June 22, 2014

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

IN the new Lok Sabha, the government, led by the BJP, has a comfortable majority --- 281of the BJP on its own and 336 of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as a whole --- while the Congress has only 44 out of the 543 elected. As soon as the parliament session started on June 4, 2014, it had to be adjourned after paying homage to Gopinath Munde. Munde, a prominent BJP leader who was appointed the union rural development minister, died in a road accident on June 3, 2014. On June 4, 2014, just ahead of the first sitting of the new Lok Sabha, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath was sworn in as the pro tem speaker by the president of India, Pranab Mukherjee, in Rashtrapati Bhawan. As is the custom, the pro tem speaker, Kamal Nath, presided over the proceedings of the house till the election of a full-fledged speaker. In Lok Sabha, the oath taking of the newly elected members was postponed for the next day and the house adjourned within a minute of being convened, after passing an obituary reference for Gopinath Munde. The members stood in silence for a minute to pay homage to the departed member. Next day the house began by welcoming the members of the sixteenth Lok Sabha by the pro tem speaker. Then the secretary general of Lok Sabha, P Sreedharan, tabled the list of elected members submitted by the Election Commission of India. Subsequently the members of parliament took the oath statewise. The CPI(M) members who took the oath were the following. From Kerala, P Karunakaran (Kasargod), P K Sreemathi Teacher (Kannur), A Sampath (Attingal), M B Rajesh (Palakkad), P K Biju (Alathur) and two CPI(M) supported independent members Joice George (Idukki) and Innocent (Chalakudy) took the oath. From Tripura, they were Jitendra Choudhury (Tripura East) and Sankar Prasad Datta (Tripura West) and from West Bengal they were Md Salim (Raiganj) and Md Badaruddoza Khan (Murshidabad). On June 6, election of a new full-fledged speaker was taken up. The new prime minister, Narendra Modi, moved the motion that Smt Sumitra Mahajan be chosen as the speaker of the house, and this was supported by all the members of parliament from different parties. Smt Sumithra Mahajan was thus unanimously elected as the speaker of the lower house. She was then escorted to the speaker’s chair by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and senior leaders of parties from across the floor. MPs from all the political parties put their words in the felicitation. From the CPI(M), P Karunakaran congratulated the new speaker, stating that her unanimous election devolved upon her immense responsibilities. He expressed confidence that the chair would not yield to any pressure and that adverse situations would be converted into pleasant ones as it depends upon the efficiency and approach of the speaker. The government has got a majority in the house and hence there is no need of any assistance but, at the same time, the smaller parties represented in the house need to be properly heard and consulted. Karunakaran reminded the speaker of the saying: “It is not important what the majority thinks; what is important is what the minority thinks about the decision of the majority.” A joint session of parliament was held on June 9, 2014 in the Central Hall where the president, Pranab Mukherjee, delivered the customary address, outlining the Narendra Modi government’s agenda in various fields. CPI(M) members later moved a number of amendments to the motion of thanks in both the houses. Next day in Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury, leader of the CPI(M) group, took part in the discussion on the motion of thanks on the president’s address. The text of the speech ha been printed in the June 09-15 issue of People’s Democracy. In Lok Sabha, P Karunakaran, leader of the CPI(M) group in the house, took art in the discussion on the motion of thanks. He said the president’s address should not be a general statement or a statement of intention, and the promises made in it needed to be translated into action. But the address of the president did not contain any concrete programmes. There were even contradictions between the priorities in various fields. He asked the government what it was planning to do with regard to the price rise issue; this he said was an important issue as this government indicated it would be following the same policies which the outgoing Congress government had been following. The member also wanted to know as to what the government was going to do to check corruption. He also referred to the statement made that the government was going to permit 100 percent FDI in defence production, railways, newspapers and other industries, adding that here the BJP policies were not a bit different from those of the Congress. Moreover, when the BJP was in the opposition, it was criticising all these policies which it is now going to implement. Karunakaran also raised his voice about the sad plight of agriculture in the country, need of sanction of cheap agricultural loans for the farmers and of ensuring remunerative prices of their produce. Among the concrete issues quoted, he said in Kerala last year the price of the rubber was Rs 250 per kilo and now it is Rs 135 per kilo, which is due to the uncontrolled import of rubber from foreign countries. The government has to clarify whether they are going to make any pro-farmer changes in the import policy that was in existence earlier. He also asked what steps it was going to take for the youth of this country, as it was not mentioned in the president’s address. As far education, it is not possible for an ordinary family to go in for higher education of its children. It is not only the question of quality of education. The question whether the poor people would be able to get higher education at all, has become a major issue. There is no alternative policy or steps mentioned in the address in this connection. The SC, ST and OBC sections are still living in very pathetic conditions. Karunakaran also said the Sachar committee report on minorities was discussed in this house in 2007. According to the report, the condition of the minority people is worse than that of the SC/ST people in many cities of our country, while in many more cities they are not getting basic amenities and other benefits. The member asked: What is the approach of the government with regard to the Sachar committee report? The number of atrocities against women and children is increasing in various parts of our country and we have to give them roper protection but no concrete action has been proposed. The member also raised the issue of measures to strengthen the judiciary, appointment of a National Judicial Commission, and the common people’s lack of capacity to approach the High Courts or the Supreme Court. Other issues raised were the grim economic condition of our country, black money and corruption, degeneration of the system, tax forgone in favour of the corporate houses, sad plight and low wages of crores of workers engaged in traditional industries such as khadi, beedi, coir and handloom, the idea of allowing FDI in the railway which is a major public undertaking that we have. Karunakaran also raised the issue of implementation of the Kasturirangan report and Madav Gadgil report, which would adversely affect the states of Kerala, Maharashtra, Goa, Tamilnadu and some other states. He demanded that the government go for a new proposal and consult all stakeholders including not only the concerned states but also the district panchayats and other bodies. The six-day session of parliament, which was the shortest session in recent memory, had only one agenda --- adoption of the customary motion of thanks to the president for his address to the joint session. This motion of thanks was moved in both the houses and adopted. Then the session of parliament was adjourned sine die on June 11, 2014.