THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
ON the very first day of the extended winter session of parliament, starting February 5, there was uproar in both the houses on various issues. In Rajya Sabha, the government brought the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill 2014 for consideration; it could replace the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill 2005, which the union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde withdrew. But the CPI(M) and other opposition parties forced the government to defer the bill. Speaking on the issue, Sitaram Yechury, leader of the CPI(M) group, said the parliament of India did not have the competence to enact such a bill as would encroach upon the rights of the states. The bill violates the federal principle of our constitution. On the other hand, the Lok Sabha faced disruption on the issue of Telangana, and no business was transacted except the passage of a unanimous resolution condemning the killing of Nido Tania, an Arunachal Pradesh student in New Delhi. Disruption continued in both houses but, amid this pandemonium, the government introduced the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014. But the government tabled the old version of the bill and the CPI(M) demanded that the bill be sent to the parliamentary standing committee. CPI(M) MPs had submitted a number of amendments to this bill whose fate is uncertain as parliament was not able to transact any business on account of Telangana and other issues. The second week in parliament also witnessed uproars. In Rajya Sabha the following bills the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill 2014 and the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order Amendment Bill 2014 were introduced. In Lok Sabha six MPs from the Seemandhra region were expelled following the disruption. On February 11, Left MPs sat on a dharna in front of the Gandhi statue in the parliament complex demanding a stop to attacks on women in West Bengal and condemning the barbaric sexual assaults on tribal women in Labhpur in the state. They were also demanding curbs on the corruption and nepotism in recruitment process in West Bengal, institution of a court supervised CBI investigation into the chit fund scam in West Bengal, a high power impartial enquiry into the TET scam in West Bengal etc. On February 13, there was another dharna on issues related to Kerala, demanding a stop to implementation of Kasturirangan committee report on the Western Ghats, protection to rubber farmers in Kerala, justice to Kerala in rail budget, and a probe into the rape and murder in a Congress office in Kerala. On February 12, the railway minister, Mallikarjuna Kharge, presented the interim rail budget. This budget failed to meet a number of commitments made by the government. The CPI(M) accused that the finance minister’s interim general budget 2014-15 was nothing but a political statement with an eye on the forthcoming elections rather than an effort to overcome the challenges facing our economy. This budget will impose further burdens on the people who are already facing severe hardships due to continuing price rise and contraction of employment opportunities. On February 19, the Lok Sabha passed the interim general budget without any discussion though the members raised several issues. Nor was there the customary reply from the finance minister on the appropriation and finance bills. While speaking on the interim budget in Rajya Sabha, P Rajeeve of the CPI(M) dubbed it as a combination of false claims and manipulated strategies. The economy has stagnated and the manufacturing sector is on the decline. As for the claim of reducing the fiscal deficit, this is possible only by increasing revenue and reducing expenditure. But the latest figure of revenue forgone for corporate houses is Rs 5.73 lakh crore, in addition to the uncollected tax of Rs 5.1 lakh crore. On the other hand, the total central outlay is less than Rs 66,000 crore. As an example, the government declared constitution of a Rs 1,000 crore Nirbhaya Fund in the last budget, following the Delhi gangrape, but didn’t spend a single pie from it. In Kerala, the government allocated Rs 211 crore for FACT, a big fertiliser factory, in the last budget but the expenditure was only one lakh rupees. Rajeeve also debunked the government’s claims on inflation control and employment generation, apart from raising the problems of workers in various schemes who are not getting minimum wages. He also asked the government to increase the import duty on rubber and reduce the import duty on natural gas for the benefit of agriculture as well as industry. February 13, 2014 was a black day for Indian democracy, as Lok Sabha witnessed the unprecedented scene of L Rajagopal, Congress MP from Vijayawada, using a can of pepper spray to protest against the tabling of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill. While three MPs complained of uneasiness after inhaling pepper spray fumes, one fainted on the floor with chest pain. They all were taken to a hospital. The house adjourned as soon as the bill was tabled amid din and chaos. When the house met after some time, the speaker announced the suspension of six Seemandhra MPs. On February 18, the government got passed the Andhra Pradesh bifurcation bill in Lok Sabha in an undemocratic way. There was barely any debate on it, and it was adopted during the din by ‘voice vote.’ Live telecast of the proceedings was deliberately stopped in order to prevent the people from seeing this undemocratic behaviour along with the Congress-BJP collusion. In Rajya Sabha there was high drama when TDP member C M Ramesh pushed secretary general Shumsher K Sheriff when he was reading the message from Lok Sabha regarding the Telangana bill. This led to an adjournment. The member later apologised. Subsequently, Rajya Sabha took up the Andhra Pradesh bifurcation bill on February 20 and had a lengthy discussion. Speaking on the bill, Sitaram Yechury pointed out how the Congress and the BJP had joined hands to divide Andhra Pradesh against the interests of the Telugu people. Opposing this bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, Yechury said the people who are united by language, are being divided for some partisan gain. This is sheer electoral opportunism. He asked the house to reject the bill and send it back to Lok Sabha, saying that it would not disrupt the linguistic organisation of Indian states. He also asked the government to reconsider its decision and do not open the Pandora’s box. While supporting Yechury on the issue, Tapan Kumar said the reference made by a member to the great battle in Telangana region in the 1950s was a distortion of history. Then it was a fight against the Nizam’s autocracy. That battle fully integrated the Telangana region with Indian democracy while the present exercise is for disintegration. On the day, the BJP, which had helped the government to push the bill in Lok Sabha, insisted on a constitution amendment. But later the government somehow managed to pass the bill after highest level negotiations with the BJP. On the amendments they had moved, CPI(M) MPs strongly asked for a division of votes but it was not allowed on the ground that the house was not in order. As Trinamool Congress members were in the well of the house, protesting against the bill, this led to disruption and enabled the government to disallow a division of votes. In protest, CPI(M) MPs walked out. Rajya Sabha passed the bill amid chaos. In Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury spoke on discrimination against the North East people, and referred to the brutal attack on CPI(M) MP M B Rajesh (Lok Sabha) and CPI MP A P Achuthan (Rajya Sabha) by Delhi Police when they were asking for an enquiry into the atrocities on North East students. These MPs were also taken into custody and released later. M B Rajesh raised the issue in Lok Sabha also and moved a privilege motion on it. After hearing the MP, the speaker condemned the incident and asked the parliamentary affairs minister to take appropriate steps against the guilty police officials. K N Balagopal, CPI(M), moved a private member’s resolution on the complaints against levying of inflated bills by licensed service providers in different sectors. The resolution is under consideration and will be taken up during the next session. On the concluding day, Rajya Sabha passed the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill 2011 and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill 2014. Speaking on the former, Tapan Sen talked of the sources of corruption and the interface between the governance system and the corporate houses. This aspect must be dealt with. Some of the persons who blow the whistle are just thrown out because of the fragile nature of their employment. They must be protected. The member asked that all the agencies which involve contract workers or outsourced workers and the companies through whom the government finance is routed must be brought under the umbrella of the whistle blowers bill. Sen moved some amendments to make the bill meaningful. On the last day of the last session of 15th Lok Sabha, leaders of various parties and senior members of parliament made their farewell speeches. One of those who spoke was Basudeb Acharia, leader of the CPI(M) group in Lok Sabha. In Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury was one of those speaking when some members of parliament retired. The latter included Prasanta Chatterjee, Shyamal Chakraborty, Tarini Kanta Roy and Dr Barun Mukherjee from the CPI(M). The parliament passed the budget for Delhi after approving the president's rule in Delhi. On February 20, Rajya Sabha made an obituary reference on the passing away of P R Rajan, a former CPI(M) member of the house, the previous day at the age of 77.