Thursday, December 31, 2009


While the recent incident in which Naxals in Jharkhand beheaded a police inspector, Francis Induwar, has triggered a nationwide outrage, brutality is the order of the day in Lalgarh where Maoists have ruthlessly killed their rivals over the past few months. A school teacher was recently shot dead in front of children and in another incident, the body of a person killed by Maoists was put for public display for six days.

Death of a teacherOn September 14, Maoists entered Jamda High School around 11.15 am. Classes were on and Kartyk Mahato (38), a para-teacher, was standing near the school building. Outside, mid-day meal was being cooked. Kartyk was the only teacher present at that time. As five Maoists opened fire at him, an injured Kartyk limped his way inside the classroom and hid behind the benches. Soon, Maoists followed him into the classroom, asking the screaming children to vacate the school. Kartyk was then dragged outside and shot a number of times in full view of the schoolchildren. His fault: he was a CPM supporter.

“I saw Sir hiding under the benches with blood oozing out of his leg. They asked us to leave the school and we ran out. Then I heard the gunshots,” said a shaken Chandra Mahato, a class IV student.

Killings at marketSeptember 12: In Guripal village, Maoist squads shot dead two villagers in broad daylight in the local market when they were having tea in a stall. Sambhu was the CPM branch committee secretary of Buripal in Salboni. The armed Maoist squads came on motorbikes in the village market and shot the duo from close range at around 10 am. They roamed in the market for over half an hour as the bodies lay in a pool of blood, warning everybody to follow their diktat.

Kangaroo justice On July 10, around 50 armed CPI (Maoist) cadres, including seven women, held a kangaroo court in the Sirsha village, 25 km from Lalgarh, to “try” twelve villagers, most of them CPM supporters. Two of them — local CPM leader Gurucharan Mahato and Baren Mahato, a CPM supporter and ration dealer — were sentenced to death. The rest were beaten up and forced to quit the party. Gurucharan and Baren were shot dead in public. “They dragged my father out of home and then killed him. Later, I could not even cremate him in my native village. Instead, we performed his last rites in Midnapore town,” said Gurucharan’s son Himansu.

Gore in murderOn July 11, mutilated bodies of Tarini Deb Singha and Swapan Deb Singha were found near a ditch in Madhupur near Lalgarh. Tarini was shot in the eye and had multiple stab injuries. His hand and legs were tied. Swapan Deb’s throat, veins in arms and legs were slit. He was also shot from a 9 mm pistol in the head. According to police, both were CPM supporters and residents of Madhupur. Armed Maoist squads raided their homes at night and called them out. They were beaten up and dragged to the local ditch and murdered. Interestingly, Maoist squads did not allow the body to be brought back to their native village after it was taken away for postmortem by police. The last rites of the bodies were performed in Midnapore town.

Body on displayThe body of CPM member Saflu Soren (65) lay near his party office for six days after he was murdered by Maoists on June 12 after being dragged out of his home in Dharampur. His body was kept near the branch committee office in Dharampur on a van rickshaw and Maoists did not allow anyone from the village to cremate it. The decomposed body was later recovered by the police.


The Communist Party of India (Maoist) had engineered the violence and subsequent exit of the Tata Nano plant from Singur, West Bengal, less than two years ago. Now, the banned outfit has openly claimed credit for what it calls a success of the “revolutionary people’s agitation”.

The Maoists have made this claim in pamphlets issued by the CPI (Maoists), Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, Maharashtra division, on December 14. Hindustan Times has a copy of the literature, printed in Hindi and distributed in Gadchiroli district.

The two-page pamphlet, which is like a mass appeal, puts the success at Singur in the same bracket as agitations in Nandigram and Lalgarh in West Bengal and other parts of the country like Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. “These were the places where the exploited masses put up valiant protests,” the pamphlet said. It said that these agitations had sent industrial groups, wishing to set up plants in these areas, packing and prevented mass forcible evictions.

This self-congratulatory communication has strengthened allegations that Union Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamta Banerjee had planned the violent agitations in Singur in August 2008 with help from the Maoists. The Trinamool Congress has, so far, denied this.

The literature ridicules Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that Naxalism is the greatest threat to the country’s internal security. It also lists several ‘developmental’ plans undertaken by Maoists in the areas under their control and highlights the failure of the government machinery in these areas.

