February 26, 2023

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

THE budget session of parliament began on January 31 with an address of President Droupadi Murmu to a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. On February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the union budget for 2023-24. Thereafter, both the houses began the debate on the motion of thanks on the president’s address. The treasury benches praised the welfare schemes of the government while the opposition raised the Adani issue and pressed for a joint parliamentary committee probe into it. The first leg of the budget session ended with both the houses being adjourned till March 13 amid protests by the opposition over the Adani issue. CPI(M) MPs submitted many crucial amendments on the motion of thanks on the president address in both the houses. Here is Part II of the CPI(M) members’ submissions in parliament. Part I was carried last week.

Speaking in Rajya Sabha on the motion of thanks on the president’s address, John Brittas said, “I have respect for the honourable president but I also sympathise with her because she had to speak on behalf of this government which has fudged on multiple fronts. There seems to be a bigger holy cow than ‘gaumata’ in the country and that is none other than Adani. The government does not want any discussion on Adani, the fiasco, the scandal that is rocking the entire world. I gave three amendments with regard to this great episode. None of these amendments was accepted. Unfortunately, let me submit that similar amendments moved in the Lok Sabha were co-opted and admitted. Is this body moving away from discussing those cardinal issues affecting the economy, affecting the integrity of this nation and affecting the goodwill of this great country? For the first time in the history of India, this government is using patriotism and nationalism for protecting black money. That is the charge I am going to make. They are making this as a shield. Can you imagine that a CFO of a company, in the backdrop of the national flag, is talking about nationalism and that his company needs to be protected in the name of patriotism? Can you ever imagine it in this country? Please understand that the gentleman who spoke about nationalism is an Australian citizen, not even an Indian citizen. On this Hindenburg issue, I am sure that if at all BJP MP (Prakash) Javadekar had advised Adani, he would have bought Hindenburg rather than NDTV. He should have gone by his advice. Javadekar is out of the cabinet now. He no longer advises these people. I am sure about it. But this is not a new thing. Please don't think that Hindenburg revelation is a new thing. Before that, since 2016 onwards, there have been three exposes - Panama Papers, Paradise Papers and Pandora Papers. In two of these papers, which dealt with shell companies, which dealt with black money, there was explicit reference to a gentleman associated with Adani. What did they do? The BJP came to power in the name of curbing black money. As per the latest statistics, the black money stashed in Swiss banks has doubled in eight years' time. So, now, if at all you want to fulfil your promise, please put Rs 30 lakh in the account of each Indian, instead of the Rs 15 lakh you had promised.

“During the 1980s, there was a government which came to power with three-fourths majority, but the so-called charges of a nexus between a business house and the then government was a Waterloo for that government. History is going to replay again. They should actually read the writing on the wall. Mr. Adani is going to take them down. Please take corrective steps. Even for little less than two crore rupees, there was an investigation by a judge in 1957. We have a great history of ensuring transparency and accountability in this country. Why is this government shying away, running away, from the genuine demand of a JPC? I ask Javadekar as to why they are not instituting an inquiry. Nowadays, Javadekar is seen in Kerala. He is behaving like Adani there. I will tell you one thing. He is attacking the Christians, Muslims here, but conducting outreach in Kerala. He is climbing stairs of Bishop's house in Kerala. I am sure that nothing will come out of his efforts. First of all, they should apologise to Kerala. They have even called Kerala as Somalia. They called Kerala a hotbed of terrorism. Who said it? The prime minister said it. Just because three-four of those people, who have looted the banks and left this country, are Gujaratis, will we ever insult a state like Gujarat? We will never do that. We consider Gujarat as a state which has contributed to the great freedom movement. They want to tweak the history of Kerala. They want to even replace Mahabali, who was the Maharaja of equality and peace, with Vamana. They want to even tweak the culture of Kerala. Do they think that they can survive there? Not even an inch of space will be yielded to Javadekar.

