March 27, 2022

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

THE second part of the budget session of parliament started from March 14. In Rajya Sabha, Jharna Das Baidya took part in the discussion on the development of north eastern region. Though several rural development programmes are underway in the northeast, there are still major challenges and gaps in the poverty and livelihood sector. The project will have three-pronged approach to livelihood strengthening for achieving sustainable development. These are: social empowerment, economic empowerment and partnership and linkages. Empower the most disadvantaged people in the community – women and the youth in particular -- through building coalitions and their institutions to participate more effectively in the developmental process supported by the project and to increase their access and control over assets and services. Enable the target group to take full advantage of the poverty reduction programme of the government and other agencies through effective convergent action with local government, line departments and technical agencies. Achieve increased participation of women in local institutions and in the decision-making process. Regarding economic empowerment, enhance capacities of the communities in terms of knowledge, skill and input involved in implementing the economic development programmes. Increase productivity and profitability of disadvantaged farming households and generation of multiple livelihood opportunities through diversification and integration of production system with agriculture, including crop, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry, agro-forestry and agri-business, by making appropriate value chain analysis and having synchronization marketing. Provide linkage to the communities for credit, extension, insurance, market with financial institution, government organisation, line department and private bodies, etc. Another important community institution where the project would lay a lot of emphasis is self-help groups (SHGs) comprising women. These would be the building block of organising poor and disadvantaged households in the community. The primary level SHGs would be federated at the village by forming the SHG federations. The project will bank on the community structure at the village level where community development groups (CDGs) will be formed which will plan for the overall development of the village. There could be more than one CDG in a village depending on the spread and number of households in the village. The "groups" of the poor and the disadvantaged are expected to act as a bulwark against social inequalities. The consequent social capital generated out of such effort will be the only capital that the poor can rely on and use as a hedge against their resource deficient condition and powerlessness. This is mainly because by working in groups, rather than as individuals, the rural poor are able to combine and make best use of their skills and resources. A group has more bargaining power than an individual. She also requested the central government to release additional funds for various projects in the north eastern region.

Speaking on the working of the tribal affairs ministry in Rajya Sabha, V Sivadasan said the adivasi community in our country is facing a lot of problems, but the union government is not ready to address their issues properly. Basically, they have failed to address the issues. The government has declared some programmes, but nothing is happening on the ground. This is the reality. Please look at the conditions of the adivasi communities in India. In this august house, the minister of tribal affairs had given an answer to my question that clearly shows the pathetic condition of the adivasi community of our nation. The intervention of the union government towards tribal welfare is a failure, and data show it. In 2021-22, fund allocation for model residential schools was Rs 1,200 crore, but the utilisation was zero. A lot of research could be done in the tribal sector. But the government is not allocating funds for research activities. Tribals have a lot of indigenous knowledge. It should be protected and preserved.  Out of Rs 60 crore allocated for tribal research institute, only Rs 1.6 crore has so far been utilised in 2021-22. Utilisation for the special central assistance to tribal sub-scheme is only Rs 164 crore, which is one-fourth the price of an aircraft. The literacy rate of adivasis is only 58.95 per cent, which is lower than the general population. In every indicator, adivasis are on the back-foot when compared to the general population. The life expectancy is another indicator. Life expectancy of adivasis is 60 years, which is lower than the life expectancy of general population. Scheduled Tribes make up 8-9 per cent of the population, but they account for about 40 per cent of all under-5 deaths and 23 per cent of deaths in 1-4 age group in rural areas. Comprising about 8 per cent of India’s population, they account for 25 per cent of population living in the poorest wealth design. Digital divide is very high in adivasi community. According to the 75th NSSO data, 77.3 per cent of adivasi population has no access to internet and 90 per cent of adivasi students could not access online classes during lockdown. The adivasi areas lack good libraries and reading rooms. They have lack of access as far as public spaces are concerned. In many dry regions, drinking water itself gets scarce. Most of adivasis are working in informal sector. The ratio of formal sector employment is very low. There is an urgent need to address these issues. The allocation for development of ST is very low and even the allocated amount is not utilised. Last year the budget allocation was Rs 7,484 crore. But, out of this allocation, only Rs 6,126 crore was spent. In other words, the government did not spend 19 per cent of the money it allocated. This is an unfortunate situation. Adivasis constitute 8.6 per cent of the total population. Thus, at least, 8.6 per cent of the total budget expenditure must be allocated to STs. But the government has allocated just 2.26 per cent of the total expenditure for adivasis. 

