Monday, August 26, 2013
THE WEEK IN INDIAN PARLIAMENT
THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT
CPI(M) Parliamentary Office
THE second week of parliament session again started with an uproar in both the houses on various issues. On August 12 the Left MPs staged a dharna at the main entrance of Parliament House against the solar scam in Kerala and gave notices for suspension of question hour so as to discuss the matter in both the houses.
Speaking on communal violence in Kishtwar (Jammu and Kashmir) in Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) group leader Sitaram Yechury expressed anguish at what was happening in Kishtwar and said that it was not merely a localised law and order problem but a much larger question affecting the unity, integrity and sovereignty of our country. In spite of intelligence inputs, laxity was shown. There was no timely intervention and the situation was allowed to deteriorate. Innocent lives have been lost. All those who are found guilty have to be brought to book. Proper relief, rehabilitation and compensation have to be given to the victims. While the truth has to come out, what is really disconcerting is that such tensions are coming up when our country is moving towards a general election. Yechury’s appeal was that we must not do anything to provide grist to the mill of separatists who are getting active, according to the statement made by the defence minister. A serious point about our sovereignty is that the number of infiltrations as well as ceasefire violations has increased. The main point is that the centre has to do something to restore normalcy in the state.
In Rajya Sabha, Yechury also spoke on the issue of Telangana. He said with a sense of pain that he personally suffered because of the demand for a separate Telangana way back in 1969, when he lost two years of his academic life as a result of disruption at that point of time. Now, 44 years later, similar things are taking place. The Congress party, right from the time of linguistic reorganisation of states, always prevaricated as to whether Telangana should be a separate state or not. After 300 people died in a police firing in the sixties, this party finally came to the conclusion that the state must not be divided. It said the issues of development of backward regions would be addressed through a constitutional amendment. After 1969, a huge Jai Andhra agitation took place in other parts of Andhra when many lives were lost. Then, in 1973, the then prime minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, initiated a discussion and article 371D was added to the constitution for a solution to the problems of backwardness so that demands for separate states do not arise again.
But the problem still remained unsolved and now we have reached a stage where the separation of Telangana has been announced. There has been complete mishandling of the situation, both by the central and state governments, for 40 years when the Congress party was in power most of the time. Why did they not implement the provisions they had brought in? If they had, this situation would not have arisen. He proudly said he belongs to a party which is the only political party in Andhra Pradesh openly saying: ‘Do not divide the state.’ We are saying this on the basis of a principle for which we fought big struggles in the past.
We became independent in 1947 and states were reorganised nearly a decade later, in 1956. The first article of the constitution says: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” The question is: What are these states? This was the centre of the whole discussion. Our then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, initially toyed with the idea of ‘ABCD’ states. He said in parliament that states must be divided according to administrative efficiency. Then he was reminded that in 1928, his father, Shri Motilal Nehru, had chaired a committee which gave a report saying that the Congress party’s organisation would be on linguistic basis. He also said this would be the basis of a modern republic when India became independent.
PANDORA’S BOX OPENED
Yechury recalled the struggles fought for linguistic reorganisation of states --- for a Telugu speaking state, for Samyukta Maharashtra and Aikya Kerala. The idea was a key part of our freedom struggle. Very ironically, it was the Telugu-speaking people who fired the first salvo in the country, saying that language should be the basis for formation of states. After the martyrdom of Potti Sreeramulu in an indefinite hunger strike, the issue became one of national importance. But, just as we had warned, now the government has opened a Pandora’s Box. It was on December 9, 2009 when the then home minister, now the finance minister, made a statement for a separate Telangana in 2013. The government’s intention then became clear. But if they were to implement it by 2013, what homework they have done? The incumbent minister said, “Many matters are under consideration of the government;” that “The ministry of home affairs will bring a comprehensive note.” This note was supposed to be about sharing of river waters, generation and distribution of power, safety, security, guarantee of fundamental rights of citizens etc. But when will they bring it? Till now, there is no note, comprehensive or not.
What is the reality? None of the two UPA governments would have been possible but for the large number of seats the Congress got from Andhra Pradesh --- 37 and 33. But now that they fear a near-total wipe-out in Andhra Pradesh, they have taken such a decision in order to minimise the losses, though this is playing havoc with the people of our country and of the state. The political opportunism of the Congress party is quite evident.
As for the contentious issues to be resolved, these cannot be resolved in a haphazard manner like the government is planning to do. What needs to be done is to have proper consultations. If the union cabinet has come to some conclusions, place them before an all-party committee or bring them to parliament. And do it as promptly as possible. The government is in a hurry lest the code of conduct comes in way of announcing the formation of Telangana. But in its hurry, the government is messing up things --- much more than what they already are. It is better to hold consultations and bring everybody on board; this is the only way the problem can be properly addressed.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha on the economic situation in the country, P Rajeeve said the government is out to open the doors for foreign investment on the plea that it would create employment and lead to growth. But where is the market? They are focussing on exports, but the international crisis is still continuing. Global trade is declining. One can see where these policies have landed us after two decades. The main problem is of the domestic market; the purchasing power of most of our people is very low. Some 79 per cent people are living on Rs 20 a day. Job losses are one of the significant features of our economy today. Real wages are declining. The agrarian sector has crashed. While the government has opened up the economy for foreign investments, it says it has no money for public investment. This government stands for private interests. It is not even trying to utilise the surplus reserves of PSUs for investment in productive sectors and for creating more jobs in our country.
In the course of his presentation, Rajeeve also raised the issue of the pricing of natural gas, saying the government has increased it to benefit the Reliance group when there is a crisis in our country.
In Lok Sabha, a statutory resolution was taken up for withdrawal of the national food security ordinance and to bring in the food security bill. Basudeb Acharia, CPI(M) group leader, gave the notice for it. Prof K V Thomas, minister of state for food, consumer affairs and public distribution, tried to speak on the motion but could not conclude due to repeated disruption.
While supporting the National Highways Authority of India (Amendment) Bill 2012 in Rajya Sabha, Prasanta Chatterjee said the bill was important for the progress of the country’s economy and for improving the functioning of NHAI. Its functioning today is not up to the mark and contractor raj is going on in many places. The government has failed to frame relevant rules and regulations. It is necessary that the powers and duties of the members and chairman of the authority are defined categorically. Chatterjee also said while roads are in a pathetic condition, there are reports of corruption in BOT projects whose estimates have been inflated unrealistically. Toll plazas do not have the requisite staff strength. Later the bill was passed with amendments.
In the same house, K N Balagopal supported the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2011. He said these amendments would help the Indians living abroad who were earlier not being allowed to attend the funerals or marriages of their relatives living in India. This bill proposes a very important thing – that if somebody is staying outside India, he can come to India as a cardholder. But the questions of dual citizenship and voting right of the NRIs have to be discussed very seriously. Some amendment is required for it too.
In the same house, C P Narayanan supported the Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Bill 2012. He said the Supreme Court came into the picture when there were complaints from couples going outside the country --- that they are not registered and so face a lot of problems. We have to give enough publicity and enough time for the couples who got married in the past to get registered. In other countries, it is the local bodies’ officials who register the births, deaths and marriages. The question is: can we have it in our country also? The member expressed hope that the bill would provide some protection for women who have been suffering from unequal gender relations.