The timing of this communication has led security analysts to believe that it could be an emotional appeal by the Maoists’ Central Committee to keep its flock of sympathisers intact before the launch of Operation Green Hunt against the insurgents. The Maoists, analysts suspect, have probably begun preparing for retaliation. “This propaganda could well be a part of that,” said an analyst who has been watching the Naxalite movement closely.

The Maoists have also appealed to policemen, paramilitary forces and the Army to refuse postings in areas under Maoist control and defy commands for operation against Naxalites.


2009-12-31 13:30:00: Maoists gunned down two Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) supporters in West Bengal's West Midnapore district, police said Thursday.

Ananda Singh and Konaram Singh were abducted from their home in Shimulpal village and dragged for over a kilometer by a group of heavily armed rebels Wednesday night.

'Their bodies were found this morning with gunshot injuries,' said an officer at the police control room here. Police sources said the dead men were members of an anti-Maoist resistance forum.


BOTH the houses of parliament faced disruptions on December 16 on the price rise issue, with the Left and other parties pressing the government to take immediate steps to control the soaring prices of all essential commodities. Their demand for immediate discussion on this issue was turned down, with the chairs ruling that the issue had already been discussed. In Lok Sabha, the Left walked out in protest.

This issue and the contentious Telangana issue led to uproarious scene in the house, leading to an adjournment for the day. In the melee, the house passed three bills. One of these was the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Bill. The National Rural Employment Guarantee (Amendment) Bill was to name the scheme after Mahatma Gandhi and make it mandatory for the states to pay Rs 100 minimum wage to a person under it. The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill sought to amend the 1972 legislation’s definition of an employee so as to cover the teachers in private institutions with effect from 1997.

In Rajya Sabha, the opposition led by CPI(M) forced a brief adjournment on price rise. Before raising this issue in the houses, the opposition barring the NDA members sat on a dharna in the Parliament House portico with posters to demand control on prices and universalisation of the public distribution system.


Parliament has adopted the Essential Commodities (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2009 with its passage in Rajya Sabha. From the CPI(M), Saidul Haque participated in the debate in Lok Sabha and Matilal Sarkar in Rajya Sabha. They said the bill was nothing but a step towards eventually decontrolling the sugar sector. It sought to replace the statutory minimum price (SMP) of sugarcane with a new category called Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP). It stated that if the state advised price (SAP) exceeded the FRP, the difference would be borne by the state, not by millowners. This meant a change in sugar policy but the parliament, state governments and farmers’ organisations were not consulted. It is due to the government’s policy that cane farmers are switching over to other crops. Now the centre has proposed a “fair and remunerative price” of Rs 129.84 per quintal of cane. It is nothing but mockery. In the south, mills are already paying more than Rs 200 per quintal.

The CPI(M) members also recalled the recommendation made by the National Commission on Farmers, headed by Dr Swaminathan. It said the support price of any crop should be fixed at C2 plus 50 per cent, i.e. double the production cost plus 50 per cent of the cost as margin. If we take this recommendation into account, the support price of cane per quintal should not be less than Rs 250.

The members also raised other vital issues like non-payment of arrears by mills to the growers, closure of some mills, farmers withdrawing from cane cultivation in recent years, fall in sugar production in India, etc. Saying that the second largest producer of sugar in the world is now to import sugar at higher prices, the CPI(M) members demanded retention of the old system of SMP and SAP, Rs 250 per quintal for support price, and stringent application of the Essential Commodities Act to stop hoarding and black-marketing.


Rajya Sabha held a short duration discussion on continuing rise in the prices of essential commodities, with Prasanta Chatterjee and Shyamal Chakraborty participating from the CPI(M) side. Chatterjee rejected the prime minister’s argument that the current inflation was due to external factors. He said according to IMF, the global inflation, which peaked at 6.27 per cent in July 2008, had come down to around 1.3 per cent by August 2009, with the inflation rate in emerging economics falling from 9 to 4.3 per cent in this period. However, in India the consumer inflation rate has increased. So the global phenomenon argument put forth by the government is a bogus argument. The factors are domestic.