Speaking in Lok Sabha on the demands for supplementary grants for the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, A M Ariff ironically said that if you follow the speeches of the treasury benches, you will find that every state is being forced to demand for the president’s rule. If the states could get more funds from the centre in this way, every state would like the president’s rule to be imposed on it. The whole discussion points towards this situation. While participating in the discussion, minister Jitendra Singh spoke widely about the voting percentage in the elections of the local bodies of Jammu and Kashmir before abrogation of Article 370. When the standing committee on housing and urban development visited Kashmir, local body representatives were present there, and we asked them about the voting percentage in the local body elections. They said that it is less than 20 per cent. It shows that the same situation is continuing even after two-and-a-half years of the abrogation of Article 370. So, there is nothing to feel proud about the percentage of vote in the local body elections. We have no doubt that Kashmir is an integral part of our country. But we must understand that the founding leaders of independent India placed Kashmir as a crown on the head of our country. That crown was given a special status in the form of Article 370. The government has destroyed everything against the will of the Kashmiri people and against the values of the constitution. This august house has been forced to spare time to discuss the budgetary provisions for Jammu and Kashmir due to the crookedness shown by this government in withdrawing the constitutionally mandated special status and converting it into a union territory in 2019. I wish to reiterate that it is a shame that this government forced this august house to take over the powers of the legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir by misinterpreting the constitutional provisions in blatant violation of all democratic principles and precedence. What purpose has the government achieved by withdrawing the special status and converting it into two union territories other than breaching the trust of the people? What have we seen today? The government is again violating the rules of procedures and precedence. This government is again and again making a mockery of this House by imposing autocracy and by labelling it as democracy. For the past two-and-a-half years the government has been saying that the statehood would be restored at an appropriate time, and when normalcy is back. But, even the government itself has no definition for these words. No one knows what it means by normalcy and when that auspicious time will arrive. By delaying the restoration of statehood, this government is betraying the people of Jammu and Kashmir and is acting against their wishes and aspirations. The government is proud of the present situation in Kashmir only because it has succeeded in preventing the media from bringing out the truth. Under the British regime we saw the ‘divide and rule’ at its peak but the gains of that never lasted long. Brave people of the country rose and fought back to gain our independence. In 1970, the Congress met the same fate when it tried to impose draconian policies in the name of national emergency. I may remind you, that fate is waiting for you too.


In Rajya Sabha, V Sivadasan demanded further development of Kannur airport in Kerala. The Kannur international airport is the newest airport in Kerala and we expect positive interventions from the government of India to expedite its progress. The airport has great potential for growth and it should be granted the “point of call status” urgently. At present, foreign carriers have no right to operate from the airport. It has severely affected the development of the airport. Therefore, the Kannur international airport should be opened up for foreign carriers. Another urgent requirement is the permission for “Haj Embarkation”. The airport should also be included in the ASEAN Open Skies policy, which would help foreign carriers from ASEAN countries to operate to and from Kannur. The tag would help foreign carriers from Malaysia and Singapore to operate to Kannur. The government should consider these matters and take required action so that the Kannur airport can operate at its full potential and contribute to the economic progress of the country.

Elamaram Kareem and Sivadasan raised the demand for providing minimum wages and pension to anganwadi, ASHA and mid-day meal workers. The issue relates to ICDS, NHM and Mid-Day Meal, which is now known as PM Poshan Scheme. Kareem said the workers who are engaged in these schemes, they are serving women and children of this country. Their services are extended to more than twenty crore children under fourteen years of age and around three to five crore women who get the basic right to food and health through these schemes. Around 60 lakh women – 26 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers, 27 lakh mid-day meal workers and 10 lakh ASHA workers – deliver the services to each household of the country. But they are not recognised as workers; still they are treated as volunteers and are given a meagre amount as honorarium. The minimum wages are not extended to them. No social security or pension schemes are extended to them. Every year the budget allocation is getting reduced. The minimum wage, which was recommended by the 45th Indian Labour Conference at Rs 26,000 per month, and other social security benefits such as pension should be extended to these workers. Today thousands of these scheme workers are conducting a dharna in the capital city raising these issues. The government should look into this matter.

Sivadasan said anganwadis are gardens for children and they are growing there. We are seeing that the union government is not ready to provide financial assistance for proper drinking water facilities, proper space management and other proper amenities. The workers and helpers in anganwadis are getting only a meagre payment. The fixed salary of a worker is only Rs 4,500 a month. The union government is providing only 60 per cent of that, that means it is Rs 2,700. This is very low. The fixed salary of helper is Rs 2,250 and the union government is providing only 60 per cent, that is, Rs 1,350. The finance minister has said that two lakh anganwadis will be modernised, but there is no financial provision made for it. So, the intervention of the government is very necessary to protect our children.