THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE budget session of parliament began with president Ram Nath Kovind’s address to a joint sitting of both the houses on January 29. The CPI(M) and other opposition parties boycotted the president’s address in solidarity with the farmers agitating against the centre’s three contentious farm laws. On February 1, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the union budget for 2021-22. The budget reflected pro-corporate economic policies of the government.
Speaking on the motion of thanks on president’s address, CPI(M) MP, Elamaram Kareem said in Rajya Sabha, “As we all know, the world is going through a very tough situation as the Covid-19 pandemic started its spread. Our nation is not alienated from its adverse effects. Our economy has fallen to the lowest-ever mark during this time. The people of our nation are suffering a lot from its effects. Implementing people-centric welfare policies is the only way for our nation to come out of this chaos. But we have a government which has nothing to offer for wiping the tears of the common people…. All of its policies are intended only to appease corporates and implement its communal agenda and, thereby, divide the people. I am sorry to say that the address of the president has failed miserably in portraying the real picture of the present India. That is why I am opposing this motion.”
Today, India is witnessing a historic protest by farmers against the three farm laws, pushed by the Union government and passed by this parliament. Braving intense repression in the midst of severe cold, lakhs of farmers have gathered in different borders of Delhi and are continuing their peaceful protest for the last two months. Many of us had opposed these agri-laws and requested the government to refer these bills to a select committee or standing committee of parliament. It was rejected then by the government. The agri laws were enacted in parliament without proper consideration or taking into confidence the opposition parties. We all know what happened in this august house during the passage of these bills. The government is still not ready to accept the genuine demand of the farmers even after more than 150 farmers having lost their lives in the numbing cold. Many of the farmer leaders are booked with fake charges in connection with the unfortunate incidents which took place on January 26. It was equivocally condemned by all the organisations and opposition parties also, who have been a part of the peaceful protest. The government is trying to weaken this democratic protest by perpetrating violence and using force. Even electricity and water supply to the protest sites are being disconnected by the government. I urge upon the government to yield to the demands of farmers and withdraw the farm laws immediately. The Delhi police, under the union home ministry, has intensified attacks against those journalists who have been reporting truthfully the events connected with the farmer protests. Such efforts to intimidate and terrorise journalists have been going on for some time. But since January 28, FIRs have been filed against nine Indian journalists on charges of sedition and under nine other provisions of law, including promoting communal disharmony, insulting religious beliefs, assertions prejudicial to national integration, etc. This is reprehensible and smacks of efforts to browbeat, intimidate and harass.
Contrary to all propaganda and spin by this government of economic rebound, the reality is that the GDP contraction continues to plunge and is now, according to official data, minus 7.7 per cent for the whole fiscal year 2020-21. Even now this government is continuing with its fake propaganda of a growing economy and five trillion-dollar economy. I would like to remind the media that India is now running behind even many of the underdeveloped economies in the world. At this time of economic stagnation, this government is talking about 'V' shaped growth and recovery, five trillion-dollar economy. In this situation, as opined by all economists, the government should come up with policies that would help in reaching money to the poor and providing employment to them, which is not happening under this regime. Unemployment is the biggest issue which is being faced by our nation. On top of unprecedented miseries mounted on people's lives and livelihood by the pandemic, unplanned and unprepared lockdowns, comes the crippling rise in prices of essential commodities worsening the plight of people. Prices of petroleum products have been continuously hiked.
The Prime Minister and his government seem totally unconcerned about imposing further burdens and miseries on people. This government is doing everything possible to systematically undermine our constitution. This is coupled with the BJP’s objective of further sharpening communal polarisation in order to consolidate its communal support base and change character of the Indian Republic. We have witnessed how this government abrogated Article 370 and withdrew the state status to Jammu and Kashmir. How this government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act? Most of the existing labour laws have been repealed and replaced with four labour codes. All four labour codes have been enacted in the last monsoon session by bulldozing parliament. Almost all beneficial provisions relating to rights and protection of workers and those related to regulation to control employers are either substantially diluted or removed altogether. These Codes seek to convert workers into slaves. In the same way, the BJP-ruled states are also enacting such anti-constitutional legislations. Above this, our public sector undertakings are being sold. Some of our ministers are sales managers, not ministers. Our prestigious public sector undertakings in insurance, oil and steel sectors are all going to be sold. These policies, definitely, will ruin our country.
Participating in the discussion, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said the president of India is the head of the State but his speech really relates to as if he is the head of the government. This speech, therefore, relates to the so-called achievements of the government and at the cost of democratic principles. The president started his speech quoting from a particular couplet from a well-known poet from Assam but this has a very dangerous trend. He says, ‘India's grandeur is the ultimate truth. In one single consciousness, one thought, one devotion, one inspiration, let us unite; let us unite.’ This idea of one consciousness, one thought, one devotion is basically against the spirit of the Indian Constitution and it hits Indian constitutional morality.
On the coronavirus pandemic, he accused the government of not taking appropriate steps at the appropriate time. The sudden declaration of lockdown with just a four-hour notice caused tremendous difficulties. Lakhs and lakhs of workers of the country started walking towards their hometowns. I find this particular thing missing here and it ought to have been mentioned in the speech of the president.
On the ongoing farmer protests, he said if there had been such extensive discussions on the laws as the government is claiming, why are they not able to answer the simple question as to why they went in for the ordinance route? They could have straightway gone in for enactment through discussion in parliament. You brought it in the parliament only to get approval on the ordinance. And, how did you discuss that? This caused a tremendous amount of dissension among the peasants as a whole. This is not the case of just Punjab and Haryana. Go down the states, go down the villages of every state. Everywhere there are demonstrations. Everywhere the peasants are very much aggrieved by these Acts. Why can't the government accept their demands? Repeal and re-enact the laws. They want MSP guaranteed for all and they also want a secure procurement. It is the basic duty of a government to procure and provide food safety.
The government and the ruling dispensation, sometimes, talk of Rabindranath Tagore. I conclude with a particular phrase from the ‘Gitanjali’ which has received accolade from the whole world. It tells us what India was thought of and how India should be built up. May I read this? "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where words come out from the depths of truth.” Mere words would not do. Let us enjoy that freedom where somebody will not be arrested because of speaking against the government; where the intellectuals would not be described as urban-naxals and put behind bars. Let us think of that. Let us think of federalism whose foundation is unity in diversity. The government should not think that everything should be done by it and every credit should be claimed by it. This is done by people of the whole country. The government should try to respect them and give respect to them.