People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXV

No. 13

March  27, 2011

 

THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT

 

From Our Parliamentary Office

 

AFTER the WikiLeaks exposure of the Cash-for-Votes game, revealing the fact that the Congress party bribed some members of parliament to win the confidence vote in July 2008, the opposition launched a scathing attack on the government in both the houses.

 

DEGENERATION

& OPPORTUNISM

In Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the exposure constituted an indictment of the governmentís functioning, its degeneration in terms of political morality, and its opportunism in order to survive. Yechury asked the government to proceed against the individuals who are found to be involved. Otherwise, it has no moral right to continue.

 

In Lok Sabha, some CPI(M) MPs gave  notices for an adjournment motion. Speaking on the issue, Dr Ramchandra Dome described it as a most shameful revelation, demanding that investigation must start immediately against those involved.

 

Proceedings of both the houses were marred by repeated adjournments and uproar.

 

After the adjournment of both the houses, Yechury and leaders of other secular opposition parties in the house demanded at a press conference held in Parliament House that the Manmohan Singh government must come clean on the WikiLeaks exposure. They said the Congress leadership, including the prime minister, cannot escape responsibility in this act of malfeasance.

 

Next morning, both houses again adjourned on the issue. Later in the afternoon the prime minister made a statement in both houses. It was totally unsatisfactory. The CPI(M) and other opposition parties sought some clarifications. But under Rule 173 of April 24, 1987, the chairman did not admit their plea to seek clarification after the prime ministerís statement. Yechury asked why this ruling was invoked after 24 years.

 

In Lok Sabha also, CPI(M) MPs asked for clarifications but were not permitted.

 

MINORITY

AFFAIRS

During the Rajya Sabha discussion on the Ministry of Minority Affairs, Moinul Hassan, CPI(M), made the point that minorities throughout the country are facing three types of problems --- of identity, equity and security. Only political will can solve their problems. The budgetary provisions for them are insufficient and the monitoring is poor. Though there are 27-28 proposals in the Sachar report, nothing has been done. The government must accept the Rangnathan Misra recommendations to provide 10 per cent reservation for the socially and economically backward in the minorities. West Bengal is the only state where this much reservation has been announced for minorities, most of whom are Muslims. West Bengal, the National Minority Commission and also some chief ministers demanded a minority sub-plan and 50 per cent budgetary support for the development of minorities. But the government did not accept the proposal. Right from 2006, the ministry has failed to utilise the available fund. There is not any clarity regarding loans to be provided to the minority people.

 

Hassan said that there are 14 government departments related to minorities, but there is no coordination. Haj is an important thing for Muslims but it is not being looked after by the ministry. Fourteen of the states have no Haj Committee. As per the provisions of the Central Haj Committee, instructions must be given to these states to form a Haj Committee.

 

EXTERNAL

AFFAIRS

During the Lok Sabha discussion on the demands for grants of the Ministry of External Affairs, P Karunakaran, CPI(M), pointed out that Indiaís independent foreign policy, followed since independence, is now changing. The question is: Whose interest this change is going to serve? Over the last many years, we saw dilutions in our relations with many countries. In recent days, we failed to raise a strong voice when the US and its allies brutally attacked Iraq. What was the reason for voting twice against Iran in IAEA? Why we withdrew from the gas agreement with Iran? All this was under US pressure. Karunakaran said we must definitely have better relations with the US, but at the same time we must not act against our own sovereignty. We know how the government secured its pyrrhic victory in favour of the Indo-US nuclear treaty. We also discussed the Nuclear Civil Liability Bill, but reportedly the US is not satisfied with many of its clauses, especially those about liability.

 

The recent developments in the Middle East must be of serious concern for our country. What is our approach to events? Though our government has taken measures to bring back the Indian people from Libya and other countries, it is also necessary to take care of these people.

 

The political situation in Pakistan has become more volatile. While we must not compromise on the issue of terrorism, we must take every step to better our relations with Pakistan. It is reported that a large number of Srilankan people are still in misery. The Srilankan government has not till now fully implemented its promise about full rehabilitation of the Lankan Tamils. Our government must also come forward to safeguard the lives of the Tamilnadu fishermen. Karunakaran concluded his presentation by referring to the improvements needed in the functioning of our embassies, maintenance of the secrecy of passports and ensuring the security of our citizens.