“Let me talk about the source of black money. There are two things. There is something called round-tripping. In the round-tripping, they take money from the public sector banks to tax havens and then it comes as part of investment. An enquiry is needed in this regard. What if the funds behind the shell companies are a source of money provided by enemy countries? There is a possibility of that. In order to ensure that our economic system is safe and secure, our strategic infrastructure is not hijacked by enemy countries, you should ensure that the money that is coming to India is safe and secure. Let me speak on the issue of Adani’s FPO. These people use their influence to make sure that high income people put in their money there. That was a lack of confidence in this government. Only 11 per cent of the retailers put in their money there. If Adani’s employees do not trust him, do you expect the opposition to trust Adani? My only submission is that this government has to come forward with a proper enquiry to ensure that our economy is safe.”

Speaking on the motion in Lok Sabha, P R Natarajan said, “The president’s address was very disappointing. The entire speech was an election speech and the president was trying to praise the government for everything it has done, and skipping over bits it hasn't done so well. The president’s speech has become nothing more than a narrative of the corporate appeasement policies of the BJP government ruling the Centre. In the 19-page speech, there is no mention about our agriculture sector, farmers, labourers, working class or the issue of unemployment. It endorses the fact that the Union government does not stand with the downtrodden of the country. It is sad that the problems faced by the people or the challenges the country is facing today are not part of the president’s speech. The BJP prides itself on having a stable government at the Centre for two consecutive terms, but turns a blind eye to unconstitutional interventions by governors that destabilize state governments. While thanking the people for giving a stable government at the Centre for two consecutive terms, it does not see the horse-trading of the BJP, which came to power in many states of the country by subverting the people’s mandate. Many of the projects mentioned in the speech to praise the interventions made by the government in the fields of infrastructural development, poverty alleviation and women empowerment are actually only announcements that were not useful to the common people in any way. How can a government which follows the policy of selling off the public sector undertakings and the country’s wealth lead the country to progress? The job opportunities of the educated youth are constantly being cut, the rights of the workers are being taken away one by one, and the deliberate attempts to destroy the religious harmony and unity of the country are not being mentioned here. The BJP government, which has cheated the farmers, is trying to implement policies to hand over the country’s agriculture sector to corporate. Not only that the government is not ready to fulfil any of the assurances given while ending the farmers’ protest. They are in fact doing the exact opposite.”

In Lok Sabha, A M Ariff participated in the general discussion on the union budget for 2023-24. He said that this government came to power promising people that “achhe din aane waale hain”. Now, the people have realised what the government meant was “achhe din” not for them but for crony capitalism. Then came the slogan “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”, which was later modified incorporating “Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas”. But the common people did not know that for the Modi government “sabka” means not for all but just for Adani, Ambani, etc. Now is the time for Amrit Kaal. Precisely speaking, there is an extended Amrit Kaal till 2047. By this extension, the government is again deceiving the ordinary people, and simply asking them to wait till 2047 to see that the false promises are broken. Now, I come to the provisions made in this budget. The government is, again and again, proclaiming its anti-people policies and showing its insensitivity towards ordinary people including farmers and labourers. A lot of members have spoken about MGNREGA. Therefore, I am not going to prolong it. This programme still remains a game changer in rural India, but is subjected to mercy killing. MGNREGA is subjected to mercy killing by this government. For the first time since its introduction, the allocation of Rs 60,000 crore made in the budget has gone down to less than 0.2 per cent of the GDP; whereas it has been estimated by the economists that it should be, at least 1.6 per cent of the GDP. MGNREGA is a demand-driven scheme. Especially after Covid-19 -- that had affected the lives and livelihood of the common people -- we have seen that there has been a huge increase in the demand for work in the rural areas. If all the households -- which have demanded jobs -- are to be provided 100 days of work, as stipulated by the law, how much should be the actual allocation? 

