(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 15, 2010
THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
ON price rise issue, the parliament witnessed a stalemate for a couple days, as the entire opposition insisted on a discussion, censoring the government for its failure to contain the price rise. The entire week beginning July 26 was lost due to the government’s non-acceptance of the demand. At last, the government bowed down, proposing that a motion be passed in both houses on the adverse impacts of inflationary pressure on our economy and the common man. This way the opposition did force the government to take action on price front.
During the discussion on the motion, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury participated in Rajya Sabha and Basudeb Acharia in Lok Sabha. Excerpts from Yechury’s speech have already been printed.
ON PRICE RISE
In Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia referred to the successful all-India bandh, saying the people came to the street to protest against the rising prices. Food inflation had reached a high of 17 per cent. When the prices of almost all essential commodities were increasing, the government dealt a blow to the people by raising the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG. This would have a cascading effect on all fronts
To rub salt to injury, moreover, the ministry of petroleum and natural gas issued big, full-page ads to justify the increase in and deregulation of the petro-product prices. Amid interruptions, Acharia termed the advertisement as a document of deceit. Quoting the facts and figures regarding the international crude prices, Acharya showed that since the UPA government came to power in May 2009, the price of crude in the international market had increased by only 70 paise per litre, but the government had increased the price per litre of petrol by Rs 6.44, of kerosene by Rs 4.55, and of LPG by Rs 35 per cylinder in the last six months. So, the government’s argument linking the petro-product prices to the international crude price is not based on facts. Acharia also said the oil marketing companies are not incurring losses; rather they are earning profits. As for increased taxes on petroleum products, they would give the government Rs 1,20,000 crore during 2010-11. But the minister, through the ad, claimed the burden of subsidy was Rs 53,000 crore.
What does the
mean to the people who go to bed without food as they do not have the
power, Acharia asked. Drawing attention to the 1943 famine in
Supporting Acharia, Khagen Das, CPI(M), demanded rollback of the increased petro-product prices. Future trading in all agricultural commodities must be banned. Stringent action is needed against the hoarders of essential commodities. The public distribution system must be universalised and the BPL-APL division scrapped.
On the discussion on supplementary demands for grants (general) 2010-11, the CPI(M)’s P Karunakaran said while the government claimed a GDP growth rate of 7.4 per cent, the picture was frustrating in many sectors. India is an agricultural country, but agriculture grew only by 0.2 per cent whereas the growth of population is about 1.8 per cent. Thus the food security is at stake. The production of foodgrains has fallen by 7.5 per cent in 2009-10 over the last year. The trade deficit is widening and it is expected to be 9 per cent by 2010-11 end. The situation with regard to the agricultural workers, peasants and artisans is quite serious. Job growth rate is lowest in the last three decades. The government has taken a drastic step of disinvesting the public sector; Rs 25,000 crore worth of their equity has been sold. It has decided to sell equity worth Rs 40,000 crore again. But selling the public assets to private hands for a song is contrary to the national interest. Therefore, the government should stop this selling spree.
Karunakaran also spoke of the discrimination meted out to Kerala in regard to food allocation and urged to restore its food quota of 2007. As far as electricity allocation is concerned, earlier the allocated quota for Kerala was 1,400 megawatt but now the state is getting only 641 megawatt. There is a long pending demand for opening an IIT in the state which is the first state to have achieved 100 per cent literacy, he reminded.
During the discussion on the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Bill 2010 in Rajya Sabha, Brinda Karat said that, unfortunately, the major portion of the bill was devoted to issues of registration but there was very little in the bill about the regulation aspect. The only clause related to regulation was of mandatory admission of patients in medical emergency. But there is no provision for any penalty if an establishment refuses to do so. There are many loopholes in it, and so we cannot call it a regulatory mechanism. As some laws already exist, and they are much more stringent in regard to regulation than the proposed bill, what was going to be the fate of those acts? The bill did not deal with the prices. Why cannot the parliament decide it? There are huge differences in charges between different hospitals for the same treatment. This bill in no way tackles this question of unethical medical practices. Another point is related to the company owner who is not to be held liable under the new law. An employee will be fined but not the owner. We are providing so many concessions to the big corporate hospitals; so why cannot this law mandate them to reserve 25 to 30 per cent of the beds for the poor? The need is to improve the poor people’s access to health facilities, Brinda Karat said.
Lok Sabha has passed the Securities and Insurance Laws (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2010. Rising to speak on it, the CPI(M)’s Saidul Haque demanded that the bill be sent to the standing committee for a detailed discussion. Opposing the ordinance issued earlier, he said the dispute began in January this year, and should have been brought to the parliament which was in session up to May 7. Secondly, the minister of state for finance had stated in Rajya Sabha that the government had asked the two regulators to get a legal opinion on the issue. But when the matter was still before the Supreme Court, why was an ordinance promulgated, he asked. Why must the IRDA, rather than SEBI, regulate the ULIPs? The SEBI had directed 14 insurance companies to stop dealing in ULIPs because the amount received under ULIP is invested in the securities market. Our question is: why should they invest in the securities market a part of premium of an insurance linked scheme? Rather it should be invested in developing the social sector. The RBI had constituted two committees. One was a standing body, the Technical Advisory Committee in Financial Regulation, constituted to identify the sources and nature of potential conflicts and suggest possible measures for mitigating them. Then, there is a high level committee on capital and financial market. So the RBI should have played a key role. As for the Provident Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), itself constituted under an executive order, why was it kept in the joint mechanism? The first committee could go into the details of the issue and got to the root of this kind of conflicts, to safeguard the investor’s interest. At the same time, we are very much concerned that the insurance related schemes must not invest funds in the stock market.
Rajya Sabha has passed the Industrial Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2009. During the discussion, Tapan Kumar Sen, CPI(M), conveyed his thanks for accepting his amendment. He said this was a small weapon in the hands of the poor contract workers to get things done. In respect of wage ceiling of Rs 10,000 as on today, it does not mean anything. The question of putting ceiling in the matter of industrial disputes is absolutely superfluous and the concerned clause needed to be deleted. The Works Committee was not appointed in 99 per cent cases. But no employer has been prosecuted for it. As regards supervisors, the employers take away their rights in majority of the industries. That is to be taken care of. Similarly, in the matter of grievance redressal machinery, the lacuna regarding the number of employees needs to be properly addressed. The award of the tribunal must be implemented in a fixed timeframe. The Industrial Dispute Act is to be implemented by the labour department, but the labour department is not responsible to address the labour problems in the SEZs. The labour issues have to be dealt by the labour department and the latter needs to be strengthened if the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act have to be meaningfully implemented.
Rajya Sabha witnessed ruckus over the alleged diversion of funds from the welfare schemes meant for the scheduled castes and tribes to the Commonwealth Games. Lashing out at the government, Brinda Karat said Rs 744 crore allocated for the Special Component Plan of Delhi government for dalits had been diverted. What has been done openly in Delhi violates the in which constitutional rights of dalit masses who have been deprived of the money allocated for them. This is a sort of economic atrocity, she sharply accused. A large chunk of contract labourers working in Delhi belongs to the scheduled castes and tribes. The minimum wage in Delhi is Rs 203 per day but these labourers get just Rs 100 a day. The speaker demanded return of Rs 744 crore along with interest, legal and constitutional provisions for the component plan in place of the executive order, and stern action against the guilty in the meantime.