February 16, 2020

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

THE budget session of parliament began on January 31 with Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the joint sitting of both houses. On February 1, the union budget 2020-21 was presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. In the budget speech, one would hardly get any indication of either the economic slowdown or the unemployment rate, which is the highest in decades. But, the finance minister announced selling shares of LIC, the biggest financer of government schemes.

Speaking on the motion of thanks on the president’s address in Rajya Sabha, Elamaram Kareem said the speech missed the real issues being faced by people and the country. The country is passing through a serious economic crisis and those serious problems are not mentioned in the president’s address. This government has failed miserably in protecting and upholding the constitution. This is a government which is using all its might to destroy the principle of secularism and fraternity enshrined in the constitution. The forces behind this government are working day-and-night, putting their efforts to destroy the communal harmony in our society and perpetuate violence to make minorities of our country feel unsafe here. “My dear colleagues in the treasury benches, your eyes and ears are closed towards the livelihood issues of this country. Your hands are stained with blood of the common man which you have squeezed out to make your corporate masters happy. The term you people are in power will be written in the history books as the dark age of our democracy,” he said. The president’s speech has miserably failed in addressing the shameful situation of the nation. This government has really worked hard to transform our country literally into a graveyard. This address has failed to mention the worst ever economic slowdown our country is facing now. There is a consistent stagnation and decline in national savings rate, domestic capital formation, decline in growth of investment and decline in growth in various industrial sectors. Widespread unemployment and worsening situation of poverty led to a sharp decline in effective demand and contraction of commodity market. This, in turn, resulted in drastic cut in capacity utilisation in industries and closed down and shutdown of production leading to retrenchment, lay-off, wage cut, etc., aggravating impoverishment. Further, unemployment rate is at 45-year high! This is the present picture of our country’s economy. The president’s address has failed to mention all this. This government has failed in defending the constitution of our nation. It ignored its duty to protect the basic structure of our constitution. The recent amendment to the Citizenship Act undermines the secular concept of citizenship enshrined in the constitution. It discriminates a section of people in the country. As per our constitution, citizenship should never be on the basis of religion.  This government has derailed this principle by passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. And, this Act is the latest episode in the series “destroy India” by our rulers. The president, in his speech, congratulated this government for passing certain legislations within a few months. But it was through undermining the process of parliament. No parliamentary scrutiny was allowed. What is the meaning of parliamentary process? The speech is having a mention over the Supreme Court’s verdict on Ayodhya. Back in 1992, before the historical monument Babri Masjid got demolished, there were verdicts and directions from different courts. The country remembers how these people, who are in power now, treated those verdicts. They were leading the violence and demolished Babri Masjid. It is interesting to hear that these same people are now respecting the judiciary. The speech also tells that the violence, in the name of protests, will weaken the society and the nation. So, what the citizens of this country should do when the violence is perpetrated by the government? We have witnessed the government-sponsored violence in different parts of the country against the peaceful protests. The speech indirectly mentions about the massive mandate. What about that mandate, after the victory in Lok Sabha elections, if that position exists now? What happened in Maharashtra? The Chanakyas of the ruling party worked day and night to form the BJP Government in the state of Maharashtra. Finally, those Chanakyas were sunk in the Arabian Sea and an anti-BJP government came to power in the financial capital city of India. What happened in Jharkhand? So, mandate is an old story. If you continue to argue about that mandate, is it a license given to you to enact any law as per your whims and fancies and all the citizens should obey them. I would like to remind this government that this mandate is not for derailing our constitution. If you enact such legislations, which are against the values and principles of our constitution, then don’t expect the people of this country to follow it.

Speaking on the motion, K K Ragesh said in Rajya Sabha the president’s speech is a hollow one. It is filled with rhetorical statements to a certain extent, and at some points, it is extremely misleading also. It does not reflect the real aspirations and concerns of the people of our country. You are so good in talking about five trillion-dollar economy; you are so good in providing promises. “…at least, you should have said something about the amount of black money that has been unearthed. You were promising that black money of Rs 34 lakh crore is going to be unearthed. What about the GST regime? It has snatched the powers of States. You are pushing the states in deep crisis by not paying them the GST compensation timely. On the employment front, you made the promise of generating two crore jobs but we are witnessing an all-time high unemployment ratio in our country. We are witnessing mounting agrarian crisis. You mentioned about doubling the farmers' income. The farmers' income did not double but, on the other hand, suicides by farmers doubled. We are witnessing massive disinvestment and privatisation of PSUs. Now, the LIC is also put on sale. It would be better if you constitute an auction and sale ministry so that you can sell out all the core sectors to the corporate houses,” he said.

