People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXVII

No. 11

March 17, 2013

 

THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT

 

-                     CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

 

IN Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia started the discussion on motion of thanks on the presidentís address. He said the address was delivered on the day when millions of workers were on strike all over India. It was for the first time after independence that all the unions, cutting across the party line, were on a strike.

 

DISMAL

SITUATION

In this regard, Acharia said article 19 of the constitution gives us a right to form unions but workers in the country are being deprived of this fundamental right. The International Labour Organisation recently presented a Global Wages Report that says India reported the steepest fall in wages. The number of contract workers is increasing and they are being denied even the minimum wage. We have almost two dozen of labour laws, but they are not being implemented properly. Last year, the national conference on labour decided that a minimum wage of Rs 10,000 must be paid to contract labour and recommended legislation to this effect. A bill was also drafted. But while presenting the bill to the cabinet the labour minister made the objection that foreign institutional investors would not come forward to invest in India if we provided this much minimum wage to workers. The prime minister has no time to meet the workersí representatives but has ample time to discuss issues with the corporate sectorís representatives, Acharia rued.

 

In rural areas, despite the attained self-sufficiency we have in foodgrains, more than five lakh farmers have given up agriculture as it is no more a profitable activity. The prices of fertilisers have gone up after the cuts in subsidy. The costs of agricultural inputs have gone up 40 per cent whereas the MSP has increased only 13 per cent. Nearly 2.76 lakh farmers have committed suicide. The share of agriculture in GDP has fallen. Agricultural investment has decreased over the years. Yet the steps required to overcome these problems are not mentioned either in the presidentís address or in the budget.

 

Unemployment is another grave problem facing the country. The economy stands shattered. The ILO report says 35 lakh workers were retrenched during 2007-08 and 2008-09. Employment growth in the country has drastically fallen from 2.7 to 0.08 per cent.

 

Another challenge before the country is of food security. The government promised a food security bill within 100 days of its coronation but it has not seen the light of the day. Opposing the division of the poor on the basis APL and BPL, Acharia demanded that 35 kg of foodgrains must be given at Rs 2 per kg, public distribution system made universal and schemes like direct cash transfer done away with.

 

In the course of his intervention, Acharia talked of the NREGA, tribals bill, right to information, inflation and unemployment, sharp economic divisions in our country, disinvestment in public enterprises, etc, and warned against the perils of allowing FDI in retail trade. About the need of electoral reforms, he said several committees have made recommendations about how to lessen the influence of money power and muscle power, and for state funding of elections, but the government is not yet prepared to act in this regard.

 

In Rajya Sabha, Prasanta Chatterjee regretted that neither the president nor the government were bothered to take note of the historic strike of February 20-21. Apart from raising other issues, he expressed concern on the growing clout of black money and on the growing scams and corruption cases, while the plight of the people is worsening. Only 32.7 per cent of rural households have latrine facility. In November 2012, unemployment reached 11.8 per cent while youth unemployment was 24.4 per cent. He also opposed the governmentís move to curb the fiscal deficit by steps like increasing the price of petro-product products, which have resulted in curtailment of public transport and reduction in services. Crime is increasing; rape in Delhi and many other states has become a regular affair. The horrific incident of gang rape in New Delhi created a widespread protest all over the country. But the government has failed to come up with a credible answer. The member also said the need is to combat terror and fundamentalism of all varieties, and the politics of violence in general. He also demanded ensured implementation of the principle of equal pay for equal work, which still remains a daydream.

 

WOMENíS

PLIGHT

In Lok Sabha, on the occasion of International Women Day, Susmita Bauri remembered Clara Jetkin who started this observance in the year 1908. Yet, she said, the condition of women is not satisfactory to date. The birth of a girl child is repented in our country. The government has failed to stop the sex determination tests, and the evil continues with impunity in many parts of the country. The sex ratio is deteriorating. The situation is worst in Rajasthan and Haryana. In our country most of the women and children are suffering from malnutrition; most of the pregnant women are anaemic. In many states women are backward in education. In contrast, literacy rates among women are much higher and women are self-reliant in Kerala and Mizoram. The member demanded more funds for womenís education and health, and proper implementation of various schemes meant for them.

 

In the course of her intervention, Bauri raised the issues facing ASHA workers. Delhi is in a very bad situation regarding the safety of women; various incidents of crime are taking place almost daily here. So stringent laws must be made and Justice Verma recommendations taken up for consideration. She also demanded that the women reservation bill, which was passed in Rajya Sabha, must be taken up and passed in Lok Sabha.

 

OTHER

ISDSUES

Speaking on the rail budget 2013-14 in Lok Sabha, Ramchandra Dome said it had put tremendous burdens on the common travellers. Base fares have been left unchanged but other fees have been hiked by as much as 100 per cent. Moreover, the budget proposal talked about creating a Rail Tariff Authority, independent of the Railway Board and the Railway Ministry, to decide on freight and tariff structure in future, but this would open the doors for continuous increases in freight and fares. This budget has made no serious efforts to overcome the crisis engulfing the Indian Railways. The target for freight has been increased but acquisition of wagons reduced by 2000. Safety and security have not been given due attention. There are regional imbalances. Hundreds of projects are languishing for years and need to be completed in a time-bound manner with adequate allocation of funds. Urgent measures need to be taken to fill up the vacancies, including the clearance of all backlogs for the SC, ST, OBC and the marginalised people. He also said the principle of equal pay for equal work, which is still a daydream, must be implemented.

 

M B Rajesh joined the discussion with the hope that the government would rectify the injustice done to Kerala. He raised the matter of Palakkad coach factory project which was announced in the last budget but only the foundation stone has been laid so far.

 

During the short duration discussion in Lok Sabha on the issue of plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka, P R Natrajan said the war being waged by the Sri Lankan government against its own people was horrific. It must be tried for the flagrant violations of human rights and punished. The time has come for the world to seek justice for the victims and India must be part of such an effort. Stressing that the house was unanimous about the need of a peaceful atmosphere for the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the member asked why the government was hesitant to enquire why Sri Lanka has refused to implement the Rajiv-Jayewardene agreement on the issue. He said India has to strongly persuade the Sri Lankan government, through diplomatic means, for a political solution to the Tamils issue.