(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 06, 2011
Crony Capitalism Breeds
Corruption; Ruins Future – II
Below we publish the concluding part of extracts of the speech delivered by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and leader of parliamentary party, Sitaram Yechury, in Rajya Sabha on 23 February 2011 while participating in the debate on the Motion of Thanks on President’s Address.
THE third priority the President says is, 'to sustain the momentum of economic growth, while ensuring that the poor, the weak and the disadvantaged get a fresh air.' Now, this is actually becoming a joke that the weak and the disadvantaged will get a fresh air. Okay, there is a sense of pride that we are rubbing shoulders with the G-20 in the world and having dinner with those mighty Presidents. But, what is happening at the ground level? Isn't it shameful, today, according to the Third National Family Health Survey, 38.4 per cent of our children under three years are stunted – too short for their age – 46 per cent are too thin for their age, 79.2 per cent of our children under three years are anaemic? This is our country's future. And, among the pregnant women, anaemia has increased from 50 per cent to 58 per cent during the last two years.
These are the mothers who are producing our future. This is the state of our mothers and this is the state of children and we are talking of India coming of age! The demographic advantage that we have today is that 70 per cent of our population is below the age of 35 years. If we can give them good health, if we can give them good education, our country will flourish. Both these things could have been done with the Rs 1.76 lakh crore calculation that I made earlier. If you can give them education and health, they will build a better India. All that we have to do is to create those policies by which we can actually tap our own potential.
Today, there is a sense of pride when the people say that the second language in the Silicon Valley happens to be my mother tongue – Telugu. There is not a single laboratory in the world today, where the highest level of research is going on, where you do not find an Indian. It is a sense of pride. But, when is it happening? It is happening only when 9 per cent of my country's youth are able to enter higher education today. With this 9 per cent the world is getting shocked that India is leading. If you increase this to 30 per cent, who can stop India from leading the knowledge society in the world. That is the potential of my country. If anybody is stopping us from being the leaders of the intellectual world today, it is we. We are stopping it ourselves because of our policies. If you stop siphoning off this money and instead use it to provide food security, to provide education for our youth, then, India's true potential can be achieved. And, that is where we want this government to think about corruption, not in terms of moral issues.
We all know that the CBI is pursuing the criminal investigation under the supervision of the Supreme Court. We know that the Public Accounts Committee is seized of the accounts of the CAG. We know that Shivraj Patil Committee has given its report. We know that actions have been taken, ministers have resigned, etc. But why did we want a JPC? We wanted a JPC because beyond all this, we need to examine how our system could be so manipulated to allow such a big scam. It is the system’s manipulation that needs to be plugged. Who can do that? If new regulations have to be put in force, if new laws have to be brought, the parliament alone has that authority and the right to do so under our Constitution. Therefore, the JPC is required in order to address this issue, not in order to say who is culpable or not. I am glad, finally, the government has accepted this demand.
As far as the issue of economic growth is concerned, can we not, today, achieve the potential that I was talking about? “Because of the lack of the resources that we have” is what the government of India often says. But, in the last year’s Budget papers, there is a document called, “Statement of Revenue Foregone”. This informs us that Rs 4,14,099 crore was the revenue foregone in 2008-09 and in 2009-10, this figure was Rs 5,02,299 crore. That is, in these two years, you have foregone a whopping amount of something to the tune of about 9,16,399 crore.
It is very difficult even to estimate how much concessions are being given to the rich. For corporate income tax and higher income tax payees, the concession given was Rs 1,04,000 and odd crore in 2008-09 and Rs 1,20,000 and odd crore in 2009-10. That is nearly, Rs 2,25,000 crore was given as concession to the corporate sector and higher income tax payees in the last two years. These are the figures from Pranab Mukherjee’s documents; I am not manufacturing these.
