January 01, 2023

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

IN the Rajya Sabha, John Brittas spoke on the Appropriation No.4 and No.5 Bills. He said, “I am very glad that we are debating two bills, and not certain divisive issues like temples or mosques or even a movie or a movie star's costume. I am glad that we are deciding and discussing pertinent matters which are of concern to the people of this country. I am glad that the Supreme Court after an inordinate delay of six years has taken up pleas on demonetisation to adjudicate. And the government is now scurrying for cover and has taken the alibi that this is only a matter of academic interest. Millions of lives were ruined and devastated. How can the government submit before the Supreme Court that this is just a matter of academic interest? I would come to the pertinent aspects of the impact of demonetisation as I see it. In normal circumstances the national revenue in 2019-20 would have been Rs 151.12 lakh crore. But it went down to Rs 145.16 lakh crore. The cumulative impact, the loss of revenue in current prices, could be something like Rs 50 lakh crore. That is the impact of demonetisation. A colleague, V Muraleedharan, and others had told in Kerala that if the government does not gain at least Rs 4 lakh crore because of the move, they will quit politics. All those people who talked about it are still here and are occupying very high positions. What was the benefit? Had there been any, the government would have celebrated the anniversary of demonetisation. There is one more thing, which is very important. Any sensible administrator after committing a mistake will introspect, apologise, put things in correct perspective and, most importantly, create a game-plan for retrieval. But the present government did just the opposite. If there is stagnation, the government spending should have gone up and the interest rates should have come down. This should have been the twin objectives of this government. They did the contrary. Government spending or government expenditure came down. Recently issued GDP data says that in Quarter-2, the government consumption expenditure contracted by 4.4 per cent. But alarmingly, it is almost 20 per cent below the pre-Covid level. None of the newspapers or media will report it. Justice N V Ramana, the former Supreme Court chief justice, said that in this country, investigative journalism has been finished. The media only painted a rosy picture about the government and there is not even a single critical piece. The media does not even show any critical comments against the government. When this so-called atmanirbhar government took charge, the trade deficit was USD 48 billion. Now, it is USD 100 billion. The minister did a somersault and said, “You should appreciate the government. That shows the buoyancy of the economy. More imports mean more buoyancy." How can these people talk like this?

“The government talks about three Ds -- development, democracy and diversity. But, the three Ds in application are: defame, disrupt and destabilise opposition governments. Only three Us are in practice -- unitary, unilateral and uniformity. They do not want to have a federal structure. They do not want to have a federal country. The powers of states are being usurped day by day. Surcharge and cess collected this year is going to be Rs 7.06 lakh crore. Ten years ago, the surcharge and cess in this country was merely Rs 49,000 crore. There is an increase of 1,500 per cent. The central government says they give states the surcharge and cess in the form of centrally-sponsored schemes. You sit in Delhi and make schemes for the states. Much of their centrally-sponsored schemes are to trumpet their leaders. States do not require that. You give money to the states. States deserve the money. States would devise the schemes and implement them. That is the only way in which this country can be a true federation. Inflation is a broad daylight robbery. The country is passing through very critical times. We have to discuss pertinent issues which affect the country. Propaganda has got a limit.”

The Rajya Sabha passed the Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill, 2022. Supporting the Bill, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya said, “It is really the obligation of the government to be a part of the global participants in the maritime business. It is welcome. If it is an outcome of international convention, universal human rights are more prominent and we being in the human rights regime, then how could this definition of stateless person be there? Do we accept that anybody in the world could be stateless? We do not visualise this conception. No one can be stateless under the human rights regime which is against the human rights policies. Therefore, this stateless person definition in my humble submission should be removed. Otherwise, we will be recognizing the situation which will have an impact otherwise in other fields of society. Then the question comes about the penalty. Whoever commits any act of piracy, it says, "shall be punished with the imprisonment which may extend to imprisonment for life or with fine or both." I can accept that. Then, there is a statutory provision being made in 2022 by the Government of India for the death penalty! Death penalty is an obnoxious concept which should be removed from the statute. I would invite the minister to reconsider this. Other punishments are quite harsh and that can be definitely inflicted upon the person who has committed an offence. Another issue is these matters being referred to designated courts. Our courts are already heavily burdened. They cannot even discharge their regular function. Every day we are talking about pending cases. Therefore, we have to find out a mechanism or we have to constitute an independent forum for the purpose of deciding these issues, and that should be manned by equipped judicial officers, not by administrative officers. Why I am saying so is because the presumption which they are saying is dangerous. Now the presumption is on the accused. The burden of proof goes to the accused which is against the basic principles of natural justice. The Supreme Court, in many judgments, has said this shifting of presumption of the accused is not healthy and is against the principle of natural justice. With these amendments, I think, the bill is a welcome proposition since it is part of the United Nations commitment and we are participatory to that.”


In the Rajya Sabha, A A Rahim raised concern over the falling index of industrial production and declining economic parameters in the country. He said, “The data released by the government’s National Statistics Office (NSO) shows that the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) slumped to a 26-month low of minus 4 per cent in October on the back of a contraction in manufacturing and consumer goods. This is an alarming indication. This is a composite indicator. This slump in IIP is extremely alarming as it means that the industrial sector is facing a major crisis. We know that the industrial sector is capable of providing gainful long-term employment. Otherwise, how can we provide employment to the youth? The treasury benches, the prime minister and the BJP have been trying to propagate 'Make in India' and 'Atmanirbhar Bharat'. But the indication provided by the NSO very clearly showed that the IIP slumped to an extremely alarming situation. These statistics are clear indicators of unemployment. Otherwise, many of these jobs would be considered as under-employment. So, I urge the government to intervene in this matter to control unemployment and under-employment in the country.”

In the Rajya Sabha, John Brittas expressed concern over the recommendations of the parliamentary committee on official language to implement Hindi as the medium of instruction in central universities and institutes of national importance like IITs, IIMs, etc. He said, “There is a pernicious and sinister design, and there are overt and covert attempts, perhaps stronger than ever, for elevating Hindi as the sole national language of this country. The committee on official language recently submitted its 11th report to the president, who herself hails from a state with a rich linguistic heritage that is dying out under the spread of Hindi. It recommends the use of Hindi as a medium of instruction in central universities and institutes of national importance like IITs and IIMs, etc., in Hindi-speaking states. Imagine, if Sundar Pichai had been forced to write his exam in Hindi, would he have reached the top position in Google of which we Indians are all proud of? There are thousands of students from north India who study in Bengaluru, Chennai, Mangalore and Kerala. Do you expect these students from north India to learn their syllabus in Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada? If they force that, most of the students would have to come back? There should not be any attempt to make Hindi the sole language, and, as we all know, Section 4 Clause 3 of the Official Languages Act stipulates the remit of the committee as to review the progress in use of Hindi for official purposes of the Union and make recommendations thereon. I am glad that the honorable prime minister is listening to me. It is beyond the ambit of the Act to deliberate on the medium of instruction in educational institutions. In fact, this official language committee has gone beyond its brief, thereby recommending that the higher educational institutes have to adopt Hindi as a medium of language.”