People's Democracy

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


No. 34

August 22, 2010



Subhas Ray


THE issue of railway minister Ms Mamata Banerjee’s rally with the help of PCPA, the Maoists’ frontal organisation, at Lalgarh in West Bengal figured for two days in both houses, leading to uproars and adjournment of Rajya Sabha on August 10.




Raising the issue in Lok Sabha, amidst interruptions, A Sampath said the prime minister had dubbed Naxalism as the biggest threat to the nation. The Maoists have declared a war against the people. In West Bengal, a partner in the UPA government held a rally at Lalgarh with help from the Maoists, while the house was in session. It is a shame that while we condemn the Maoists’ terror activities, one of the ruling political parties, which has earned notoriety for all sorts of undemocratic and irresponsible activities, is backing them. Sampath demanded that the central government must spell out its stand on Lalgarh rally clearly.


In Rajya Sabha, Prasanta Chatterjee, CPI(M), reminded how Ms Banerjee has been demanding the withdrawal of joint police action from Lalgarh and other areas, to help the Maoists, many of whom are on the “wanted” list on various charges. He said the Lalgarh rally was nothing but a move to rehabilitate the banned outfits politically, and demanded why the union government allowed a cabinet minister to share a platform with the Maoists.  


Next Day, on Tuesday, Lok Sabha deputy speaker allowed a TMC member to speak on their meeting at Lalgarh. As usual, he resorted to jugglery and, to the amusement of other members, he said they to condemn murder. From the CPI(M) side, Bangsa Gopal Chowdhury highlighted their onslaughts on the people and pointed out that the TMC rally was led by wanted Maoist leaders including two accused of the Gnaneswari Express accident. This is the reality of their democratic credentials, he said. BJP member Gopinath Munde too described as “shameful” the minister’s association with the Maoists. He sought to know why the prime minister was silent on it. In Rajya Sabha, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the prime minister’s silence could at times be a weapon of convenience, but a conspiracy of silence could not be allowed.


In Rajya Sabha, Brinda Karat, CPI(M), drew attention to the sufferings of the Manipur people because of total blockade by NSCN and other organisations. The people of Manipur have some genuine concerns, which have to be addressed and a political solution found. She said the hospitals there do not have even oxygen cylinders; petrol is very costly; heavy taxes are being charged from truckers. Because of non-availability of commodities, their prices are ten times the prices we pay in Delhi. She asked the centre to take immediate action to smoothen the situation there.




During the discussion on Bhopal gas tragedy in both houses, the opposition put the government on the mat. From the CPI(M), Basudeb Acharia in Lok Sabha and Brnda Karat in Rajya Sabha participated.


On this occasion, Acharia said the Bhopal tragedy was the biggest ever industrial accident in the country. But the way the episode was handled, exposed the connivance of successive governments at the centre with the American multinational. Six months before December 2 when this disaster took place, the Safety Audit Committee found defects in the Bhopal unit of Union Carbide Corporation and suggested remedial measures. But the company did not care. When a poisonous gas emitted from one of the tanks, 2500 people in and around the UCC unit died, more than five lakhs were exposed to the gas and the death figure crossed 22,000 in later years. However, UCC chief Warren Anderson was released immediately after arrest. We have an extradition treaty with the US but made no attempt to bring him back. The government of India claimed three billion dollars as compensation. But in an out of court settlement with the UCC, the government’s claim came down to 450 million dollars or Rs 713 crore. With this amount, the families of the deceased received only Rs 12,000 to 15,000 each. The CBI wanted to visit the UCC plant in US but was not permitted. During these 26 years, people have been suffering from various ailments and there is a need for more funds. The Dow Chemicals, which has purchased the plant, must be forced to bear the cost for all remedial measures. Acharia also demanded a proper medical infrastructure for Bhopal victims, among other things.


In her hard-hitting speech in Rajya Sabha, Brinda Karat sharply flayed the government for its failure to punish the culprits. The CBI charge sheet made it clear that the entire security mechanism was closed that night. It was a manmade disaster. But the call of Bhopal gas victims was heard under compulsion, after large scale resentment in the country. The member condemned the excessive delay in getting justice for Bhopal victims, saying we should be ashamed of our legal system. After 26 years, a few persons were punished for only two years of jail, they were then released the same night, and we are told that this is our legal process. She said from beginning to end the governments at the centre and in the state have connived with the American MNC; the culprits are even today playing golf. Turning her face to the BJP benches, she asked what they had done. The BJP government too sought opinion from an American legal firm so that there was no repatriation. Even today, deaths are taking place. Victims are yet to get justice. There must be a reassessment and change in the medical categorisation. The ICMR did not bring out all its research papers and closed down all its centres suddenly in 1994. Thus even the topmost research body did no justice to the victims. If its research had been completed, the claim amount could be increased.