 

RURAL

DEVELOPMENT

During the Lok Sabha discussion on the demands for grants of the Ministry of Rural Development, Pulin Bihari Baske said about 70 per cent of our population is living in the rural areas. Most of them are poor and do not have basic amenities. Instead of increasing the allocation for rural development, however, the government has substantially decreased it. The policy in this regard must change. More allocation made for the most backward, underdeveloped and tribal areas. There is need of transparency, accountability and increased allocations for the MNREGA. The unit cost for construction of housing under Indira Awas Yojana must be enhanced as per the existing cost of materials and labour. More houses need to be constructed in the backward and tribal areas. There is an urgent need to closely monitor the maintenance of roads built under the Prime Minister Grammen Sadak Yojana during the period of contract. There is also the urgent need to build roads in this scheme in areas with a population of 100 or above.

 

The member also pointed that in the last two consecutive years, West Bengal has faced severe drought due to shortage of rainfall, but the centre provided no relief. He also said the people of drought prone areas are facing an acute drinking water crisis, and demanded that the BPL list must be more realistic to help the poor households. 

 

MINING

MAFIAS

From the CPI(M) side, Saidul Haque participated in the discussion on the demand for grants of the Ministry of Mines. He said minerals play an important role in the development of a country, and that our country is endowed with vast mineral resources. The ministry is responsible for the survey and exploration of minerals. But during the last three years of the plan period, only 45 per cent of the allotted fund has been utilised. The ministry needs to strengthen the Geological Survey of India, provide it requisite funds, expedite its modernisation and fill the vacancies to cope with the shortage of scientific and technical manpower. The ministry also needs to assess the ongoing schemes and projects of the public sector undertakings.

 

Mining sector is facing great challenges in our country. One important issue is of illegal mining, which is going in our country for decades and has been increasing enormously. As a result of the governmentís liberalisation policy and encouragement to private Indian and foreign investment, multinational and private Indian companies are looting our national resources with both hands. The member urged the government to take firm action against the mining mafias, nationalise the iron ore and other mines, and announce a ban on iron ore exports.

 

A number of accidents have occurred in the mine areas due to lack of planning, modern technology and safety equipments. Unscientific and indiscriminate mining is causing serious environmental damages and displacement of thousands of people. In India, approximately 10 million people have been evicted; 70 per cent of them have not received proper rehabilitation or compensation. Most of them are tribals. The ministry must adopt a holistic approach to the issue and adopt scientific methods of mining with modern technology and safety measures. There must be relief and rehabilitation measures for the displaced person and maintenance of the ecological balance by making the mining environment friendly.

 

OTHER

ISSUES

Brinda Karat drew attention of the Rajya Sabha to the denial of justice to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, in particular to the families of the youth who were killed or injured in the unfortunate incidents last year. She urged the government to set up an independent inquiry commission, and take strong action against those responsible. It is unfortunate that indiscriminate arrests are taking place in the valley and women are facing humiliation in various forms.

 

Tapan Kumar Sen referred to the unanimous decision of the Central Board of Trustees on September 15, 2010, that the rate of interest in the Employees Provident Fund would be increased to 9.5 per cent. But it has not been notified so far. There can be no reason for such delay as this money belongs to workers.

 

P Rajeeve referred to the latest WikiLeaks revelations regarding the US pressure on India and our governmentís pro-US position on several issues. India was not ready to share its information on Mumbai attacks with Pakistan but it agreed to do so after continuous US pressure. On the other hand, the US is not ready to hand over David Headley to India, the main accused of Mumbai attacks. Now it has come out that even cabinet reshuffle was made to please the US.

 

In Lok Sabha, Dr Ramchandra Dome asked for an immediate halt to the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra. The recent tsunami in Japan has directly or indirectly affected its nuclear power installations. Jaitapur falls in the seismic zone category III as per the Geological Survey of India. Therefore the proposed nuclear plant at Jaitapur must be scrapped immediately and other proposed sites meticulously assessed before installing nuclear power stations there.

 

In the same house, P R Natarajan raised the matter of the Hindustan Photo Films unit in Ooty (Tamilnadu), an important public sector unit manufacturing quality photo and X-ray films. But the governmentís globalisation policy has pushed it into sickness. Natarajan asked the government to allocate adequate funds for this unitís revival.