August 17, 2014

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

ON August 6, minister of state for corporate affairs, Nirmala Sitharaman presented India’s stand at the WTO. Speaking on the clarification on the statement given by the minister, Sitaram Yechury pointed out that since 1994, CPI(M) has been consistently opposing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade saying that this is detrimental to our country’s interest and now according to the minister’s statement it has proved to be correct. The clarification pertains to Para 8. It says, “India, therefore, took the stand that till there is an assurance of commitment to find a permanent solution on public stockholding and on all other Bali deliverables, including those for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), it would be difficult to join the consensus on the Protocol of Amendment for the Trade Facilitation Agreement.” Yechury said that in Bali, India had achieved what was then called “interim relief” or “peace clause”. It was interim relief for a period of four years whereby we can continue with what we were doing and within four years, a permanent solution had to be found. That was the agreement for which we had agreed. A clarification is required whether there has been any forward movement on that. Linking it up with Trade Facilitation Agreement is a good bargaining method. We should use it. But what is the position with regard to the permanent solution as far as this issue is concerned, he questioned. He said this whole issue relates to the underlying philosophy of new-liberal reforms. The government has finally admitted that this is what is happening in global capitalism in today’s world of globalisation. The developed world wants to actually access our markets for their profit maximisation. Yechury asked whether in continuation with this understanding, will the government extend it to all other economic reforms or measures that it is contemplating. He said the rich world is subsidising their farmers in their countries in non-trade measures. They are subsidizing their farmers in non price measures. But the effect of that subsidy is impacting on prices of global trade. Therefore, mere excuse that their subsidies are not connected with prices, and therefore, does not impact on the global trade is a wrong assumption. Is the Government of India prepared to put this on the agenda of the WTO, and discuss the question of subsidies across the board to the farmers, not price related subsidies alone which is what they are putting the impact on us, he questioned. Regarding the question of food security which is our sovereign right, he asked whether we are willy-nilly accepting that our food security whatever we give the right is capped at 67%. He said the proposals that the Government has suggested must be subjected to a public discourse and discussion. Atrocities against Women In Lok Sabha, P Karunakaran spoke on the rising atrocities against women and children in the country. He said despite a number of legislations being passed and many administrative steps taken by the central and state governments, everyday we read in newspapers and see in visual media series of attacks on and atrocities against women and children in form of rape, sexual abuse, dowry death, molestation, etc. In 2013, as per the Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), as many as 24,923 cases of rape were reported from all over India, of which 24,770 were committed by persons who are related or known to the victims. Delhi recorded the highest number of rape cases in the year. A very shocking incident of rape of a minor girl by her school instructor in Bengaluru happened recently. How can we send our children to schools without any fear? Our children are not safe in schools. They are not safe on roads they take to their schools. This is really a very dangerous phase which we are passing through now. We cannot forget the shocking attack on a paramedical student in a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012. The government has taken some important steps to combat violence against women. The Verma Commission had made recommendations to change criminal law of the country, which are designed to provide quick trials and enhance the punishment of the accused. But broader approach is needed to combat sexual violence, and the government needs to take serious actions. The Nirbhaya Scheme, introduced after the Delhi incident to provide adequate financial assistance to all rape victims, is not being properly implemented. The government must take immediate steps for its implementation. I do not blame the government alone. But the community, as a whole, has to take on this issue together. According to the NCRB Report, 85.1 per cent of cases of rape reported in 2012 are awaiting trial. It is also a big crime that trial is being awaited. The government should take this issue with utmost importance. Karunakaran said we have to discuss the issue of female foeticide when we analyse the issue of decreasing percentage of the female population. In India, the female child is considered as a burden on the future. We have to apply our mind to the issue of children also. Where a child gets exploited is the place of child labour. Child domestic labour is widely prevalent in India. A major concern is that the government is still not doing enough to provide alternative options to families which depend on the income of their minor children. Women should be promoted, elected and nominated to the decision-making forums to empower them. I suggest that the Bill for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament should be passed in this session itself. I also suggest that in the police force at least 33 per cent reservation should be given to the women. Since dowry deaths are increasing, stringent action must be taken and also appropriate campaign has to be initiated. Unauthorised clinics which promote sex determination and illegal abortion should be strongly handled. Speaking on the issue, P K Sreemathi Teacher said women in India do not get equal rights despite it is being enshrined in the Constitution. Utterly insensitive and objectionable public pronouncements are coming from a few male leaders holding important positions including MPs and even ministers. On July 23 in Haryana, when a delegation of teachers met the Principal Secretary and spoke about their demand to include six months’ maternity leave as part of the mandatory rural area deputation of teachers, he said “do they conceive with my permission”. Do we not have to condemn this? Likewise, a minister made a remark that “rape is a social crime, which depends on the man and the woman… It is sometimes right and sometimes wrong”. How can a minister make such a statement? Sometimes these types of comments come from even honorable judges and courts. It is shameful that an elected representative is openly making threats of rape and murder against the women who are his political opponents. This is also happening. We cannot imagine that such audacious and anti-women statements are coming from elected member of this House. If such statements are coming from an elected representative, his punishment, including expulsion from Parliament, has to be considered. In Rajya Sabha, speaking under the short duration discussion on situation arising from reported attempts to curb independence of media and restrict freedom of expression, P Rajeeve referred to the editorial published in the New York Times on July 27, 2014, and said it is the first time that the international media has published an editorial regarding Freedom of the Press in the country. We are discussing a very important issue. We have no specific media freedom as per the Constitution. The Press is considered the fourth pillar of democracy, but this is the only ‘commercial pillar'. How can we expect democratic functioning of the media in this scenario of monopoly media and cross-media ownership? The Standing Committee has strictly demanded action against this type of ownership. We strongly protest ban on TV channels. We stand for the freedom of the Press. Paid news is a very serious issue, and there should be a statutory body to look into all media contents. The Press Council of India should be revamped. Speaking on the Calling Attention regarding the plight of stranded workers from India in Iraq, Rajeeve said this is a very serious issue. One-fourth of domestic product of Kerala, from where he belongs, is contributed by non-resident Malayaalis. Hundred of Malayaali nurses are working in Iraq. Lakhs of people are working in the Gulf countries. An estimated 22,000 Indians were in Iraq. Actually we do not have the actual figures as to how many people are working in Iraq and other countries. There is an urgent need to change the immigration laws as it is outdated. The government has done a good and prompt job to bring back 46 nurses who were trapped in the midst of the attack. Still 41 more Indian nationals working in a construction company in Mosul are in captivity and some sponsors are not ready to give back their passports. What steps have been taken by the government to evacuate all Indians from there? Rehabilitation is a very serious issue. Many of the people went abroad by availing loans. Now they have to pay back their loan. But they are caught in a trap. What is the government planning to do for their rehabilitation?