The speaker said even today large quantities of chemicals are present in the water at Bhopal;  people are destined to consume contaminated water. Hence a large sum must be realised from Dow Chemicals and the company must be blacklisted if it does not pay the amount. What is most worrying is that even after the dreaded experience of Bhopal disaster, this government is bent upon exempting the suppliers of nuclear reactors and equipments under the Nuclear Civil Liability (Damage) Bill. She concluded with the demand of a correct decision about the Bhopal victims and a proper lesson for the future.    




Joining the Lok Sabha discussion on the delay in preparation for Commonwealth Games (CWG), Bangsagopal Chowdhury demanded a thorough probe into the charges of corruption. He said the CAG report has already come to the prime minister and a joint parliamentary committee must thoroughly probe the issue. In the run-up to these games, numerous contract workers have died, and as many as one lakh people have been dislocated. What the government was going to do about this, he asked. A lot of sweat and blood of the workers has been lost to these games. The government left them helpless before labour law violations; nor do these labourers get more than Rs 100 a day. The government has also to respond to the sub-standard work carried out for the games as ineligible agencies were assigned contracts. This should be probed by a JPC.


On August 10, CPI(M) members in Lok Sabha walked out expressing dissatisfaction over the minister’s reply on the issue.


In Rajya Sabha, Tapan Sen expressed concern over the increasing deaths of construction workers, particularly at the CWG sites. He said as per official records, CWG sites have witnessed 42 deaths and Metro sites 16 deaths in the last one year, in a bid to expedite the work. The actual number, 150 to 200, is far more than the official figures. There is complete absence of labour law enforcement machinery. The workers, who are from other states, have been reduced to the bonded labour status. No union is allowed to exist. Labour department officials ignore their duties. Many deaths go unrecorded and uncompensated. Skilled workers are getting Rs 134 and unskilled workers 85 to 90 a day. 




In the same house, Moinul Hassan raised the issue of non-implementation of Justice Ranganath Misra commission recommendations. He said one of the terms of reference of this National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities was to recommend measures for welfare of the socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities, including reservation in education and government jobs. The commission placed its report last year, proposing 15 per cent reservation in education and jobs for Muslims and others, but there was no action. Moinul urged the government to announce reservation for Muslims and other minorities as proposed.


Rajya Sabha has passed the State Bank of India (Amendment) Bill 2010, which would dilute the government’s stake in SBI by 8 per cent. Strongly opposing the bill, Tapan Sen said it was the threshold of privatisation. Compared to 2009, the SBI’s profit jumped from Rs 2330 crore to Rs 2935 crore by end-June 2010. But the finance minister’s budget proposal has given a largesse to the private sector in banking field, issuing more licences to private banks that are eating into the profit of public sector banks. Sen urged the government to reconsider its decision and review its policy on private participation in banking. CPI(M) members then forced a division on their amendments seeking 59 per cent government stake in SBI; they were defeated by 35 votes. BJP members toed the ruling UPA’s line and voted against the CPI(M) members’ amendments.


Parliament had passed the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2009. Jharna Das Baidya participated in the discussion in Rajya Sabha and P R Natarajan in Lok Sabha. They supported the bill as it seeks to impose quantitative restrictions (QRs), and recalled how the withdrawal of QRs has created a crisis for our agro industries. However, the free trade agreement with European Union, which the government is negotiating secretly, will adversely affect Indian agriculture and manufacturing, leading to further job-losses and market shrinkage. The government is even prepared to rewrite the patent laws. Accepting product patents for drugs and pharmaceuticals under the TRIPS has already restricted the people’s access to cheap medicines. The provision for dispensing with requirement of obtaining import-export licenses needs to be examined, and the list of items for import under license must increase. The CPI(M) members also demanded a White Paper on WTO’s impact on Indian peasantry.


In Rajya Sabha, P Rajeeve raised the demand for approval and commissioning of Kochi Metro project. He said in Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, the traffic is congested and the roads are narrow. So the Kerala government adopted a Metro project and approached the central government for approval. The urban development ministry adopted the project and the Planning Commission has also given clearance. But the cabinet has deferred its approval. The prime minister assured to intervene but nothing has happened. The member then urged the prime minister to clear the project.


Parliament had passed the Jharkhand budget. In the discussion in Rajya Sabha, Saman Pathak said Jharkhand is a resource rich state; yet one of the poorest states in the country due to misrule by the successive Congress and BJP governments. After Bihar’s bifurcation, both the states remain poor; there is no development. Resources are being blackmarketed there. The people of Jharkhand have started migrating. The economic condition is so serious that 75 per cent children of the state are suffering malnutrition. As for administration, the state has become a Maoist den. Panchayat elections are not being held. Pathak demanded that political process must start early and elected representatives must run the government in the state.