So, forget Rs 1,76,000 crore, look at this Rs 2,25,000 crore concessions. If you had collected this amount and invested in your public investments, in food security, in right to education, in building the infrastructure that you are talking about, we would have not only built our infrastructure, provided health and education for our youth, but we would also have generated massive amount of employment through the public investment of this huge amount of money and that employment would have generated greater demand in the economy and that demand would have sustained healthy economic growth.
So, it is perfectly possible within the very existing framework that we have, for us to have an alternate trajectory and that alternate trajectory would be the real inclusive growth. So, what we are urging this government now is this. What priority the President of India has pointed out in her address, that priority can be achieved if this government changes its policy direction. Instead of providing concessions to the rich, collect the legitimate money from the rich. I am not saying, ‘increase the tax rates’. I am not saying, ‘impose greater burdens’. I am only saying, ‘collect the legitimate amount and utilise it through public investments to create our infrastructure and provide a better life for our youth.’ If that can be done, you will have ‘inclusive’ growth and you will also have built the infrastructure that is so necessary.
But, unfortunately, instead of doing this, what is being suggested by the President of India? To build our infrastructure, she says, ‘The governmental revenues alone are not sufficient. So, we will have to go through the ‘public-private partnership’. Now, this is a very fanciful word. I only want to remind this august House that earlier this year, only a few weeks ago, the London Transport, which runs by far one of the most efficient transport systems in the world along with their underground system, the buses, etc. that they run, has withdrawn 23 out of their 25 PPP projects because they were not delivering. Look at our own Delhi. Today, all of us are hopeful that the Metro Line to the Airport will open. But why did it not open before the Commonwealth Games? Why is it that all Metro lines were opened before the Commonwealth Games, expect the Airport Line? It is because the Airport line was the only PPP project of your Metro. Now you want to emphasize on this ‘PPP.’ I must say that this ‘PPP’ is not really ‘private participation in public projects’, but it is ‘private profit making through public funds’ and this ‘private profit making through public funds’ is something that cannot be allowed and that is how you are again creating these avenues for corruption and graft that are emerging out of this crony capitalism. We are asking the government to take a serious look at this ‘PPP’.
The members of this august House will have to put their heads together and think why we are not able to realise our full potential. In order to do that, correctives must be brought in and it is in that spirit that I am raising this issue. I am beseeching the government to shift the policy trajectory, shift their policy priorities and utilise the legitimate revenues that are due to this government for public investment to create jobs and education for all and through that process build a better and prosperous India.
OF ALL KINDS
The fourth priority that the President raised was to maintain an uncrompromising vigil on the internal and external security fronts. Absolutely; there is no dispute here. I, for one, say that there should be zero tolerance to terrorism and terrorism is nothing beyond simply being anti-national. There is nothing called a particular kind of terror. Terrorism knows no religion; it knows no caste; it knows no region. That is why I say that with equal vehemence cross-border terrorism from Pakistan or terrorism of any sort that is associated with Hindutva groups, etc. will have to be treated as anti-national and action should be taken against them. On that there is no dispute. But, there is another issue when we talk in terms of the internal security of our country.
This august House should remember that we have lost the Mahatma to the bullets of a Hindu fanatic. We have lost Indira Gandhiji to the bullets of a Sikh fanatic. We have lost Rajivji to the bullets of a Tamil chauvinist fanatic. Hundreds are being killed in the North-east because of all types of other chauvinism. We have all these other agencies that are working in our country. So, terror doesn’t recognise any religion, region or a caste. Keeping that in mind, there should be zero tolerance and on that the entire House is united. But there is another type of threat to internal security. The Prime Minister has on three occasions reiterated that the gravest threat to India’s internal security is 'Maoist' violence. Now, I am speaking as a victim of this violence. Since the last Lok Sabha election, 380 of my comrades have lost their lives due to 'Maoist' violence; 161 of them in West Bengal were tribals, this despite 'Maoists' espousing tribal development. We will fight it; we fought it in the past and we will fight, not only the terror but we will also fight politically. But the question, is the Prime Minister sincere to his own statement when he says that this is the gravest threat? If that were so, how can he have in his own cabinet, under his own leadership, ministers belonging to a party which is the largest ally of the UPA outside of the Congress, and which is collaborating with the same 'Maoists' in West Bengal. How can this contradiction exist? You have promises being made that once they come to power in the state, they would release all the 'Maoists' and all the political prisoners, and one of them is being made a member of the union cabinet! Is this permissible? I want the government to answer this.
