July 20, 2014

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

IN the beginning of the budget session on July 7, 2014, there was a pandemonium in both the houses. Opposition MPs stormed the well of both the houses protesting against many issues, including increase in prices of essential commodities and petroleum products, rail fare hike, and the ordinance relating to the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Bill. In the upper house, there was a discussion of price rise in the house but in Lok Sabha the Congress demanded the adjournment motion on price rise under Rule 56 which entails voting but the government was willing to discuss the issue under 193 (short duration discussion), and the house got adjourned for next day. In Rajya Sabha the opposition including CPI(M), Congress, BSP and SP staged walk out expressing dissatisfaction with Arun Jaitley’s reply on debate regarding price rise. PRICE RISE In Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury took part in the discussion on price rise and reminded the government that the people have not given the mandate to attack on their lives and to increase the dearness. They have given the mandate to fulfill the promises made by the government during their campaign. The government came to power with the promise that they will correct all the wrong things being done by the previous government, but it is continuing all the wrong things, he said. In the Lok Sabha, P Karunakaran said the reward that the BJP-led government gave to the people after the elections is the price rise. There is a rise of 14.5 per cent in passenger fares and a five per cent rise in parcel charges, which would really affect the common people. He questioned whether this government is ready to follow the price stabilisation mechanism which the earlier NDA government also followed? On July 8, Railway Budget was presented with a thrust on attracting FDI in railways and to undertake all further expansion and modernisation through the ignominious PPP route. This Budget is anti-people. It would be increasing burdens on the people and further lowering the safety standards. The discussion on the railway budget will be taking place in this week. On July 10, the general budget was presented with an emphasis on privatisation and foreign investment. There is an absence of any plan to increase growth and investment, create employment and to check the double digit food inflation in the current scenario. The discussion on the budget will take place in both the houses during next week. DROUGHT CONDITIONS & PLIGHT OF FARMERS In Rajya Sabha, during the short duration discussion on deficient rainfall, prevailing drought conditions and plight of farmers in various parts of country, CP Narayanan said drought is affecting the people very seriously. This is because of the climate change. There is a need to intervene at micro and macro levels. For drinking purposes and for irrigation purposes, we have to use the limited quantity of water available in a very planned manner. For the farmers, we have to make available seeds, fertilizers and other things which they need. To ensure work for agricultural labourers as well as the rural people, the NREGA and other projects have to be effectively made use of. In order to prevent price rise at the time of drought we have to ensure that black-marketing and hoardings are put down very effectively. Our meteorological department should be equipped to give us accurate warning on time, he said. Speaking on pollution on sea beaches in Goa caused by tar balls formed due to discharges from sea vessels, Tapan Kumar Sen from Rajya Sabha pointed that the minister’s clarification says that various studies indicate the offshore exploration activities, the movements of ships and the manner in which they are disposing of their waste are related to this specific thing. If the tar ball menace is to be arrested, we have to concentrate specifically on that area and take concrete measures to arrest them. LEGISLATIVE BILL The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2012 (Amendment of Article 124) supporting the bill in Rajya Sabha, P Rajeeve CPI(M) deputy leader in the house stated the clause that any person who has held office as a judge of the Supreme Court shall not plead or act in any court or before any authority within the territory of India should be amended because there is no confinement of any company within the territory of a nation. Nowadays, the courts themselves have created their own post-retirement vacancies. Existing system of judicial appointments should be amended and the executive and legislature should have some say in it. The government should come up with a judicial reforms commission and a judicial appointment authority. This Bill was later, by leave of the house, withdrawn. In Lok Sabha while supporting the bill Md Salim, Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha urged the government to also consider having a campus in Eastern India, particularly in West Bengal. The government pushed through the ‘National Institute of Design Bill, 2013’ in the Rajya Sabha on the first day of the budget session itself. Speaking on this, KN Balagopal pointed that this institute which was founded in 1961, is an institute of national importance but it provides only diplomas. From the students' point of view, they get a diploma and they cannot go for further studies. From the teachers' point of view, they are not getting parity with the AICTE and UGC teachers. This is the basic issue. There should be a bridge-course to enable the teachers to continue as faculty in the new university system. When such an institute of national importance is being formed, we should not obstruct the bringing up of other institutes. We should plan for hundreds of such institutes, he said. OTHER ISSUES Speaking on the increasing atrocities on women, Sitaram Yechury, said that we have passed legislation, a law on safety of women. In that legislation we have said that, by law, every workplace should have a committee on gender sensitivity and where there is harassment, complaints can be registered. We don't have such a committee. We had instances where members of parliament have said derogatory things but there is no committee in the parliament. We have passed a law. Now, there is no committee in the parliament itself. In the parliament we are not implementing the law that we have passed. That is a serious matter. Speaking on closure of tea gardens, jute mills and major industrial units throwing lakhs of workers into crisis, Tapan Kumar Sen pointed that despite being highly profitable and earning foreign exchange, the tea gardens are getting closed. As on date, six tea gardens have been closed for a long time throwing thousands of workers in utter starvation. Already 160 workers, their family members and children have died due to hunger and malnutrition. As per the Tea Act, 1953, the Government of India has a responsibility to intervene in the matter of tea gardens remaining closed for more than three months to reopen them in cooperation with the state government. Out of 58 jute mills, six mills are closed, and the rest of the mills are operating under a severe scaling down capacity, Out of 2,40,000 workers, as on date, the daily engagement is only 1,00,000. He urged the government to intervene and save the industries. In Lok Sabha P Karunakaran and other MPs and in Rajya Sabha KN Balagopal and other MPs raised the serious situation prevailing in Iraq today. The immediate concern is the plight of the Indians there. A lot of people are still trapped there. The government has done something on this issue, but we need a more serious discussion on this and an immediate intervention of the Indian government to bring back Indians from Iraq is highly needed. P Rajeeve made a request to the minister that the government should come with a detailed statement as to what steps have been taken by the government for the evacuation of Indians who are working in Iraq. In Rajya Sabha P Rajeeve, spoke regarding the destroying of files in the ministry of home affairs relating to the records of cabinet meeting held just before the announcement of the news of Gandhiji's assassination. Media reports that more than 1.5 lakh files have been destroyed as per the direction of the prime minister of India. According to reports, these files include several historical documents. “I am afraid, this government is trying to rewrite the history of our country”, he said. Speaking on this, Sitaram Yechury raised a point of order that on first day when the matter was raised by P Rajeeve union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad denied this in Rajya Sabha. But later, the minister for home affairs, Raj Nath Singh admitted the issue and comes out with suo motu statement. This is a matter of trust of the house. The Minister has clarified that no file concerning the assassination was destroyed. But what happened to the file relating to that cabinet meeting? There is no clarity on that. It is mentioned that in three weeks in five working days 11,100 files were destroyed which means in fifteen days, with eight hours each day working, 480 minutes into fifteen days is 7,200 minutes; in 7,200 minutes, you destroyed 11,100 files. Each file you destroyed in less than one minute, in 45 seconds! And in 45 seconds the government decided the merit of what was there in the file and then destroyed. That is where the apprehension lies, if there was a pre-decided motive of what sort of files are going to be destroyed. And whether there is a question of re-writing history? Every country has a system that after a period of certain time, all these files are transferred to the national archives. India is the only country, where at national archives you can find records of Moghul Empire, of the British Empire, but the details of what happened in sixty years of independent India are not known. There is a serious lapse. These files should have been shifted automatically. Then there would have been cleanliness, there would not have been a need for the prime minister to spend so much time saying, ‘clean the North Block and South Block’ these files would have gone to National Archives; people could have used them; our history could have been preserved, he said.