People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXVII

No. 10

March 10, 2013

 

THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT

 

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

 

THE CPI(M) and other Left parties boycotted the budget session of parliament on its first day, on February 21, in order to express solidarity with the trade unionsí call for a two day nationwide strike against the centreís policies. Subsequently, Left MPs in both the houses staged a demonstration in the parliament premises.

 

SURYANELLI

GANG RAPE CASE

While protesting outside parliament to demand the resignation of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Prof P J Kurien following the fresh evidence regarding his involvement in the 17 years old Suryanelli gang rape case, Dr T N Seema and M B Rajesh, CPI(M) MPs in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively, were brutally attacked by Delhi Police. They were injured and hospitalised. Next day in parliament, the CPI(M) group strongly demanded action against the Delhi Police personnel responsible for the attack and demanded suspension of the Question Hour. Dr Seema and Rajesh also gave privilege motion notices in their houses on the issue. They also demanded that the home minister must make a reply in the parliament, as the Delhi Police directly functions under the central Home Ministry.

 

When this issue was raised in Rajya Sabha subsequently, the chair directed the minister of parliamentary affairs to make a statement. But Sitaram Yechury, leader of the CPI(M) group in parliament, quoted Rule 238 to say that deputy chairman of the house is elected by its members and is the property of the legislature. As per our constitution, the executive is accountable to the peopleís representatives, but the independence of the house is violated when the government comes out in defence of an officer of the house. That is something we canít accept, Yechury stressed. The deputy chairman has a right to say something in the house about the allegations against him, but how can the executive come out to defend him? This would be against the principle of separation of powers. While Yechury asked for an assurance that the matter would be examined in future, he said the CPI(M) could not endorse the chairís permission to the minister to make a statement before the case was examined. CPI(M) members then staged a walkout from the house.

 

In Rajya Sabha, T N Seema supported the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill 2012. She said crimes against women are on the rise in the country, but the implementation of laws is very poor. There are many laws for women of the weaker sections in our country but a majority of them have no legal protection because of poor implementation. Highlighting the weaknesses of the bill, Seema asked the mode of implementation of this act in the unorganised sector, and demanded that the restriction about the number of workers --- that it must be less than ten --- should be done away with. She also asked that women in the armed forces, police, schools and other educational institutions must be covered under the bill. Clause 14, which allows for penal action against a complainant, would defeat its very purpose. The member concluded by suggesting that the bill must be referred to a Select Committee for redrafting.

 

TWIN BLASTS

IN HYDERABAD

On the second day, the house saw uproar on the twin blasts in Dilsukhnagar of Hyderabad city on February 21. On this issue, the home minister made a statement in both the houses.

 

In Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia of the CPI(M) spoke on the ministerís statement. He said the place selected for the bomb blasts is one where more than 20 lakh people reside. He said if the union Home Ministry had alerted the state government, as the home minister said immediately after the incident, it means the central government was aware that such incidents might take place in some parts of the country. Then, why was no action taken by the state government to prevent the occurrence of any such incident?

 

Further, Acharia said, if we are told that National Counter Terrorism Centres have been set up in many parts of the country, then what they are doing? Was it an intelligence failure? Every time such an incident takes place, we are told that it was an intelligence failure but nobody tells us the reason for such failure. The member also cautioned against defining terrorism by religion, saying we will have to fight it unitedly without dividing the people.

 

In Rajya Sabha, C P Narayanan condemned the blasts and said we did experience terrorist acts in the last few years but we have not been able to curb the menace. First of all the government must take immediate steps to give all help to the injured and to the bereaved families of the deceased. Second, it must see that such acts are not repeated in future. We have to examine our social fabric to find out what could be the reason or reasons for the growth of terrorism. We cannot satisfy ourselves only by giving all kinds of arms to our police and paramilitary personnel; we have to find out the root cause of the menace. The member said the government must not jump to conclusions regarding who might have done these blasts, as we have bitter experiences of having gone astray in instances of terrorist acts in various states. 

