THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE monsoon session of parliament started on July 17 with the presidential election. Both the houses met and adjourned after obituary reference. All our MPs casted their votes. The counting of votes was scheduled on July 20 and subsequently, Ram Nath Kovind, fielded by the ruling NDA, was elected the 14th president of India. He is the first from the BJP and the second dalit to enter the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Ram Nath Kovind secured votes of 65.65 per cent of the electoral college while the remaining 34.35 per cent went to opposition candidate Meira Kumar, former Lok Sabha speaker.
The next day there was a stormy start to the monsoon session with the disruption in both the houses on several issues like lynching, the standoff with China, farmer suicides, terror attack on Amarnath yatris, use of CBI and ED to target opposition leaders and the effect of GST and demonetisation. Besides this, the AIADMK rushed with a demand to exempt Tamil Nadu from NEET, the medical college entrance. BSP chief Mayawati raised the issue of attacks on dalits in Saharanpur. When deputy chairman PJ Kurien had asked her to wrap up her speech after three minutes, she engaged in an exchange with him and eventually walked out, announcing her resignation from the Rajya Sabha.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the ruling party was disrupting the house because they cannot answer all the questions. There are attacks on dalits. Atrocities on minorities are growing. Farmers are being pushed to commit suicide. They promised many times the minimum support price from the input cost. For three years they have not done that. They had promised loan waiver. They have not done that. They have betrayed on all these. Sitaram Yechury had given notice for taking up a discussion on the lynching and assaults in Rajya Sabha. Later it was decided to hold it on July 19.
Lok Sabha also witnessed uproar on various issues, including deaths due to cow vigilantes and plight of farmers. CPI(M) MPs had given notices on farmers issues. Opposition parties stormed the well during question hour as well as zero hour. Speaker adjourned the house barely 10 minutes into the beginning till midday and then again for the entire day after resuming for about 15 minutes.
Rajya Sabha had taken up the discussion on the situation arising out of reported increase in incidents of lynching and atrocities on minorities and dalits across the country. Sitaram Yechury spoke on this. (Excerpts of the speech carried elsewhere in this issue.)
K K Ragesh, speaking on the same issue said though we are the largest democracy in the world, but, unfortunately, we are compelled to discuss the issue of lynching rather than discussing the question of development, etc. We have lot many political parties in our country, and all the parties have their own heritage, legacy, past, present, etc. All these political parties have the experience of taking up various issues of the people in our country. Majority of these parties took part in the struggle for independence and emerged taking up various issues. But a particular party is dividing the people on communal lines. Everywhere, they have got a single agenda of dividing the people on the basis of communal lines and that is how they developed their mass base. This politics of hate, this politics of spitting communal venom, is the main basis of mass lynching that is taking place in our country. This politics of hate needs to be addressed. This is the basic issue. Kerala is a state in which all communities are living together. They are living like brothers and sisters. Several incidents of violence have taken place in Kerala. And the culprits have accepted that they did it for spreading communal hatred. 13 CPI(M) workers have been killed. All the killings, irrespective of religion, and all the violence should be condemned, he said.
Lok Sabha had taken up a discussion on agrarian situation in the country. Jitendra Chaudhury took part in the discussion and pointed out that as per the recommendation of the Swaminathan Commission, MSP was promised as cost plus fifty per cent extra. However, three years have gone by, but this has not been implemented so far. MSP is less than that of the production cost in the case of several crops throughout the country. Farmers are forced to sell their produce at a very low rate because the government is importing wheat from other countries. Farmers of our country are suffering. They are not getting the full cost of their produce. During the 2017-18 budget, the allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has been reduced to Rs 4,240 crore from Rs 14,240 crore in the earlier budget. In terms of loan waiver, the loan amounts of the corporates is waived, but nothing is done to waive the loans of the farmers. "Water for every field" is a very good slogan, but the fund required for this purpose does not appear to have been allocated. With the check on cow trading, the livelihood of lakhs of farmers will be affected. A comprehensive loan waiver scheme should be announced immediately. Second, a legislation on MSP should be there. Loan should be available for the farmers. All agricultural inputs – seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and agriculture appliances should be available at subsidised rates, he said.