“…in your eagerness to justify the CAA, you made the president misquote Mahatma Gandhi. How dare you misquote Mahatma Gandhi to justify the CAA? It is ridiculous; it is pathetic. We have got a secular constitution. You must take the constitution and read it once again and understand as to what are the basic tenets of our constitution. The constitution says, "We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic. Secularism is one of the core components of our constitution and that secularism is now being attacked. If you are going to make religion a criterion for citizenship, you cannot continue to be a secular State. It will be termed as theocratic State. Gradually, you are building your fascist Hindu Rashtra, and, that is why, you have brought up this amendment. People are agitated throughout the country. Everywhere, people are fighting against this and you are saying that that are anti-nationals. We are fighting to protect and safeguard our constitution and you are trying to sabotage the constitution,” he said.  Regarding Kashmir, the government is saying that everything is fine. Then, why are the leaders put under house arrest for six months. Mobile phones are disconnected. Kashmir has become massive cellular jail. It is going to be a Nazi concentration camp.

Speaking on the motion in the Lok Sabha, A M Ariff said the president’s speech was the most disappointing one. It is being said that the CAA was passed to fulfill the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, all I want to say is that there must be a limit in defaming Mahatma Gandhi and distorting his dreams and ideals. Godse killed Gandhi by shooting right to his chest. But before murdering him, Godse himself came to Gandhi, bowed at Gandhi’s feet, and then only he made up his mind to shot Gandhi down. Now, by passing the CAA saying that it is to fulfill the dreams of Gandhi, what really happened is, you have killed the soul of Gandhi too. Actually, you are not fulfilling Gandhiji’s dream but fulfilling the dreams of Godse, Savarkar, Golwalkar. All legislations that this current government is trying to pass are in one way or the other are capable enough to kill either the spirit of the constitution or the value of constitutionalism in this country. The example that I can draw here in this context is that while the divorce related laws remain a part of civil procedure for rest of the communities, but for Muslims it becomes an exclusive matter falling under the purview of the criminal procedure. Even though, we already have the Supreme Court ruling pointing out the illegality of triple talaq, the Modi government has passed a new law. This new law has a provision that permits either the divorcee or her blood relatives to file criminal case against the husband. Moreover, the same law also has a provision that suggests imprisonment of the husband for three years without granting bail. Here comes the pertinent question. How is the husband – who has been imprisoned under this new law – supposed to provide maintenance to the divorcee? It seems that they are trying to put Muslim males into jail by using the family problems arising in the Muslim families. On the one side, the Modi government retained the special status of north-eastern states under Article 371, and on the other side the same government abrogated Article 370 and took away the special status enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir. You have not only divided Jammu and Kashmir into two, but also you have put all the people of that state under house arrest. Further, the government has shut down the internet facility in Jammu & Kashmir and also created a situation similar to internal emergency. The government has literally put the state into a socio-political stalemate.

Speaking on general discussion on union budget in Rajya Sabha, T K Rangarajan said the finance minister's longest speech has not created any confidence in any section of the society. I am disappointed by the budget. There is nothing concrete in the budget for agriculture or unemployment or manufacturing, education and health. The economy is going through slowdown. What is the reason? Will the bovernment submit a white paper on that? Instead of merely talking, why don’t you submit a white paper as to why there is this economic slowdown? Demonetisation ruined the economy. I do not know whether you will agree to that or not. The government should come out openly that they have committed the mistake. Demonetisation has ruined this economy. Tiny, small, medium industries, real estate all have been ruined. GST, the way it was implemented, gave a further blow to the economy. You are creating a new income-tax system – old regime and new regime. I spoke to several office-going people, nobody is happy. The older tax regime is better. The new regime means they cannot invest. You don't want the people to save. You want them to spend money. But the people’s mentality is to save for their future. Your new regime is not going to work and the people are not happy. For MNREGA, you have reduced the revised estimates from Rs 7,000 crore to Rs 6,500 crore. So this is not going to help the ordinary people, the village people. In your speech, you said, "This is the budget to boost their incomes and enhance their purchasing power." I do not know how you are going to boost the common man's income. You are enhancing and boosting only the corporate sector. All sections of the society will suffer, especially, in rural areas, from the low growth of investment in the past seventeen years. GDP has shrunk in every quarter in the financial year. If we want to be the 5 trillion-dollar economy, that means 14.4 per cent GDP for the next five years. Please explain, when you will reply, whether we can achieve 14.4 per cent GDP. What is the way you are going to look?

