Monsoon Session: Left Resists Govt Efforts to Undermine Parliamentary Democracy
IN the monsoon session of Rajya Sabha, the Left parties led by the CPI(M) opposed the ordinance raj of the NDA regime, which is devoid of all decorum India has followed in parliamentary democracy. Despite being small in numbers, the CPI(M) has led the resistance in Rajya Sabha against the undemocratic, anti-farmer and anti-worker legislations brought in by the NDA regime.
The CPI(M), along with other Left and democratic parties, took strong stance against the ordinance raj in the house. CPI(M) MPs moved statutory resolution against the ordinances, many of which were brought in the disguise of measures to address the ill effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on farmers and unorganised sector workers. While moving the resolutions, Party MPs Elamaram Kareem, K K Ragesh, and Somaprasad exposed the dubious efforts being made by the Narendra Modi government in connivance with the corporate to snatch the livelihoods of farmers and workers for maximising profits. Through the protests, the CPI(M) exposed the Narendra Modi government’s efforts to undermine and bypass the democratic tradition of India, which is based on the culture of discussions, consultations and debates.
MURDER OF DEMOCRACY
On September 20, the Rajya Sabha witnessed the most undemocratic decision from the deputy chairman when he outrightly rejected the demand for “division of votes” instead of ‘voice vote’, on the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. Although the CPI(M) and other opposition parties, including the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, had demanded “division of votes” instead of ‘voice vote’, the deputy chairman ignored all precedents of the house to ensure that the Centre’s draconian legislations are passed to appease the corporate. On September 21, the chairman of the House and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu refused to hold any discussion or dialogue over the issue in the house and made another attempt to throttle democracy by suspending eight members, including Elamaram Kareem and K K Ragesh.
Having silenced the opposition voice in the upper house of the Parliament, seven important Bills across the spheres of education, commodities, health, banking, corporate and forensic medicine were passed on September 23. Such rushing through of the Bills -- the IIIT Amendment Bill, the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Companies (Amendment) Bill, the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, the National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020 and the Rashtriya Raksha University Bill -- exposed the totally anti-democratic agenda of the government.
ORDINANCES AND BILLS
Eleven ordinances were promulgated by the president between the budget session which concluded on March 22 and the monsoon session which commenced on September 14. The bills to replace the ordinances were moved in the house one after another as if the government wanted to use Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as rubber stamps to clear the anti-people ordinances that it brought on the pretext of helping farmers and citizens of India during the Covid-19 times. Statutory resolutions against the seven bills, which replaced the ordinances, were moved by CPI(M) and CPI members together.
K K Ragesh moved a statutory resolution to disapprove the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020. The CPI(M) members also moved the resolution to refer the Bills to a Select Committee. While moving the resolution, Ragesh said a massive agitation throughout the country has begun after the relevant ordinances. The All India Kisan Coordination Committee of more than 200 peasant organisations, including the All India Kisan Sabha, has been organising farmers’ agitations throughout the country. He appealed to the Narendra Modi government to withdraw these Ordinances and the Bills, which are aimed at exploitation of farmers and helping the corporate.
Our current mandi system has got a lot many limitations. And those limitations need to be addressed and rectified. But, at the same time, the mandi system provides a kind of competitiveness and that ensures at least very limited opportunity for remunerative prices to our farmers. Through this bill, the government is simply slow-poisoning the mandi system and that will ultimately lead to the closure of mandis. The mandi system came into existence through various State Acts. Hence, it is an encroachment on the powers of the state governments. Once the mandi system is being vanished, the corporate will take all the opportunities to squeeze the farmers. No one can expect corporate to provide remunerative prices to our farmers. They all are profit-mongers. So, there should be a provision in the bill itself to ensure a minimum support price which is calculated as per the cost plus 50 per cent formula for all the agricultural produce. Also, a provision that when a corporate or any entity or person representing a corporate firm refuses the MSP while purchasing or procuring any agricultural produce, through contract or some other means, there should be a provision to initiate criminal and legal proceedings against the said corporate.
Ragesh also opposed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment). He said this is going to push the banking sector of the country into deep crisis. The IBC has become a bonanza to the corporate defaulters and fraud companies. Corporate fraud is being encouraged through it. Corporate firms are already getting many concessions. Huge concessions are provided to them. We know that non-performing assets (NPAs) have accumulated in public sector banks and we know that there is huge amount which is being written ofs under the pretext of book adjustment. More than Rs 3 lakh crore have already been written off, which had been lying as NPAs in various public sector banks through book adjustments. Now through IBC another huge concession is being provided to the corporate sector.
K Somaprasad participated in the discussion on the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill and the Salaries and Allowances of Ministers (Amendment) Bill. He said India is facing a critical situation. In order to manage and control the situation arisen due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is necessary to raise resources from different sources. Everybody has to contribute. However, the curtailment of the MPLAD Scheme has resulted in a drastic situation. Instead of stopping the MPLAD Scheme, it should have been redesigned to meet the emergency situation arising out of this pandemic. I request the government to reconsider the decision and restore the MPLAD Scheme.
Speaking on the Epidemic Resources (Amendment) Bill 2020, Jharna Das Baidya said, legal protection that is very necessary for Asha workers, nurses, police, doctors, health workers in the fight against the pandemic should be included in the bill.
K K Ragesh opposed the bill to replace the Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. He said the ordinance was brought in as part of the government's dubious decision to dissolve all the regulatory bodies. The centre is de-promoting these bodies as mere government departments because these bodies are going to be nominated ones in which members will be nominated by the central government. But there is no representation of states!
Speaking on the Aircraft Amendment Bill 2020, Jharna Das Baidya said it raises suspicion that the bill is aimed at helping the private sector. Through this, the centre is trying to impart superintendence over the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Bureau of Civil Aviation (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accidents Investigation bureau (AAIB).
On moratorium on the repayment of loans and interest from SHGs, Jharna Das Baidya said the unprecedented economic devastation faced by the SHG women in the country is worth urgent consideration. According to media reports, among the outstanding bank loans, given to nearly 54.57 lakh SHGs across the country, amounting about Rs 91,130 crore, just Rs 2,168 crore or 2.37 per cent were NPAs. SHG women are barely surviving and managing to keep their family afloat. At a time when the government is giving various concessions to the corporate sector, which include writing off their huge NPAs, the government should have in fact waived the loans taken before the pandemic and provided new collateral and interest free loans to the SHG women. Any decision to put pressure for repayment of loans given to SHGs now will lead to tremendous harassment of SHG women. Hence, I request for a moratorium be applied on the payment of loans and interest from SHGs till the situation normalizes.
K K Ragesh urged the centre to scrap the decision to shift the regional office of the National Handloom Development Corporation (NHDC) from Kannur to Bangalore. The decision would be detrimental to the growth of the handloom industry in Kerala, particularly Kannur. The presence of NHDC regional office in Kannur has contributed considerably to the growth of the handloom industry.
Elamaram Kareem raised the demand for providing rehabilitation and compensation to people living in jhuggi clusters on railway land in light of the Supreme Court’s recent orders. He mentioned that the removal of jhuggi clusters adjacent to railway tracks in Delhi has put the lives of poor jhuggi dwellers at stake and they are now living with a fear of being evicted. Amid the pandemic, it will lead to a health disaster. It is the duty of the government to make sure the evicted jhuggi dwellers are rehabilitated and provided with adequate compensation.