The speakers said neo-liberal policies have caused an agrarian crisis and are eroding self-sufficiency. The main reasons behind high inflation, especially the rising food prices, are a weakening of the PDS, increase in fuel prices and forward trading, while unabated hoarding and speculation have added fuel to the fire. Big corporates have been allowed to enter the food market. There has been an increasing reliance on imports, often at exorbitant prices, erosion of self-reliance in food production and failure to control rise in prices.

The rise in prices has become a regular phenomenon, like flood and drought, Shyamal Chakraborty said. The anti-hoarding laws have been diluted, preventing the state governments from arresting and punishing the hoarders and black-marketers. Support prices are being so fixed that they are unable to compensate the production costs, but hoarders are paying more than the support price for an agricultural product. Talking of the administered hikes in water and water rates, fertiliser prices etc, he said these are having a cascading effect on the overall price situation.

On the other hand, the people of our country are reeling under abject poverty and 77 per cent earn below Rs 20 per day. Hence the demand for universalisation of PDS. If the government covers all essential commodities under the PDS at subsidised rates, prices in the open market can be compelled to go down, he concluded.


Rajya Sabha held a discussion on a calling attention motion on relief to the victims of 1984 riots and the measures taken to punish the guilty. On this occasion, Brinda Karat of the CPI(M) recalled the situation then prevailing in high security Teen Murti area. A leader of the CPI(M), late Comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet, then received a message from a security officer to leave his Teen Murti Lane house immediately. So we can well imagine what could have happened to the Sikhs in the non-security areas. Still, after 25 years, there is a widows camp in Tilok Bihar. The children of these widows see the killers of their parents freely roaming. Is this the price they have got for the sacrifices their predecessors made during the freedom struggle to free our country from the British? After the killing of about 7000 Sikhs in 1984, more than 3000 in Delhi itself, we witnessed the massacre of Muslims in Mumbai, Gujarat and other places. All this has clearly exposed the failure of our governments.

As for the demand of justice, Brinda Karat said, it is a cry in the wilderness. How many of the culprits were punished in these 25 years? Of the 72 police officers identified for connivance in the killing spree, 42 were in for immediate dismissal. But none was dismissed; some were rather promoted. Some of these were exonerated due to lack of evidence. And now the powers that be are talking about closure of the 1984 cases without any punishment to the killers!

In this connection, the member referred to what the then chief minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, firmly told a large Sikh gathering in a Gurdwara in Kolkata: “We are here, Left Front is here. If anybody dares to touch our Sikh brothers, we will shoot him. Nothing will happen here,” he assured.

On the compensation issue, she said it is no alms; it is a right. The victims of 1984 were mostly poor workers, middle class and petty businessmen. But they got only Rs seven lakh each in Delhi, as against Rs 32.5 lakh each outside Delhi. Giving a list of the victim families, she said many of them are facing acute debt burdens. Who will wipe their tears, she asked. Demanding a house to house survey on the condition of victim families, she insisted on proper compensation and punishment to the perpetrators of violence irrespective of their status.

On another occasion, Brinda Karat raised the issue of revelations about the terrorist David Hedley’s antecedents and status of FBI’s cooperation with Indian intelligence agencies. She said some reports revealed that Headley, whose real name is Daood Saleem Gilani, was arrested in New York in 1997 for importing heroin into the US but was released later as he began to cooperate. Thus he became an agent for US Drug Enforcement Administration since 1999. Later he started working for the Lashkar and visited India in April 2009. Why were Indian intelligence agencies unaware of Headley’s visit? Why were Indian investigators being denied access to Headley? Did our prime minister raise the issue when he met the US president in Washington? The government must clarify these issues, she demanded.


Lok Sabha has passed the Supplementary Demands for Grants (General) 2009-10. Rising to speak on the subject, Banshagopal Chowdhury, CPI(M), highlighted the point that actually the job loss due to recession is much more than what the government admits. The economy is badly suffering due to wage cuts and job losses in export oriented industries. The stimulus packages released from the exchequer have helped the entrepreneurs only, he added.

