October 01, 2023

The Week in Parliament

CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

A SPECIAL session of parliament commenced on September 18 and concluded on September 21. During the session, one bill was introduced and passed – the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill, or the women’s reservation bill, to reserve a third of seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women. Both houses of parliament also held discussions on the “parliamentary journey of 75 years starting from Samvidhan Sabha – achievements, experiences, memories and learnings” and the “success of Chandrayaan-3 mission and other achievements of our nation in the space sector”.

In the Lok Sabha, A M Ariff supported the bill and said it is an undisputed fact that women should have a prominent role in the lawmaking process as well as policy decisions, and discussions in this regard started long back in our country. But now what this government is trying is to cover up all such previous efforts and to project the introduction of this bill as something which only the BJP government could achieve. The credit for this legislation should go to all the women organisations and leaders and those who approached the Supreme Court to implement the reservation for women and, thus, to ensure equal justice and equal status as promised by the constitution. By introducing this bill at the fag end of the tenure of this Lok Sabha, and that too with the non-implementable provisions in the near future, the government has exposed its hollowness before the women of the country. The BJP promised to introduce 33 per cent reservation for women in parliament and state assemblies in its election manifesto way back in 2014. Had the first Modi government taken lead for it as promised in its manifesto, now this house would have had at least one-third women members. Even in 2019, soon after coming to power for a second term, they had the opportunity to bring such a reform, if they actually wished to implement it. There is no mention of a time limit for census and delimitation.

Ariff said that with the bill being introduced just before the Lok Sabha elections, it is crystal clear that the aim is to just give a reply to the Supreme Court with regard to a public interest litigation on the bill. We have seen how this government has tried to gain cheap popularity by including the colour of BJP’s flag and lotus symbol on the logo of G20, and portraying the success of Chandrayan-3 as a political victory of BJP. I am standing here as a representative of the people of Kerala, which implemented reservation for women in panchayati raj institutions way back in the 1990s. About 30 per cent seats were reserved for women at that time. In 2008, we enhanced the reservation for women representatives in local self-government institutions to 50 per cent, much above the constitutionally mandated limit of 33 per cent. I am proud to say that Kerala was the first state to give reservation to women in local self-government institutions. I request on behalf of the CPI(M) that without waiting for delimitation and census, this bill should be implemented in the upcoming elections of 2024.

In the Rajya Sabha, Elamaram Kareem said it was a compulsion of the ruling party to bring the women’s reservation bill as it was fearful of its performance in the next parliamentary elections. They lost recent state elections in Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and even in the Delhi municipal corporation polls, where it ruled for 15 years. This situation compelled the BJP to bring such a legislation.  The BJP government wasted nine years before bringing the bill. Kareem questioned the BJP government and said, “You have to respond to that. Now, you are claiming Nari Shakti Vandan! Which 'nari'? Is it Manipur 'nari'? Poor women folk were paraded naked on the road, gangraped and butchered mercilessly…What nari vandan? Wrestlers were harassed. What have you done? So, this is not for Nari Shakti Vandan, this is for political achievement only. When is it to be implemented? When would the women get these rights? It is far away, after the census. When will the census happen? Based on the new census, delimitation is to happen. When will it happen? It is not coming in the next 10 or 15 years. They only want to win the next elections. All sections of society – farmers, workers and the youth – are angry with this government. We must bring the attention of this house to the BJP’s policies adopted during these nine years. The women labour force participation rate is 20-25 per cent in India, far behind other nations. 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' is the slogan. Is there a single man from the largest minority section of the country in the cabinet? Sabka Saath? Where is 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas'?  That is the attitude of the BJP.”

