People's Democracy

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


No. 31

August 01, 2010




Govt’s Obduracy Stalls Parliament



AS we go to press, the parliament continues to remain disrupted on the issue of the back-breaking rise in the prices of all essential commodities.  The government is refusing to accept the demand made separately by almost all non-UPA parties for a discussion in both the Houses under rules that entail voting.  In the Lok Sabha, the speaker has ruled against admitting an adjournment motion which would have entailed voting at the end of the debate.  In the Rajya Sabha, the chair has not accepted but has not yet ruled against a discussion under Rule 184 that entails voting at the end of the discussion. 


The government continues to argue that it is willing for a discussion under rules where there is no need of a vote.  At the same time, the UPA claims that it has a numerical majority in the Lok Sabha.  If this be the case, then why is it shying away from discussing this issue under rules that require voting?  Obviously, the government is not confident of mustering a majority on such a vital issue that is affecting the vast majority of our people very adversely.  Under popular pressure, the government is afraid that some of its allies may not support it steadfastly.  In any case, the UPA does not command a majority in the Rajya Sabha and, hence, cannot afford a discussion under Rule 184.  This being the case, it cannot, therefore, allow any discussion in the Lok Sabha as well under a rule that entails voting. 


Why are we insisting on a discussion under these specific rules that require voting?  This is precisely because the parliament has, so far, discussed the issue of continuous and relentless price rise on at least three occasions during the last year. None of these discussions had produced any positive response from the government.  The government brazenly not only refuses to take any measures to curtail this price rise but, on the contrary, has announced further hikes in petroleum products. This has not only fuelled higher overall inflation but has directly and indirectly imposed greater burdens on the people.  By insisting on the discussion under rules that require voting, we hope to put the pressure on the government to take certain concrete measures to contain this price rise.  The fear of facing a vote, it is hoped, would put sufficient pressure upon the government to concede some of the concrete demands that we, from the Left, have been raising. 


There are at least three immediate concrete measures that the government can take to provide some relief to the people.  First, having virtually deregulated the prices of petroleum products, the hikes announced in the budget must now be withdrawn.  In the debate in the Lok Sabha, on whether the adjournment motion should be admitted or not, the finance minister smuggled in a justification for not doing so.  He admitted to have imposed petroleum duties to the extent of Rs 1,08,000 crores.  Of this, he stated that Rs 24,000 crores will be transferred to all the states put together.  This leaves Rs 84,000 crores with the centre.  Employing a sleight of hand, he claimed that the states put together have imposed petroleum duties to the extent of Rs 72,000 crore.  Therefore, all the states put together now will be receiving Rs 96,000 crore while the centre gets only Rs 84,000 crore. Thus implying that the state governments bear a greater responsibility for burdening people than the centre!


The sleight of hand lies in the following: The entire burden of Rs 84,000 crore imposed by the centre is transferred to the people through a hike in prices.  The Rs 96,000 crore is the cumulative amount of taxes in all the 28 states of India.  This, on an average, comes to Rs 3428.57 crore per state.  This is the burden that falls on the shoulders of the people living in the respective states due to taxes by the state governments, as compared to the burden of Rs 1,08,000 crores of central taxes that falls on all the people.  Statistics cannot be employed to fool the people.  The people suffering from these burdens will not draw any comfort from such statistical jugglery. 


The second measure that the Left had advocated was asking the central government to release the huge amount of foodgrain stocks (more than double the quantity required for the buffer norm) to the states for distribution through the PDS outlets at BPL prices.  This would have impacted on the market depressing the inflationary pressures.  The government has refused to do this even at the expense of the foodgrains rotting in its godowns.  The Supreme Court has now vindicated our position by chiding the government for allowing foodgrains to rot in monsoon due to lack of storage space.  The apex court questioned the government as to why it is not distributing the grain to the hungry instead of allowing it to rot.  The government has only responded with an inhuman silence. 


The third measure that we had suggested was to ban the speculative futures/forward trading in all essential commodities as these were driving up the prices through speculation.  The volume of trade in the commodity exchanges always reflects the degree of profitability of such trade.  It is only when the prices of commodities rise higher than what they have been traded for, that profits can be made.  The cumulative value of trade from April 1 to June 30, 2010 was Rs 24,55,987.26 crores.  The corresponding figure for last year was Rs 15,64,114.96 crores.  This huge jump in the value of trade suggests super profitability due to inflation fuelled by speculation. 


On all these three counts, the government would have been under tremendous pressure, if a discussion were to take place under rules that entail voting.  It would have provided great relief to the people, if under this pressure, the government would have been forced to take steps to contain this price rise.  It is precisely this pressure that the government is seeking to escape from.  In the process, it is the government’s anti-people attitude that is resulting in the proceedings of the parliament being continuously stalled.  


The CPI(M) is committed to protect and improve people’s welfare and their quality of life.  It shall continue the struggles to force the government to adopt policies to this effect, both inside and outside the parliament. 


(July 28, 2010)