In course of his intervention, Chowdhury talked of the gradually weakening role of the state to facilitate the interest of big corporates, inflation and price rise, and a host of other issues. He said in India taxes and duties accounted for nearly 50 and 25 per cent of the rise in petrol and diesel prices respectively. Whether the finance minister is prepared to lighten the burden of these taxes and duties to benefit the general public, he asked. The so-called resources mobilisation from PSU disinvestment and privatisation is but a largesse to the capitalists. Resources, he said, need to be generated through more direct tax collection from the rich and collections from defaulters.

During the Rajya Sabha discussion on the Appropriation (No 4) Bill 2009, Mohd Amin of the CPI(M) objected to the finance and taxation policies of the government. He said the government talks of the common man but serves the capitalists. While giving the latter billions of rupees in tax bonanzas, it says it has no money for the people. This hoax is inbuilt in capitalism. He recalled how the big leaders of the Congress once promised to distributes land among the peasantry, adding that now they do not even talk of land reforms. If only they had implemented radical land reforms, much of the present economic crisis would have been mitigated. Peasants could have money and their purchasing power could increase, giving boost to factories, increasing employment and thus leading the nation to prosperity. In the absence of land reforms, now the factories are being closed.

During his intervention, Mohd Amin also raised issues like rising prices, mess in the PDS, growing misery, peasant suicides, and several other issues.

In the same house, Tapan Kumar Sen, CPI(M), raised the issue of countrywide protest and demonstrations by central trade unions against price rise and the government’s inaction on this issue. Talking of the stimulus packages for the corporates and ongoing retrenchments of workers in the name of recession, he said it is deplorable that the government gave Rs 4,20,000 crore concession to the corporates in the name of tax relief, while it is refusing to spend only 70,000 crore per annum to contain the price rise. The rulers are also refusing to slam a ban on speculation in commodities, which is responsible for this backbreaking price rise. If the government does not act, people will be compelled to go in for further action, he warned. He urged the government to effect complete reversal of the policy direction in order to contain price rise, ban speculation in commodities, universalise the PDS and ensure total implementation of labour laws.

Rajya Sabha has passed the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2009. From the CPI(M) side, P Rajeeve and Moinul Hassan said the bill would transfer cases from the MRTP Commission to the Competition Appellate Tribunal that will actually have the appellate jurisdiction only. In the MRTP Act, there was no fee for filing an application, which enabled several organisations and individuals to approach the commission for remedy. But, with the lowest fee of Rs 50,000, the new act curtails such rights of consumers and petitioners. The Competition Act 2007 had removed the provision for setting up regional benches also. There are no provisions to appoint part time members for speedy disposal of cases. Now the government is opening up all sectors for private monopolies; small retailers are being thrown out. But the commission is silent. In Europe and other parts of the world, besides hefty fines, jail sentences were awarded to the companies which are found violating the competition norms. But in our country, fine is the maximum punishment in the latest bill. It is time we control the monopolies and ensure fair competition. The members also demanded measures for speedy disposal of the pending cases and a new act to protect the country’s interest.

On the National Rural Employment Guarantee (Amendment) Bill 2009, Brinda Karat reminded the Rajya Sabha that the earlier UPA government had passed the law with support from the Left. It was for the people’s right to life. On the finance minister’s assurance that wages would be increased to Rs 100 and real wages given, she said there are 20 states where the wages are at present less than Rs 100. Now that the government has decided to raise the wages, it should not be reduced wherever it is already above Rs 100. On the schedule of rates, she said no independent measurement is being conducted of women’s work that must be paid at a separate time rate. We must also reduce their workload. There must be no compromise on the schedule of rates and the wages under NREGA, she emphasised, also demanding that the conditions like only one member from a family or of 100 days work must be abolished. Works of regular cultivation must not be brought under the NREGA. The scheme relating to re-plantation on the plots of small and marginal farmers must be included.

Lok Sabha adjourned sine die on December 18, three days before the schedule. This unusual winding up of the winter session was due to the pressure from a UPA partner. TMC members vociferously interrupted the discussion initiated by Basudeb Acharia on the Maoist attacks, and the house was abruptly declared closed. Before that, some bills --- viz the Commercial Division of High Courts Bill, Civil Defence (Amendment) Bill, Salaries and Allowances of Ministers (Amendment) Bill, Trade Marks (Amendment) Bill and Legal Metrology Bill --- were passed by voice vote in the melee.