There was a time when Churchill thought during the Second World War that he would let the fascists and communists fight and finish each other and then enter the World War. Eventually what happened? It was not Churchill’s British flag, it was not the American Star and Stripes, it was not the French flag, but it was the Communist Soviet Red Flag that flew on the Reichstag after Hitler was defeated! So, don’t be under the illusion that the 'Maoists' and the CPI(M) will fight and defeat themselves and then you would enter the picture. We will not leave, don’t you worry! But, for the sake of India’s internal security, can you compromise yourselves to such an extent? For the sake of this government’s numbers in the Lok Sabha, can you allow this nexus between the 'Maoists' and this particular party to continue, and allow them to continue in your own cabinet? Now, this is a question that this government has to answer. We cannot accept that on the one hand, they say 'Maoists' violence is the gravest danger and on the other, they are in alliance with these people who have a nexus with these very 'Maoists'. If that is the case, then what is the meaning of the assurance of the President of India when she says that my government's priority is 'uncompromising vigil on the internal security front'?
When you are combating this terrorism we combat all varieties of it and all hues of it. But now you have a situation where people have confessed before a magistrate, whatever may be the veracity of it, that who is responsible for certain terrorist acts and blasts in our country, whether it is Malegaon or whether it is Macca Masjid, etc. But my point is that in the name of those terrorist blasts innocent youths of a particular community have been languishing in jail for a large number of years. Now once you have this evidence, why is the government not taking the initiative to release those who have been wrongly confined? If this sort of an attitude of keeping people wrongly confined for crimes that they have not committed is continued, I am sorry you are not fighting terrorism but you are breeding terrorism. You are breeding alienation among this section of youth and this will become the fertile soil for the growth of such terrorist activities. The government must seriously re-look at this and I demand the immediate release of all these people who have wrongly been confined for all these years and compensation must be given for them. The court has today exonerated two-thirds of those who have been accused in Godhra incident but they have been in jail for nine years from now. What is the relief that the government is proposing? For nine years, in the best of their life, they remained in jail. What is that you are doing to compensate it? And you expect them not to nurture and not to have grievances in them which can explode in any other way. What are we doing? You are creating a tinderbox for the growth of terrorism and seriously the government must have a re-look at this policy and immediately release these people who have been wrongly confined.
The final point that the President has given as a priority is 'to pursue a foreign policy which will ensure that our voice is heard and our interests are protected at the global fora'. Sorry for smiling when I am saying this because this is very strange. When you had this momentous event taking place in Egypt, we were very guarded to give a statement, but we finally hailed that as a people's upsurge and victory only after the US gave an official statement supporting that overthrow. What are we demeaning ourselves to? Why is it that we have to see whether our vote on Iran is going to be according to what the USA wants and whether changes in the Middle East are going to be according to what the USA wishes? You are the biggest military purchaser from Israel today and we are seen as financier of Israel in their attack on Palestine. Another point is Iran Gas Pipeline. If Iran, Pakistan and India are not at the end point, the end point will go to China and then you will say that China has taken over this cheap gas. Why are you doing all this under the pressure from the USA? please remember, the USA is not as powerful as it used to be. That is why please assert ourselves in order to achieve our potential.
We talk of protecting our interests in the global fora and this is what the President has said. There, I have very deep concern on two grounds – one, the ongoing negotiations on climate change, and two, the ongoing negotiations on the Doha round of discussions. On both these counts, the official positions taken by the Government of India, in our opinion, are comprising our national interest.