Joice George pointed out that when we enter into international agreements like ASEAN and GATT agreement, we are compelled to import indiscreetly and the farmers, especially farmers growing cash crops like rubber, pepper, cardamom, are affected adversely. There should be a policy review in this regard. Another important point is regarding the havoc created by wild animals who raid the fields and destroy crops and endanger human lives. Whether farmers are compelled to commit suicide or farmers are killed by wild animals, there is loss to their family members. Therefore, we should sympathetically consider ways to protect the lives of farmers. There are fanatic environmental protection groups, who in the name of protecting environment and in the name of Kasturirangan report are denying farmers their lawful right to own land. There should be an inter-ministerial system of functioning to protect the farmers' interest. If the farmers' interest and their land rights are protected only then we can protect their lives too and remedy farmer's suicides, he said.
Lok Sabha passed the Indian Institute of Information Technology (Public-Private Partnership) Bill. Speaking on this P K Biju said that this bill will have far-reaching implication in the field of higher education, particularly the engineering education in our country. He strongly objected to the reduction in the number of reserved seats in these institutions. A recent report which appeared in the newspaper said that in 2017 itself nine per cent drop out has happened in IIITs. They are mainly from the reserved categories. The vacancies reserved for teaching faculty in the IIITs are still not filled up. The government is going to abdicate its control completely and hand over these institutions to the private market. That will not help our future generation. The government must rethink and re-frame the entire bill and give adequate representation in teaching faculty and student seats in these institutions so that we can create more engineering students and more responsible persons in the engineering filed in the future. We produce more than eight lakh engineering students every year but the unemployment in the engineering sector is 60 per cent. The government must give utmost importance to creating jobs.
Lok Sabha passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill. Speaking on this A Sampath firstly requested the minister to visit some of the government schools as well as aided schools without giving prior notice. We should interact with the children and invite their suggestions before making a law here. This bill intends to provide that every teacher appointed or in position as on March 31, 2015 who does not possess minimum qualifications shall acquire such minimum qualifications within a period of four years from the date of commencement of the proposed legislation. This cut-off date should not be extended any further. The Right to Education itself will not work. Nutritional standards of the students, the children, the infants is also not upto the mark. Members chairing the DISHA should visit the Mid-day Meal Programme that is when food is being served in government schools and aided schools. Lakhs and lakhs of children are coming to schools with an empty stomach and they cannot learn with an empty stomach. Nowadays, education has become a business without any ethics. We have to ensure good education. Good education means increasing the human quality. Many schools do not have even playground. The successive governments have not fulfilled the promises or the constitutional obligation of free and compulsory education. There should be a thorough discussion on how to increase the standard of education and what we can do not only regarding the enrolment ratio but also the dropout ratio. He requested the minister to have a separate budget for HRD. Again and again, the recurring expenditure is being put on the shoulders of the state governments.
Tapan Kumar Sen raised the matter regarding government's move to outsource defence-related production to private sector and said this indicates that the government is not only selling out our national assets, but also indulging in destructive exercise by destroying the manufacturing capability of the country in respect of defence production.
Ritabrata Banerjee raised the plight of people in tailoring industry in West Bengal. The tailoring industry throughout the country is facing an existential crisis after the implementation of GST. From Surat in Gujarat to Tirupur in Tamil Nadu and to the people working in West Bengal, the crisis has reached a monumental proportion. He urged the government to save the life and livelihood of crores of people associated in this industry.
K K Ragesh raised the privatisation of Hindustan newsprint and other public sector units.
C P Narayanan raised the concern over GST imposed on materials used by disabled and marginalised persons. GST is going to be a burden for the disabled as 5 per cent to 18 per cent tax is levied on various items used by these people which is a great injustice.