THE third week of the winter session was an eventful week, with the BJP, the irresponsible opposition party, trying to drown the debate on the Liberhan report in a din of noises. When the home minister, P Chidambaram, was replying to the debate in Lok Sabha on Liberhan report on Babri Masjid demolition, BJP members shouted slogans for about 75 minutes. During the debate, other members charged the BJP with breaking every single promise made to the Supreme Court, the central government and the National Integration Council on protection of the structure.

Both the houses had had a discussion on this subject. From the CPI(M) side, Sitaram Yechury and Moinul Hassan spoke in Rajya Sabha and Basudeb Acharia and P Karunakaran in Lok Sabha.


Yechury said the Liberhan commission, detailing the circumstances that led to demolition of the Babri Masjid, has come to conclusion that the demolition was carried out with great preparation and not in any outburst of emotions. The central issue is how this mosque was demolished and who is responsible for this. Though the commission took 17 long years to prepare its report, it confirms that the demolition was not an act of spontaneity. Stating that many commissions’ recommendations remain implemented, Yechury said the moot question is whether we want justice to be done. He also termed the government’s Action Taken Report (ATR) as completely unsatisfactory, adding that its implication is that nothing can be done till a court decides the issue. He therefore asked the government to club all the cases together, move the Supreme Court and ask it to give an early verdict on it.

Yechury pointed out that in fact the Sangh Parivar’s attempt has been to demolish secularism, one of the pillars of modern India. Judging from the entire sequence of events, it was not simply that a mosque was demolished and over 3,000 people died. Rather the very concept of modern India was challenged. This challenge cannot go unmet and justice has to be done.

The CPI(M) leader pointed out that three distinct visions emerged in the 1920s --- one of the RSS, another of the Communist Party and a third of the Congress --- about what an independent India should be like. The Left wanted not merely the establishment of a secular democratic India but the transformation of political independence into economic independence for the people, without which we cannot sustained our secular democratic fabric either. On the other hand, while the Muslim League talked of a separate Islamic nation, the RSS talked of a Hindu Rashtra. Now we have to politically isolate these forces that seek to destroy the country’s plurality. India can be strengthened only if we strengthen the bonds of commonality amid our diversity, not by imposing any kind of uniformity. Yechury said during this discussion on the Liberhan report, we must make a resolve to deliver justice.

Yechury also asked: If the Congress’s vision was one of a secular democratic India, why was such a heinous crime committed in its regime? It is not the question of one person’s betrayal; there was a whole system at work. The question is of the collective responsibility of the cabinet. The important point is that we saw a very virulent communal campaign in the years preceding the demolition. There were 79 communal incidents in 1989 alone, the year of Sila Pujan; 505 people died and 768 were injured. Then, during Mr Advani’s rathyatra in 1990, 312 communal incidents took place; 483 were killed, more than 2000 injured; 210 mosques damaged or desecrated in that period. This very build-up ultimately led to the Babri demolition. Yechury therefore asked the government to have a re-look at its ATR and strengthen it; otherwise the credibility of the system would go down further and that is very dangerous for the future of India. It must also expedite the action against 18 persons the commission has named.

Moinul Hassan wondered where the central government, the UP government, the prime minister and the chief minister were on the fateful day when the Masjid was demolished. It was nothing but calculated vandalism by communal and fundamentalist forces, challenging the secular fabric of our country. He accused the then central government and its sleeping prime minister of having compromised with the communal forces, warning that any permission to mixing politics with religion would be dangerous for the country.

In Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia rejected the argument of spontaneity, saying we have seen how the RSS spread the communal venom after 1986. While Mr Advani’s rathyatra flared up the basest of passions, the Congress compromised with communal forces; it even joined hands with the BJP to pull down the V P Singh government. Earlier the Congress government appeased the Hindu fundamentalists by opening the locks of the Masjid in 1986 and appeased the Muslim fundamentalists by amending the divorce law following the Shah Bano case. This was the Congress brand of secularism. While the states then ruled by the BJP assisted the karsevaks, the then prime minister, Narashmha Rao woke up only after the Masjid was demolished. Acharia said thousands of Muslims were killed in the subsequent riots, and the responsibility thereof must be fixed.

