THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE Budget Session of Lok Sabha resumed on April 20. On the very first day, the government tabled the controversial land acquisition bill to replace the ordinance amid vociferous protests by the Opposition and subsequently walk-out.
In the afternoon when the house reassembled, the Lok Sabha started with the pending discussion on agrarian crisis, initiated by Leader of CPI(M) in Lok Sabha P Karunakaran. Speaking on the issue, Sankar Prasad Datta said at present a situation like that of mid 60's has arisen in our country. The situation in the countryside has worsened. Unseasonal rains and storms have affected 106 lakh hectares of land recently. More than 14 states have been affected. Due to neo-liberal policies of subsequent governments, more than three lakh farmers have died. People hoped that with the coming of BJP to power, the situation would change. But what we see in villages is that peasants are still killing themselves by hanging or consuming poison. In the 10 months of this government, more than 27 thousand peasants have given up their lives. I demand that in this critical situation, the Centre should immediately sanction and provide full compensation to peasants, agricultural workers and artisans, who have been affected in this recent calamity in these 14 states. P Karunakaran asked whether the government is willing to raise remunerative prices considering the facts.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made a suo motu statement on India's evacuation effort in Yemen in Lok Sabha.
Demands for Grants on Railway Budget
Speaking on this, P Karunakaran said the Railway Ministry has to consider the critical analysis of the Standing Committee with regard to the functioning of Indian Railways. Better passenger amenities and safety should be given the highest priority. The Railways should not compromise the safety side just to reduce the number of workers and curtail expenditure. The government has received a large number of enquiry reports, action on which is still pending. In order to avoid accidents in future, such reports have to be studied and also be given due importance. Safety of the passenger is another big concern for the Railways. Even women passengers are attacked. Theft is also another common crime in Railways. The Railways should recruit more RPF personnel and make a better coordination with the state police. Installation of CCTV cameras inside compartments and in stations should also be done. The Railways also faces financial crisis. It is said by the railway authorities themselves. As a result, though many projects are announced in the budget, many of them are not implemented. Has the Railways got time bound programme to complete the announced projects? Many projects like world class railway stations, medical colleges, hospital facilities all were announced but in many places the work is still not started. It has been noticed that in long-distance trains very often old bogies are attached. There is a strong resentment as far as the state of Kerala is concerned. It was assured by the Hon'ble Minister during his speech that new trains will be introduced after the consultation of all MPs but nothing has been done so far. The Palakkad Coach Factory and the Cherthala Wagon Factory for which MoU was signed earlier but no action has been taken. Karunakaran made a request for increase in the frequency of Sampark Kranti and Rajdhani Expresses by two days and their stoppage in two district of Kerala -- Malapuram and Kasargod.
Demand for Grants: Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation
CPI(M) MP Sankar Prasad Datta said as per the Millennium Development Goals, India is bound to provide improved sanitation to at least half of its urban population by 2015 and 100 per cent by 2025. Based on this ground, the central government took up the programme of 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan'. However, cleaning streets and government offices will not suffice because it is also a matter of right for a large number of urban and rural poor who are deprived of basic necessities of life like access to safe drinking water, toilet and drainage facilities. As per the 2011 Census, only 32 per cent rural households have access to toilets. A large number of people in our country do not have access to toilet and drinking water facilities. Despite much talk, the government has made meagre allocation for sanitation and drinking water. Hence, I strongly demand allocation of more grants to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, and the funds should percolate down and given to the weaker states of our country, especially to the North Eastern states.
Demand for Grants: Ministry of Chemical & Fertilisers
A Sampath drew the attention of the House to the report of Parliamentary Standing Committee which highlighted the lethargic attitude of successive governments and the bureaucrats, who have almost destroyed the public sector undertakings in the fertilisers sector. The Indian Council of Medical Research had discontinued all medical researches relating to the Bhopal Gas tragedy way back in 1994. The Monitoring Committee, set up by the Supreme Court, was prevented from monitoring the quality of health care provided to the gas victims at Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC). The BMHRC does not submit periodical reports even to the Supreme Court nor does it audit its account through qualified auditors. In the country, 2.5 million children are born every year. Six types of immunity vaccinations are necessary during their childhood. But three Public Sector Undertakings that produce the vaccines are not fully operational and they are working below their capacity. My humble submission to the government is that free vaccination should be provided to all the children. India is a country where the largest number of people suffers from dog bite in the world. But we are not providing free vaccination. A high-level committee consisting of parliamentarians from both the House should be formed to review our drug policy.
Demand for Grants: Ministry of Human Resource Development
P K Biju said education is a tool to develop a society, to develop a man. But nowadays, education is a big business in our country. Biju asked the Minister concerned about the status of the Bills that were passed to curtail the marketing methodology and to safeguard our institutions. Without funds, how can we strengthen our educational sector in our country? Also, the allotted amount is not spent. Secondly, what steps need to be taken to utilise the allocated funds in the education sector. It is evident that the drop-out rates are alarming -- it is between 50 and 70 per cent in North-Eastern states. We have to increase the student-teacher ratio at the school level. The government has reduced the budget allocation for the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. Besides most of our higher educational institutions do not have enough staff. So, I would like to urge upon the Minister to look into these issues.
Following the suicide of a farmer in the national capital on April 23, there was a hue and cry in both the houses of Parliament. In Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister gave a statement on this and it was the day when the Rajya Sabha session began to carry forward the remaining work of the Budget Session. There was discussion on agrarian situation in both houses of Parliament. During the discussion on agrarian crisis in Rajya Sabha, T K Rangarajan said the scenario of agriculture in India is extremely bleak as far as small and marginal farmers are concerned. The peasantry is being forced to become agricultural workers or migrant workers. We see thousands and thousands of workers from Bihar and Odisha moving towards Southern India. Three lakh distressed farmers committed suicide in the last two decades. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, on an average there is suicide of two farmers every hour. The yield of paddy has come down throughout the India. Prices have also come down. So small and medium farmers are leaving their land and becoming unskilled labour. In Kerala the price of rubber has fallen. In West Bengal, more than 32 potato farmers committed suicide so far and the government is not procuring potatoes.
CPI(M) member P Rajeeve, along with CPI member M P Achuthan, retired from the Rajya Sabha on 22 April. Members cutting across party lines spoke highly about Rajeeve, his hard work and efficiency as a parliamentarian. His knowledge about parliamentary rules and procedures was praised by all. Many Leaders and MPs also requested CPI(M) leader in Rajya Sabha Sitaram Yechury to bring Rajeeve back in Parliament. Thanking the leaders for their remarks, Yechury said though it has nowadays become fashionable to say that Communists are basically anarchists and slogan-shouters, here, Rajeeve’s case shows that how as a Communist, you can contribute not only to the progress of the country but also to parliamentary democracy. (END)