises in sea levels due to polar ice melting would inundate the coastal areas, threatening the life and livelihood of 27 million families. Himalayan glaciers are shrinking at a rate of 10 to 15 metres per year. This will affect water supply in India; the Ganga may lose two-thirds of its flow. The country would also experience a decline in summer rainfall which is crucial to Indian agriculture. Climate change will also endanger a significant number of plant and animal species, and threaten human health.

The CPI(M) members asked who is responsible for this kind of situation. Undoubtedly, it is the developed countries. India’s per capita emission is only 1.1 tonnes as against 20.1 tonnes of the United States. Dealing with policy issues, Rajesh said there is much talk about flexibility. First, developed countries must begin to drastically cut their emissions. There cannot be any flexibility on this question. We cannot allow the developed countries to erase the distinction between the developing and developed countries in this regard. This distinction is fundamental. The UN Framework has underlined the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, saying that developing countries are not responsible for global warming and cannot be treated identically with the developed countries in this regard. Referring to the minister’s enthusiastic announcement of unilateral action, the members said this would not help us escape the impact of climate change. It is tantamount to gifting away our carbon space, they said. While the US and other industrialised countries seek to undermine the UN framework about internationally agreed targets of limiting gas emissions by industrialised countries and assistance to the developing countries through funds and technology transfer, the CPI(M) members castigated the minister for making all sorts of statements without taking the parliament into confidence.

 

OTHER

ISSUES

Moving a calling attention motion in Rajya Sabha on the present status of WTO negotiations, Moinul Hassan said the seventh WTO ministerial meeting in Geneva, November 30 to December 3, was held in the backdrop of a global crisis which led to a fall in global trade, in. According to the WTO estimates, global trade saw at least nine per cent decline in 2009. Our country is not out of the ambit of the crisis and every citizen is entitled to know how we would protect our interests in different areas, particularly agriculture and employment intensive small-scale industries. What is worrying is that various negotiating groups in WTO are carrying out negotiations in a non-transparent manner. The member asked the minister to clarify whether the interest of Indian farmers, especially small peasants engaged in largely rain-fed agriculture, is protected. Due to the recession, our employment intensive industries like textile, leather goods, gems and jewelleries have already faced a devastating effect. What have been done to protect our indigenous industry when developed countries are trying to open new markets for their products? What is the situation after the mini-ministerial talks so far? After the meeting, the US called on developing countries to make “meaningful market opening,” but Brazil said it was “unreasonable.” What is India’s line of action at the WTO, he asked, expressing concern among other things over the threat of loss of farmers’ control over seed, and the consequent threat to our food security and biodiversity.

In Rajya Sabha, Saman Pathak raised the issue of land scam by the army and expressed apprehension that a case similar to that of Sukuna cantonment in Darjeeling may happen in the area around Siliguri city. He said the army had acquired a large area in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri after 1962 and has developed army cantonment by denuding the entire forest area. Instead of returning this vast vacant land to the landowners, it has now gone to the businessmen, promoters and brokers. The army is also trying to evict the settlers who have been around the cantonment area for long. He demanded institution of a high level inquiry committee in view of the seriousness of the matter.