P Karunakaran said we cannot tolerate either majority or minority communalism as both are dangerous to the nation. Against them, the government in power needs to act in time. However, late V P Singh lost his government just because he stood for the secular values while the Congress compromised with communal forces for narrow political ends. We cannot forget these facts while analysing recent history. The nation needs communal harmony to face its myriad of problems while communalism diverts attention from real problems. Fundamentalist, communal forces always oppose the progressive values and do not want the nation to develop, Acharia said.

During the debate, BJP members tried hard to prove the commission’s report was a bogus one with lots of ambiguity. An overwhelming majority in both houses rejected their plea.


In Rajya Sabha, the opposition slammed the minister for environment for his statements on the issue of climate change. From the CPI(M), Sitaram Yechury said the minister had assured the parliament and the country that there were two red lines not to be crossed. One, no binding emission cuts will be acceptable to India. Second, there will be no deadline of peaking of our emission. But what the minister told the media contradicted whatever was stated earlier. Yechury said we do not know what the government was talking about when it announced 20 to 25 per cent voluntary reduction, presumably in carbon intensity. Today, crores of our countrymen do not have electricity, 70 crores survive on bio-fuels. So the announced quantum of reduction can be effected only at the expense of two-thirds of India. This will also widen the gap between the rich and the poor in the country. He asked the minister to assure that per capita emission standards would not be diluted, historical responsibility of the advanced countries would be taken into account, and the change in the cut-off date from 1990 to 2005 would not be accepted. He insisted that our cuts must be conditional upon a mandatory cut in emissions by the developed countries and that technology transfer must be beyond the purview of intellectual property rights.

On this issue, led by Yechury, the entire opposition walked out in protest.

From the CPI(M), M B Rajesh and Saidul Haque participated in the short duration discussion on the issue in Lok Sabha. They said climate change is today the single largest threat to the existence of humanity. The Inter-Government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has pointed out greenhouse gas emissions are approaching the levels beyond which devastating climate changes could occur. According to IPCC, the level of carbon dioxide has increased tremendously, and it would have the worst effects on the poor, especially in developing countries. According to an international study, 375 million people the world over are going to be affected by global warming, and India is likely to be among the worst affected countries, with erratic and non-seasonal rainfall, melting Himalayan glaciers, floods and droughts, changes in cropping patterns resulting in a sharp drop in food production. Rises in sea levels due to polar ice melting would inundate the coastal areas, threatening the life and livelihood of 27 million families. Himalayan glaciers are shrinking at a rate of 10 to 15 metres per year. This will affect water supply in India; the Ganga may lose two-thirds of its flow. The country would also experience a decline in summer rainfall which is crucial to Indian agriculture. Climate change will also endanger a significant number of plant and animal species, and threaten human health.

The CPI(M) members asked who is responsible for this kind of situation. Undoubtedly, it is the developed countries. India’s per capita emission is only 1.1 tonnes as against 20.1 tonnes of the United States. Dealing with policy issues, Rajesh said there is much talk about flexibility. First, developed countries must begin to drastically cut their emissions. There cannot be any flexibility on this question. We cannot allow the developed countries to erase the distinction between the developing and developed countries in this regard. This distinction is fundamental. The UN Framework has underlined the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, saying that developing countries are not responsible for global warming and cannot be treated identically with the developed countries in this regard. Referring to the minister’s enthusiastic announcement of unilateral action, the members said this would not help us escape the impact of climate change. It is tantamount to gifting away our carbon space, they said. While the US and other industrialised countries seek to undermine the UN framework about internationally agreed targets of limiting gas emissions by industrialised countries and assistance to the developing countries through funds and technology transfer, the CPI(M) members castigated the minister for making all sorts of statements without taking the parliament into confidence.


