(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 03, 2011
THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
From CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE government was finally forced to have a short duration discussion in both houses on the ‘cash-for-vote’ issue.
During the discussion in Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury pointed out how the UPA-I government was reduced to a minority but won the vote of confidence in 2008 after the Left withdrew its support on nuclear deal that was not in India’s interest. Later, wads of currency notes were seen in Lok Sabha. The vote thus raised a lot of doubts. The government needed this majority not only for its survival; it was also crucial for carrying forward its strategic deal with the US; that was why US diplomats were seen visiting Congress leaders’ houses. Three years later, we are debating this issue because of the WikiLeaks exposure which confirm the CPI(M)’s opinion about US pressure on nuclear deal. The leaks referred to some individuals including one who is a senior member of the house. Some BJP members are mentioned in it and the name of a former prime minister also figures. India’s democracy cannot live with this stigma; it has to be cleared. The prime minister and later the home minister said the committee had not proved any corruption. But the committee talked of “further investigation,” which means corruption was not conclusively disproved. The circumstances in which all this happened need to be investigated.
Another crucial point is of the role of crime in politics and elections. We must settle once for all the point about how a government acquires a majority. What happened was something that cannot be acceptable. There must be a probe into all these aspects.
In Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia recalled the whole episode, describing the day of July 22, 2008 the blackest day in the history of our democracy.
During a short duration discussion in Lok Sabha, Saidul Haque stressed the need to uplift the socio-economic and educational status of minorities in the country and of steps to instil in them a sense of security. He said the Muslims ranked above the SCs and STs, but stood below the caste Hindus, Hindu OBCs and other minorities. Though the government placed an action taken report (ATR) on the Sachar recommendations, it did not contain any major new policy and adequate allocation. Among the Muslims, literacy rate is only about 50 per cent; 25 per cent of Muslim boys and girls in 6-14 age group never go to school. As for the central departments for their development, they lack coordination. Haque demanded a minority sub-plan and block-based MSDP criteria for all districts having 15 per cent or more minority population. The Ranganathan Mishra commission advocated SC status for all SC members who convert to another religion. This must be provided. The government must also move an amendment to the constitution for over 50 per cent reservation.
In Lok Sabha, the finance minister introduced the Pension Fund Regulatory & Development Authority Bill 2011 for privatising the pension corpus of central and state government employees. Earlier the NDA and UPA-I governments had made similar attempts but had failed due to the strong opposition from the Left.
As soon as the minister called for introduction of this bill, Basudeb Acharia stood up to oppose the introduction and demanded a division. Though the parliamentary affairs minister cited Rule 72 on the government’s competence to introduce the bill, Acharia refused to budge from his demand for a division instead of voice vote. Of only 159 members present in the house, 115 voted for its introduction and 43 opposed it. Significantly, the BJP voted for introduction and rescued the government while some non-Congress, non-BJP members voted against the bill’s introduction.
In the same house, Khagen Das, CPI(M), opposed the Finance Bill, saying the government’s policies had compelled more than 2,17,000 farmers to commit suicide during the last 15 years. The union budget 2011-12 has utterly failed to address the core challenges of rolling back inflation and reducing mass deprivation. It provides big concessions to the affluent but has no desire to mobilise resources for education, rural employment, food security, rural housing, public health, water, sanitation and so on, which are of prime importance for the common people.
Das also referred to a letter written by the West Bengal chief minister regarding the withdrawal of the mandatory levy on readymade garments as well as about the problems created for the small and marginal farmers by the reduction of customs duty on raw silk imports. He also said Indians have staggering amounts of black money which the government must take steps to bring back to the country.
In Rajya Sabha, Tapan Kumar Sen, CPI(M), said the finance bill’s propositions about tax management are biased against the people. The government is doling out reliefs to the affluent while transferring the burden to the less advantaged through indirect taxes. While the tax-GDP ratio needs to reach at least 14 per cent level, the government’s actions are doing the reverse. Out of 120 crore Indians, only about 100 command over 25 per cent of the GDP while 84 crore people are living sub-human life on less than Rs 20 a day. With such poverty around us, 43 per cent share of indirect taxes in total tax revenue is too high. If we take the central and state taxes together, indirect tax-GDP ratio is almost double the direct tax-GDP ratio.
On petro prices, it is strange to see how the government is resorting to their deregulation in the name of aam aadmi. According to the government’s theory, inflation is because of higher consumption by the poor.
