March 15, 2015


CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

THE second week of the Budget Session witnessed a historical victory of the CPI(M). It was only the fourth instance in Rajya Sabha's history that an amendment moved by the Opposition to the Motion of Thanks to the President's address was passed. The amendment was passed in embarrassment to the Modi government reminding it of its minority status in the Upper House.

More than 80 amendments were moved in both the houses of Parliament by CPI(M) members. While Rajya Sabha members Sitaram Yechury and P Rajeeve withdrew over 80 of their amendments, they insisted on a vote on one amendment related  to the black money issue with the demand that these words -- "but regret that there is no mention in the (President's) address about the failure of  the government to curb the high-level corruption and to bring back black money" -- be added at the end of the Motion of Thanks. The amendment got the support of the entire opposition and received 118 votes against 57 votes. Yechury said that he would not have pressed for the vote had Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a long speech earlier, not prevented him from speaking, and heard him out. While concluding the discussion on the Motion of Thanks, the Prime Minister picked out the Left and its "imported" ideology for criticism. He also made attack on the Left Front's rule in West Bengal by referring to some false figures regarding industrial growth, agricultural growth. When the Left MPs got up to contest the figures, Modi ignored them whereas he had earlier stopped to allow JD(U) and BSP leaders to speak. Though all the other MPs withdrew their amendments but Yechury and Rajeeve refused to budge. Modi left the House then and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, while acknowledging Yechury's right to move the amendment, almost pleaded with him not to do so. Many senior BJP MPs also made requests in different ways  to  back down but Yechury insisted for vote and subsequently won the battle.

During the short duration discussion in Rajya Sabha on losses suffered by farmers due to recent rains in various parts of country, K N Balagopal pointed out that the entire north India and Karnataka are affected by rains. The entire Rabi crop has been affected. The climate change is a serious issue. It is happening everywhere. The government has to do something on this issue. The government should depute a team to inspect and investigate the cause. Both the state and the central governments should be involved in this. Proper compensation should be given. In Kerala, when heavy floods are there, the central government deputes teams but the teams come very late. So timely intervention is very necessary. We have raised many issues regarding the problems faced by the Indian farmers, sugarcane farmers, fishermen's problem but the government is not doing anything. Government must bring special initiative to study the climate change aspect thoroughly and accordingly, some special protection must be provided to farmers and agriculturists.

In Lok Sabha, the bill which seeks to replace the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2014, was introduced amid stiff resistance from the opposition. CPI(M) Leader in Lok Sabha P Karunakaran along with A Sampath, P K Sreemathi Teacher opposed the introduction quoting the reason that the bill is pending before the Rajya Sabha and it is not defeated, deferred and also not withdrawn, so the bill with identical character should not be placed in this house. Also the Bill was sent to the Select Committee for taking evidence and opinion. While opposing the Bill, M B Rajesh pointed out that this bill will lead to disinvestment and privatisation of  our insurance sector. The whole world has experienced the disastrous consequences of de-regulation. But, unfortunately, the government has not learnt the proper lesson from the financial meltdown. Whereas the Indian financial sector was comparatively less affected at the time of global financial meltdown. It is only because we have much better, strong regulatory system. Through this bill, the government wants to dismantle the public sector and the regulatory system. This bill will pave the way for this reckless speculation. We are opening the gates for these very bankrupt and corrupt companies to enter the Indian financial sector. The government is serving their interests; and are providing them additional bailout package at the cost of our country, at the cost of people of India. One argument is being given that Indian insurance companies are short of resources. Whereas most of the Indian insurance companies are subsidiaries of big corporate houses. Secondly, the argument which we have been listening time and again is of low insurance penetration. This is not right.  Another argument is that we need technological upgradation. Another argument is operational efficiency which is factually incorrect. Even the World Economic Forum has acclaimed operational efficiency of Indian public sector insurance companies. As far as settlement ratio is concerned, it is comparable to international standards. The entire trade union has backed this protest against the opening up of insurance sector and financial sector in the country. So this must be withdrawn.