Moving a calling attention motion in Rajya Sabha on the present status of WTO negotiations, Moinul Hassan said the seventh WTO ministerial meeting in Geneva, November 30 to December 3, was held in the backdrop of a global crisis which led to a fall in global trade, in. According to the WTO estimates, global trade saw at least nine per cent decline in 2009. Our country is not out of the ambit of the crisis and every citizen is entitled to know how we would protect our interests in different areas, particularly agriculture and employment intensive small-scale industries. What is worrying is that various negotiating groups in WTO are carrying out negotiations in a non-transparent manner. The member asked the minister to clarify whether the interest of Indian farmers, especially small peasants engaged in largely rain-fed agriculture, is protected. Due to the recession, our employment intensive industries like textile, leather goods, gems and jewelleries have already faced a devastating effect. What have been done to protect our indigenous industry when developed countries are trying to open new markets for their products? What is the situation after the mini-ministerial talks so far? After the meeting, the US called on developing countries to make “meaningful market opening,” but Brazil said it was “unreasonable.” What is India’s line of action at the WTO, he asked, expressing concern among other things over the threat of loss of farmers’ control over seed, and the consequent threat to our food security and biodiversity.

In Rajya Sabha, Saman Pathak raised the issue of land scam by the army and expressed apprehension that a case similar to that of Sukuna cantonment in Darjeeling may happen in the area around Siliguri city. He said the army had acquired a large area in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri after 1962 and has developed army cantonment by denuding the entire forest area. Instead of returning this vast vacant land to the landowners, it has now gone to the businessmen, promoters and brokers. The army is also trying to evict the settlers who have been around the cantonment area for long. He demanded institution of a high level inquiry committee in view of the seriousness of the matter.



THE first day of the second week of winter session saw opposition parties in both houses protesting against the decision to send a central team to assess the law and order situation in West Bengal. Led by the CPI (M)’s Sitaram Yechury, the opposition in Rajya Sabha vehemently protested against this move. Yechury said we have been the first victim of the misuse of article 356 in free India. It was misused twice in West Bengal and twice in Kerala. Our apprehension stems from there. Law and order is a state subject, and dispatching a central team to West Bengal is interfering in the state’s jurisdiction. He also pointed out that certain union ministers are patronising and protecting the so-called Maoists whose violence is a great menace to India’s internal security. He wanted the government to assure that this team would not visit any place without consultation with the state government.

In Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia, CPI (M), asked the home minister: Under what provision of the constitution was a central team sent to West Bengal while all the states are facing the problem of law and order? Was it done to please a minister in this government?

The home minister, P Chidambaram, defused the tension by assuring that this was not in any spirit of confrontation but in order to discuss the matter with the state government and to assist it in maintaining law and order there.


Rajya Sabha held a short duration discussion on December 2, on internal security. Rising to speak on the subject, Sitaram Yechury referred to terrorism, adding that the CPI (M) is of the unequivocal opinion that we must have zero tolerance towards it. We have to combat terrorism and fundamentalism of all hues. But while fighting this menace, we also have to tackle internal factors that give rise to terrorism. The prime minister said Maoist violence is the single largest menace to India’s internal security. But growing economic inequality is its breeding ground. If inequality widens, you lay a fertile basis for its growth, which we cannot afford. Therefore, the question that arises is of having inclusive growth and taking to the people the benefits of the development process. While the state needs to take necessary measures to tackle it, it must not push the people to this path by its repressive measures.

Yechury further said a charge has been labelled that the ‘Maoists’ and the CPI (M) are cousins and that we have woken up to ‘Maoist’ violence belatedly. The word ‘Naxalite’ came from a village called Naxalbari in Bengal, where an armed uprising took place in 1967. This involved a band of people who had left the CPI (M) and later formed the CPI(ML). Thus, from the very beginning, the CPI (M) differed from their erroneous ideological understanding of the Indian situation. We have lost thousands of our comrades due to the ‘Maoist’ attacks against us. No other party has lost more people to the Naxalite attacks, and that too not only in Bengal but across the country. But we have always combated their ideology and we will continue to do so. So to dub the CPI (M) and the Naxalites as cousins is a travesty of history and truth.