In the Rajya Sabha, John Brittas took part in the debate on the parliamentary journey of 75 years. He said, when we speak about parliament, the basic aspect which we need to keep in mind is parliamentary democracy. That is very important. What is the tenet of parliamentary democracy? The fundamental, cardinal principle of parliamentary democracy is accountability of the executive to the legislature. Have you ever seen any accountability of the executive to the legislature? Do you know what is the attendance rate of the prime minister in parliament? It is 0.001 per cent! The preamble of the constitution speaks about justice, liberty and equality. If you take justice, you will notice that we have reached the bulldozer era. That is the justice now. A gentleman who is heading the economic advisory council to the prime minister had the audacity to come and say that he does not understand the meaning of secularism and socialism. Many of the members think that “democracy” has turned to be “Namocracy” or “Modicracy”. Do you know what is the meaning of 'Republic'? It is Arnab Goswami. That is the meaning of 'Republic' for many of the members of the treasury benches. This is the state of affairs of this country. You are calling us, depicting us as Somalia. The extreme poverty in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is almost 30 to 40 per cent. In southern states, it is 10 per cent. In Kerala, it is almost zero. When we talk about 75 years of Indian democracy, we cannot forget the name of Mahatma Gandhi. I was surprised that nobody from the treasury benches even referred to Mahatma Gandhi. Just because he held Bhagvad Gita, Quran and Bible close to his chest, he was assassinated. You are replacing Mahatma Gandhi with V D Savarkar and that is why the new parliament had to be inaugurated on the birth anniversary of Savarkar instead of Mahatma Gandhi. If you had some respect, you would not have done that. The main business of this government is to appropriate people. Sardar Patel, they think, Sardar Patel is theirs. Wasn’t it Sardar Patel, who banned RSS after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi? What did he say? “The banning was to root out the force of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the nation and darken her fair name.” Another person who is being appropriated is Vivekananda. Didn’t he say that sectarianism, bigotry and its horrible descendent fanaticism have long possessed this beautiful earth? They have filled the earth with violence. Every institution in this country is being demolished, from parliament to the Election Commission. What is the Election Commission now? Now they have weakened the status of the election commissioner from Supreme Court judge status to cabinet secretary. The constitution says that India, that is, Bharat, shall be a union of states. Federalism! Kerala contributes one rupee and gets back twenty-five paise. That is the status of federalism in this country. Structure does not matter, new parliament or old parliament. The process matters, the content matters. Can we enrich the parliamentary proceedings? Can we enrich the democratic process in this country? You can build mansions, structures, but that will not strengthen democracy in this country. Let us all resolve to enrich the democracy of this great nation.

In the Rajya Sabha, V Sivadasan participated in the discussion on the success of Chandrayaan-3. He said, we are all very happy and proud of the achievements of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the scientific community. Chandrayaan-3 is the result of collective effort of many public and private entities. Six public sector companies from Kerala, including Keltron, Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML) and Steel and Forgings Industries Limited (SIFL), have contributed in this effort. This is a proud moment for all of us. This is the victory of scientific temper and spirit of the nation. Science is a product of critical thinking. We can progress in science only if we have the courage to ask and answer questions. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, “A university stands for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for adventure of ideas and for the search of truth.” In 1963, Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme, established India's first rocket launching station at Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram. He taught us the importance of cultivating the new generation with scientific temper. Our respected leader of the house did not mention his name. This achievement is the result of our long-standing commitment towards science, but I am sorry to say that this government is not ready to promote scientific temper. Science provides universal view and promotes solidarity among human beings. In India, the existing situation is very difficult. If the budgetary allocation for science education and space research is curtailed, how will development take place in the future? In the textbooks of NCERT, “Theory of Evolution” has been deleted. Why are they not interested in the promotion of science? Aryabhatta, Galileo, Bruno, Copernicus, Darwin, C V Raman and Dr S Chandrasekhar, all have contributed to the development of science. I remember one of the social reformers in Kerala, Sahodaran Ayyappan, who wrote a prayer “Science Dasakam”. Please see the figures of basic science fellowship in India. The number of fellowships has come down from 4,134 in 2016 to 703 in 2021 and the expenditure has come down from Rs 105 crore to Rs 15 crore in the same period. A lot of women scientists are working for the missions. You are talking about 'Nari Shakti'. But, post-doctoral fellowships for women have come down from 642 to 434 in this period and the expenditure has come down from Rs 32 crore to Rs 19 crore. Now, let us see the budgetary allocation to ISRO and space research. In 2019, it was Rs 13,139 crore but in 2021, it has come down to Rs 12,642 crore. In space research also, the amount has come down from Rs 13,700 crore to Rs 12,543 crore in 2023-24. Embracing scientists is easy, tweeting is very easy but giving money is difficult for this government. In 2023-24, the government has allocated Rs 60,361 crore for the Union Ministry of Science & Technology. In Korea, they are spending 4.8 per cent of GDP on science and technology. In the US, this amount is 3.45 per cent of GDP; in China, it is 2.4 per cent; and in India, only 0.7 per cent of the GDP is spent on science and technology. I have received an answer in this House regarding the total number of space missions. I have been told that during 2018-19, 14 space missions were launched and all the 14 missions were successful. But in 2019-20, the number came down to 11. That means, 11 were launched and 11 were successful. But in 2020-21, this number came down to five, and five were successful. But in 2021-22, only five missions were launched and three were successful. It is not due to lack of hard work from our scientists. I believe that it is due to lack of government funding. They are spending more on building statues than on science education.