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015 that seeks to introduce the system of auction of mines to enhance transparency and augment mineral production was passed in the Lok Sabha.  Speaking on this, A Sampath pointed out certain reservations.  Firstly, the government of India is bestowed with the power and responsibility for systematic development of minerals. If this amendment is being enacted, our minerals will be looted. The Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) has been entrusted with certain duties. If this bill is passed, then, the IBM, will be sidelined. The Government of India has put 31 minerals in the list of minor minerals. Those minerals which were previously major minerals.  The IBM will not have authority to control and to supervise. By clause 5, the Government of India wants to put the burden on the shoulders of the state government. In future, all the state governments will be bearing the burden. The corporate will be having the mines.  We will be at the mercy of the corporate. They  will decide the quantity, the price, the workforce and also the modus operandi. The government will be losing its sovereignty. Its lease period should be cut short to 25 years. The imprisonment penalty mentioned in the bill should be increased from two years to 10 years and the fine of Rs. 5 lakh should be increased to at least Rs. 50 lakh in respect of violators of the law. The amount to be spent for the welfare of the people living in and around the mining areas should be increased. Whether we have taken into consideration the experience of other nations. The Government should take into account the bad experience of developing countries in this regard.

Lok Sabha also passed the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill  which paves the way to enable plying of e-rickshaws in Delhi. Speaking on this, P Biju said this bill was earlier discussed in the house and everybody supported the decision. Some security measures should be taken for the welfare of the drivers and the owners of the e-rickshaw and e-cart. Also the government should include a provision to have a solar panel fitted for charging the batteries of these e-rickshaws. The government should provide loan at minimum interest rate to the drivers and owners of e-rickshaws.

The Lok Sabha passed the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015. Md. Badaruddoza Khan, while opposing the bill, said it is ultimately aimed at denationalising the entire coal sector and doing away with the historic Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973. This is not in the interest of the national economy, but in the interest of private corporate. The government thinks that by rationalising the coal mining and by allowing private sector a bigger pace in coal mining for commercial purposes, full utilisation of coal potential can be achieved. And, while doing so, the Coal India Limited is put in the dock. They are being blamed for their alleged failure to feed our power sector in the main and other coal using sectors. Such allegation is far from truth. Rather the government has been trying to cook a story with active support from the corporate-owned media to justify this highly detrimental venture of setting in motion the process of denationalisation of coal sector. At least half of coal blocks have been taken away from the Coal India and gifted to private hands. While private players were having around 44.44 billion tonnes of coal reserves in its command, the Coal India Limited was having only 66.72 billion tonnes of exploitable coal serve and yet catering to more than 80 per cent requirements of coal in the country. In fact, as per a report prepared and submitted by the Ministry Coal to the Parliamentary Committee, the reasons of such under-utilisation of capacity and missing the target are basically law and order problem in certain coal-bearing states, delay in forest and environmental clearance, adverse geo-mining conditions in certain mines, restriction in supply of explosive under the Ammonium Nitrate Rule 2012 made effective from January 2014, delay in physical possession of land, etc. Which one of these reasons can be attributable to the Coal India's failure? None of them. The Coal India fails to manage to address the problem of delay in various clearances and approvals to remove the roadblocks for expansion in production and mining acreage, can the private sector manage the same except through bribery or similar irregular means? This is nothing but a grand game of de-nationalisation and privatisation of coal sector and is destined to invite bigger corruption in the system on one hand and slavery for the masses and coal workers in particular on the other hand.

The Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2015 by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955. While supporting the bill, Jharna Das Baidya said this bill seeks to merge the PIO and the OCI Cards together which is welcome, because if they get long visas, they would not be forced to go to a police station,  stand in queue and argue with police officials. Some rights have been mentioned concerning election as President, Vice-President, Judge of the Supreme Court, Judge of the High Court, etc, But apart  from these, there are many other positions which OCI card-holder can hold. This bill should not be contemplated just for the people of the United States. It should be applicable to other persons also, including those who are working in the Gulf countries. Their plight should also be addressed.

There was an uproar in both the houses over the documentary title "India's Daughter" by BBC Four's Storyville, subsequently the Minister for Home Affairs Rajnath Singh gave a statement on the matter in Rajya Sabha. T N Seema said this is unfortunate that only whenever something happens, some tragic incident happens, we discuss these things and the government expresses its concern, but after that we forget it very conveniently. This can't go like this. The women in the country is frustrated. The system is not working. We are talking about the mindset. The system is not working for the last three years. Nirbhaya Fund is lying unused. Not a single rupee has been spent from Nirbhaya Fund, and this year also, Rs 1,000 crore has been allocated for this fund.