“The case with the umbrella programme for the minorities where the allocation for the same was drastically reduced to just Rs 530 crore from Rs 1,810 crore last year. What about Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana? The allocation for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana has been reduced from Rs 10,433 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 7,150 crore in this budget. Hence, it is crystal clear that this budget is against the interests of farmers, minorities, common people, and above all, the interests of our country. The minister has earmarked Rs 4,327.85 crore for the department of animal husbandry and dairying. It is so far so good. But in view of the appeal of the Animal Welfare Board of India to celebrate ‘Cow Hug Day’ on 14th February instead of ‘Valentine’s Day’, I am sure that thousands of RSS volunteers and BJP workers would follow this diktat to hug “gaumata” without thinking about its consequences. I request the minister to allocate, at least, another Rs 500 crore to the department in the supplementary demands to give compensation to meet the treatment expenses to those who may get hurt by attack by “gau mata” while trying to hug them. I am scared actually. There is another plot hidden behind this love for “gau mata”, which is nothing but to give an opportunity to attack Muslims and Christians alleging their hugs to “gau mata” as unholy.

“All the centrally-sponsored programmes, implemented by the Government of India, starting with the name, Pradhan Mantri Yojana -- PMGSY, PMAY, Jal Jeevan Mission -- are all portrayed as exclusive schemes of the Union Government. But actually, the States bear 50 per cent of the expenses or more in most of the cases. Take the example of PMAY. In Kerala, the state government is providing a total of Rs 4 lakh for each unit, out of which, the central share is just Rs 1.5 lakh in urban areas and Rs 72,000 in rural areas. The state governments spend more than 60 to 70 per cent of the total outlay, and the credit for providing housing for all is claimed by this government without any shame. The Government of Kerala has already constructed 3.25 lakh houses and handed over the keys to the beneficiaries. I wonder whether the finance minister acknowledges the fact that none of the demands of Kerala has been met. The GST revenue sharing may be changed to 60:40 ratio and GST compensation may be extended for another five years. Treat guarantees given by KIIFB and KSSPL as contingent liabilities and not equal to open market borrowing. AIIMS in Kerala, Ayurveda Research Centre in Kerala, Malabar Cancer Centre in Thalassery, special package to returned migrants, special assistance to universal MGNREGA, special scheme for cashew, coir, handloom, agriculture and traditional sectors, doubling of Ernakulam-Kayankulam Railway line, approval of semi-hi-speed railway line, point of call recognition to Kannur International Airport – all these demands were rejected in the budget. It is only because you have no hope of winning a single seat from Kerala in the forthcoming elections.

“I am making a comparison between the Kerala Welfare Pension Fund and the central government fund. You may please note this thing. Farmers are getting Rs 6,000 from the central government in three instalments by way of Kisan Samman Nidhi. In Kerala, Rs 1,600 are being given every month. That becomes Rs 19,200 per year. We are working with a single engine. We do not have a double engine. In the case of old age pension by the central government, up to the age of 80 years, Rs 200 is paid and for persons above the age of 80 years, Rs 500 is being paid. But the Kerala government is giving Rs 1,600 to all the persons who are above the age of 60 years. The widow pension scheme - the central government is giving Rs 200 per month but Kerala is giving Rs 1,600 per month. For disabled persons, the centre is giving Rs 200 per month but Kerala gives Rs 1,600 per month. After the BJP government came to power in 2014, about Rs 10.5 lakh crore worth of bad loans of the corporates were written off, whereas amidst the hardship of Covid-19, not a single paisa of loan taken by the common people was written off. Instead, this government has penalised them by announcing the moratorium on loans for which they were actually charged penal interest on the loan amount for that moratorium period. The poor people of this country are becoming poorer. Business empires built by corporates like Adani’s and Ambani’s are looting the public money. This government has no courage to send ED, CBI or SEBI to their doorsteps even when they are trying to destabilize our economy by creating shell companies and by manipulating stocks. The prime minister said that ED is doing its duty. At the same time, what is ED doing? ED is doing election duty for the ruling party. Again and again, this government is showing that they are anti-people and anti-development of the country. This government is only for the Adanis and the Ambanis.”