On silk imports, Sen said the finance minister has reduced import duty but there is no quantitative restriction on raw silk. Once the Chinese silk starts entering India, the poor and small marginal farmers producing raw silk will be out and simply die. Some 12 million people are employed in this field.
Besides demanding a rollback of the mandatory levy on garments, reduction in indirect taxes and check on slippages, Sen also asked for a clarification on the Rs 42,000 crore which are lying unspent with the government for 10 years.
In Lok Sabha, while opposing the Academy of Scientific and Innovation Representation Bill 2010, Saidul Haque said the bill confirms the worst fears about scientific talent moving away from academic institutions. The academy will drain the universities and compete for scarce resources. The bill says there is a severe shortage of PhDs, which is a negative factor for economic development. The accessibility of their services for the poor is important in a country like India, but here we lag behind. The bill makes no provision for representation of women and weaker classes. In case of withdrawal of a course, it gives extraordinary powers to the board but is silent about the future status of students who will obtain degrees or diplomas from the Academy. It is also unclear about the nature of collaboration. The government must first ask think about the efficiency of the existing institutions. The issue is not of resources, but of their proper utilisation. The bill proposes to create an institution which is not needed and will lead to corporatisation of academics. So Haque asked the government to withdraw the bill and revitalise the existing universities and institutions.
On the Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill 2010, Saidul Haque urged the government to refrain from compromising the quality of our premier institutions. It must place the report of the committee it had constituted to suggest a roadmap for the autonomy and future of the IITs. In many states, faculty shortage is there but posts are still vacant. As the IITs support the states and UTs technologically, the government must equip them well. While deciding the zones, the distribution of states and UTs must be such that none of them becomes overburdened and none remains uncovered. Haque also urged the minister to consider the establishment of one more IIT in North Bengal.
In Rajya Sabha, Mohd Amin spoke on the Repatriation of Prisoners (Amendment) Bill 2011. He said negotiation must be held in respect of the people of India and Pakistan, who are languishing in each other’s jails. The government must prepare a complete list of such people with their exact number. Such cases must be dealt with in a humanitarian manner.
Opposing the State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Amendment Bill 2010, Tapan Sen said more and more people need to be covered by banking services. He said if our country remained comparatively safe from the 2008 crisis, it was because our banks were not allowed to go in for reckless speculation and swindling.
In Rajya Sabha, T K Rangarajan supported the Orissa (Alteration of Name) Bill 2010 for changing the name of Orissa to Odisha.
In Rajya Sabha, Brinda Karat raised the matter of supply of contaminated foodgrains in tribal regions. As the samples of wheat collected from fair price shops in various tribal areas by the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch showed, the grains being sent to the tribal areas are rotten. The CPI(M) has repeatedly demanded that wheat and rice, rotting in government godowns due to lack of adequate space, must be distributed among the poor. But nothing has been done. The government must set up a monitoring agency, conduct an inquiry into the matter immediately, withdraw the rotten grains and provide better quality grains to the tribals.
In Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia referred to the situation in Libya. When Iraq was attacked, proceedings in the house were stalled for three days. Then a resolution, not condemning but deploring the attack on Iraq, was passed. Acharia asked the government to condemn the brutal attack on Libya by the US and its allies.
In Rajya Sabha, P Rajeeve appealed for condemnation of the NATO bombardment on Libya. As this aggression is a gross violation of Libya’s sovereignty, the government must immediately demand a review of the recent UN resolution on Libya and passage of a Resolution to condemn the attack.
In Rajya Sabha, Jharna Das Baidya talked of the plight of Reang refugees of Mizoram living in Naishingpara camp of Kanchanpur in Tripura. They are living in this camp since 1977, but the Mizoram government did not make any efforts for their return. Some of them returned to Mizoram in 1998, but were attacked; then they came back to Tripura. Their camp was on fire last month, killing 16 people and injuring 100 people. Das Baidya urged the centre to ask the Mizoram to take them back and give compensation to the fire affected people.
K N Balagopal demanded early action for extradition of Warren Anderson, the kingpin of the Bhopal massacre. He said the Chief Metropolitan Court of Delhi had accepted the CBI’s plea about it and asked the CBI to approach the ministry of external affairs for an extradition request to the US.
In Lok Sabha, Khagen Das referred to the agitation against the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, that will seriously affect the livelihood of farmers and fishermen. Das was one of the CPI(M) team that recently visited the affected areas and found that every single person was willing to make sacrifices to stop the project. He said the extent of repression by the administration on those opposing the project was shocking.