 

NATURAL

DISASTERS

On the issue of drought and hailstorm in the country, Sk Saidul Haque in Lok Sabha pointed out that Pune, Marathwada and parts of Vidarbha in Maharashtra are acutely affected by drought, with the agriculture minister himself admitting that he had never seen such a serious situation earlier. During the current drought, growers of paddy, onion, potato and pulses are the worst affected. In Vidarbha only 11 per cent land is irrigated; water level in Ujjain dam is zero at present; 34 mandals in 9 districts of Andhra Pradesh are facing drought. Similar is the situation in Kerala where the paddy crop has suffered severe damages. Karnataka also faced a drought last year. If the central government does not take adequate steps, the member said the country would face another drought. Several farmers have committed suicide and some have committed suicide even in West Bengal and Kerala where it was earlier unheard of.

 

While asking the government to take cognisance of the ongoing drought, the member also talked about suspension of the Drought Prone Area Programme, increases in diesel price that affects the irrigation costs, increases in the prices of fertilisers through decontrol, growing control of multinationals like Monsanto on the Indian seed market, widespread corruption in the MGNREGA, recommendations of the Swaminathan committee and Dr Y K Alag committee, lack of dredging which reduces the capacity of dams by 10 to 15 per cent, waiver of the loans owed by farmers of the affected areas and the need of a separate budget for agriculture.

 

BURDENS ON

THE PEOPLE

On February 26, the railway minister placed in Lok Sabha his maiden railway budget which indirectly added to burdens on the people, while making the false claim that rail fares were not being increased. While the passenger fares were increased by 20 per cent just two months before the rail budget, a fuel surcharge has now been imposed and increases effected in the reservation, cancellation and tatkal charges as well as the fares of superfast trains. On the other hand, the budget made no serious effort to overcome the financial crisis affecting the Indian Railways.

 

On February 28, the finance minister presented the general budget 2013-14 which totally ignored the urgent needs of the people and also neglected the public expenditures while providing concessions to the corporate sector.

 

On the defence ministerís statement in Rajya Sabha on the purchase of VVIP helicopters from Agusta Westland T K Rangarajan referred to the issue as a new scam in an era of scams. He said we donít want another JPC and demanded a CBI inquiry under the supervision of the Supreme Court. He said if one corporate house blames another and leaks things about the deal, it means that there is something to be leaked. The fact is that it is the government that has been emboldening these corporates as it wants privatisation and also wants that everything must be purchased from abroad. While asking the minister what the procedure is to procure weapons from abroad, the member also said we are much dependent on foreign arms, which is a matter of shame. The member demanded that the DRDO, OFBs and defence PSUs must be made more accountable, stringent audits must be carried out of their performance, Armed Forces personnel must be inducted into these organisations, and a cadre of defence technology management professionals must be created.

 

After the reply by the defence minister regarding the chopper deal, the parliamentary affairs minister moved a motion for appointment of a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) consisting of 30 members --- 10 from Rajya Sabha and 20 from Lok Sabha --- to inquire into the scam. Prasanta Chatterjee, CPI(M) opposed the formation of the JPC on the ground that allegations of bribery and corruption in defence deals can be dealt with only by a criminal investigation agency.

 

In Rajya Sabha, P Rajeeve moved a resolution regarding the need to amend Section 66A of Information Technology Act. Though the minister gave the assurance of holding a round table consultation on it, the member said it must be done in a time-bound manner. He said the act makes a distinction between the print media, visual media and new media, and ďpersonĒ is not identified for the new media while it is for print media. As for the issue of imposing reasonable restrictions, the member said he was not against any regulation but against control. The restrictions given in article 19(2) were sufficient. He also expressed the hope that the minister would address the issue of distinction between the new media, print media and visual media. It is a very serious issue as there would be differential punishments for one and the same offences. Later, after the minister gave an assurance of time-bound discussion, the member withdrew his resolution.