The President talked about protecting our interest, but you have now signed a free trade agreement with the ASEAN countries. The Defence Minister will be as much or more aware than I am of how that has affected our producers in Kerala. Now, you are negotiating another FTA with the European Union where we are going to open up our economy for their agricultural and dairy products. On the one hand, the President of India talks about the need to buttress our supply in Indian agriculture, and on the other hand, you are now saying that we will open up our market to the highly-subsidised agricultural and dairy goods of European Union. That will only spell doom to our agriculture and the spate of suicides will gallop in our country if you do that.
On these issues of the free trade agreements, climate change and Doha negotiations, India has very clearly said so far that there are two aspects of dispute – Non- Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) and safeguards to agriculture, that is, our subsidies to our agriculture. On these two, we have said that we will not compromise. But, the latest reports indicate that we are already in discussions. On climate change, we have said that today, the per capita carbon emissions of the United States of America are twenty times more than that of India. If today, we have to reduce our carbon emissions, the United States of America has to reduce twenty times as much as we have to reduce. Instead, why are we making voluntary declarations that we will reduce so much when there is no reciprocal commitment from the other side?
We have to remember that for us, energy is very important. Fifty-five per cent of households in our country do not have direct access to electricity. Seventy per cent of people in India do not have sanitation facilities. If you want to provide them with electricity; if you want to provide them with good sanitation and living conditions, you need energy. For us, energy is vital to tackle our own poverty. And, instead of us seeking to create this capacity for energy, if you are voluntarily reducing India’s emissions without any reciprocal commitment from the other end, what is the net result? How do you fight poverty? So, these are serious matters. On all these three counts, the government must very unequivocally come out to tell the country and the parliament that there cannot and will not be any compromises.
Finally, I would like to tell that today, you have a situation where the Planning Commission has estimated that the per capita food availability is declining since the 1990s. We have reached a stage where, according to these figures, the per capita availability of foodgrains is roughly around what it was during the Second World War. This is very depressing. Your per capita availability of pulses has declined from 66 grams per day per capita to 34 grams in the last five decades. And, on top of it, you have this inflation; you have these extra-economic burdens that have been put on our people from what we have discussed so far.
'IPL INDIA &
So, I would only like this august House to remember that the issues that have been raised here today in this Motion of Thanks are issues which not only merit attention, but we would want this government to move on these issues in the right direction because we have to remember the warning that Dr Ambedkar gave us when he presented the draft of this Constitution to the Constituent Assembly. I have quoted this before, but it merits repetition. On the 25th November, 1949, when he was commending this draft Constitution for adoption, he said, “On January 26, 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic life, we will have inequality. In politics, we will be recognising the principle of one man-one vote and one vote-one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one-man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove these contradictions at the earliest possible moment, or, else, those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy, which this assembly has so laboriously built up.”
Instead, what are we having today - two Indias in the making; one is 'India’ and the other is ‘Bharat’. On an earlier occasion, I referred to it as ‘Shining India’ and ‘Suffering India’. More popularly, it is now called, ‘IPL India’ and ‘BPL India’. These are the two Indias in the making. Today, you have lakhs of workers in the streets of Delhi but if you do not pay heed to this warning given by Dr Ambedkar, tomorrow, you will have crores of them.
Today, we are capable of becoming the leaders of the world, which is being undermined by our own policies. Today, while I participate in this Motion of Thanks, I conclude with this sincere appeal to the Government of India that all these issues of immorality and probity, which the President of India mentioned, must be probed and the guilty should be brought to book. But remember, there is a larger issue, namely, what is the country that we are making, what is the country that we are creating. And, in that, it is not merely the issues of moral degeneration alone, which need to be fought; issues of ethical degeneration that need to be fought, but what is required is marshalling our resources and using them properly to create a better India so that we can realise our potential. Thank you.