K Ragesh said the budget is a total failure in addressing the present economic crisis. The government is giving more concessions to the rich. But, at the same time, it is not taking any step to enhance the purchasing power of the common people. “I don't want to repeat those points. I take this opportunity to confine to certain important concerns of the state of Kerala,” he said. Kerala had made significant achievements in various fields due to its focus on decentralization, political empowerment, and on health and education. The state tops the NITI Aayog's sustainable development index. The government is talking too much on cooperative federalism. But, at the same time, what they are doing is simply sabotaging the development agenda of various states. The same is getting reflected in the budget also so far as Kerala is concerned. We are facing a sheer discrimination in the budget. The Fifteenth Finance Commission punished all the south Indian states, except Tamil Nadu. That punishment is especially on Kerala because of the successful population control measures that the state had implemented and also for the social development that the state of Kerala had made. When the Fifteenth Finance Commission had decided to change the criteria, at that very point of terms of reference to it, the state had opposed. We did maintain that it was going to hit all south Indian states, especially Kerala. Now, the Fifteenth Finance Commission is penalising Kerala for its successful population control measures and also for social development. The Fifteenth Finance Commission had reduced the tax proceeds for Kerala from 2.5 percentage to 1.94 percentage. This is going to lead to a huge cut in the tax share of the state of Kerala to the tune Rs 4,300 crore and this is the lowest tax share of Finance Commission in the recent past. As we all know, the state of Kerala had to face severe floods during the last two consecutive years. Unparalleled damage has happened because of floods. Last year, the central government had released Rs 5,900 crores to seven states under NDRF head. Unfortunately, the state of Kerala is neglected. As per the norms, the state of Kerala is entitled to get Rs 2,100 crores. A memorandum was submitted to the government, but unfortunately, the state is severely neglected. Last to last year also, the same step-motherly attitude was very much visible for Kerala. It was extremely important to re-build the ruined Kerala because of heavy floods. The government was requesting for enhancing the borrowing limit, but unfortunately, the centre is not ready to enhance the borrowing limit, but at the same time, it had further slashed the borrowing limit of the state. As per the present norms, the state is entitled to borrow Rs 24,915 crores in 2019-20 and now it has been slashed to Rs 16,602 crores. So far as GST compensation is concerned, till December, Rs 1600 crores is yet to be paid. There are a lot many other things also. I don't find any place for Kerala in the railway map of our country, the promised trains. I don't find any new lanes so far as the National Highway Development is concerned. In all other states, you can see four-lane roads and six-lane roads, but in Kerala if you go to the National Highway, there are only two-lane roads.

In Lok Sabha, A M Ariff said, “before entering into the discussion on budget, I want to go through some relevant issues related to Kerala. Prime minister, while replying in the Rajya Sabha on motion of thanks to the president’s address, distorted the answer given by the Kerala chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, in relation to a question raised in the state assembly regarding the intruders of SDPI in the anti-CAA protest. Yes, I am proudly saying that we, the Left parties, are always keeping an alert on any invaders against the uncompromising struggle against CAA, NPR and NRC. That is why, Pinarayi Vijayan took a solid stand against SDPI. I cannot understand why the prime minister is so silent about the firm stand taken by Pinarayi Vijayan against the implementation of NRC and CAA. Modiji, have you noticed that the Kerala assembly has passed a resolution demanding scrapping of CAA, under the leadership of Pinarayi Vijayan? Have you seen the human chain created by the Kerala people for a length of 620 kilometres? After passing of the resolution by Kerala assembly against the CAA, many other states also came forward against the CAA. Prime minister would not have spread some words of his speech for playing his communal agenda. At the same time, why did you become so silent when the chief minister of Kerala talked about the discrimination done by the central government in connection with Kerala flood relief package?”

According to poverty index of the United Nations, India is ranked at 103rd position. This implies that the number of poor has increased considerably. The finance minister and the prime minister have not uttered a single word in this regard. Chief Economic Advisor K Subramanian’s ‘Thalinomics’ is not enough to address this Index. According to the United Nations’ Human Development Index, India is ranked at 135th position. Earlier, in 2014, it was ranked at 130th position. According to IMF review, our GDP growth was eight per cent during 2015, but now the GDP growth rate is under 4.8 per cent. This is because of insecurity and unemployment. In the Happiness Index, according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solution network, India is ranked at 140th position. It was ranked 117th position during 2015. As far as Security Index of Women is concerned, India is now ranked at 133rd position. In the budget, did you say any word about Make in India? Now, you are telling ‘Assemble in India’. Who will come and invest in a country where you have divided communal voice? You have hung a board before the parliament saying that all PSUs are for sale, including the LIC, with attractive offers and huge reduction. Anybody can purchase these PSUs for a small price. You should remember the history of our country. East India Company came to India for trade. But at last our country came under its rule, he said.