How the Maoists have come to Bengal now is an important point to note. The CPI (M) leader said they have been imported into Bengal by a constituent of the UPA and its government. That is a fact. They have raised the issue of Nandigram. But the ‘Maoist’ chief of the Nandigram zonal committee himself told them: “You said at a rally at Sonachura recently that it was the CPM who brought us to Nandigram in 2007 and provided us with safe passage to flee. You know it is a lie.” Then he went on to give the details of how some members of parliament belonging to a certain party attended meetings along with the ‘Maoists’ in that particular place and spoke together with them. Unfortunately, instead of fighting the ‘Maoist’ menace, New Delhi is underestimating the threat by having in the government a partner who is patronising and protecting them, Yechury lashed out. There were occasions when our rulers created a Frankenstein but it consumed their own leaders. The Congress party propped up Bhindranwale, and suffered the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi. Then it hobnobbed with the LTTE, and suffered the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Yechury therefore warned that the ruling combination must desist from creating Frankensteins for the sake of remaining in power.


CPI (M) members in both houses raised the issue of Bhopal gas tragedy on its twenty-fifth anniversary. In Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury conveyed the CPI (M)’s homage to those who died and sympathies for those who are suffering. What to talk of meting out punishments to those guilty of criminal negligence, the government has not paid full compensation to the victims even after 25 years.
Yechury said there are three other important issues to take note of. First, toxic wastes are still lying around the Carbide plant. They are being discharged into the solar evaporation pond and contaminating the soil and ground water in approximately five sq km area around the plant. Both the central and the state governments displayed total neglect to the needs of the affected people and environmental cleansing. The second issue is of workplace safety. The disaster exposed the criminal neglect of workplace safety on part of the management. We need to learn lessons from Bhopal disaster and strengthen workplace safety everywhere, to protect workers from fatalities, injuries and physical disablement. In the last one year, he said, 127 workers lost life in 11 workplace related accidents, but not a single person was punished for violation of the safety laws. Now the government is to bring a legislation to amend the labour laws, which will only increase the workers’ vulnerability.

Thirdly, the government is considering finalising the nuclear liability bill which seeks to cap the compensation to be paid in case of a nuclear accident. But the likely compensation cap at 450 million dollars or around Rs 2,000 crore is exceedingly low vis-à-vis the likely losses in a nuclear accident. When the compensation paid by the Union Carbide after the Bhopal disaster was distributed among the six lakh victims, it came to only 500 dollars or less than Rs 23,000 per head, Yechury reminded.

In Lok Sabha, Dr Anup Kumar Saha, CPI (M), reminded that this disaster involving the leakage of methyl isocynate (MIC), the deadliest chemical, claimed over 3,000 lives at once and an estimated 20,000 people indirectly, due to complications. But the government of India compromised with the killer US multinational by accepting a pittance of just 450 million dollars. The government has failed to bring the culprits, the Union Carbide, to book. The desperate hope of the crippled survivors for compensation and medical treatment remained unfulfilled. The victims of the world’s biggest industrial disaster have received only about one-fifth of the compensation due to them under the 1989 agreement. The Carbide factory continued to poison the nearby water sources, causing further damage to the survivors’ health. The member demanded time-bound completion of rehabilitation work, adequate compensation to the victims, stringent punishment to killer Carbide and enactment of stringent legislations to prevent such incidents in future.


In Rajya Sabha, the CPI (M)’s Tapan Sen moved a calling attention motion on the disinvestment of profit making central public sector enterprises. He said when the finance minister of today was the leader of opposition in 2001, he had said, “If the objective of the government is to bridge the resource crunch by disposing of capital assets in order to meet consumption expenditure, it would simply not be permissible under any amount of fiscal prudence.” But he has done a somersault precisely on the same ‘fiscal prudence’ issue. Why was it so, Sen asked the minister.

It was said that the social sector expenditure and capital expenditure of public sector units would be met with the disinvestment proceeds. But, Sen accused, the disinvestment process is designed to pave the way for privatisation of the country’s blue chip PSUs. Earlier, the UPA government under Left pressure had to desist from any disinvestment of Navratna PSUs. Now, with the changed situation, the UPA has gone back upon its word.

Rejecting the argument of people’s ownership of PSUs through the purchase of PSU shares, Sen said the PSUs are under the control of the parliament which is elected by people. He asked: Can there be a more effective and broader mechanism of ensuring the people’s ownership other than parliamentary control? Referring to the shareholding profile of the already disinvested public sector units, he said a very miniscule part of their shares has gone to the public. In BHEL, of 32.8 per cent shares disinvested, the public holds only 1.9 per cent. In SAIL, the pubic holding is 1.9 out of the 14.18 per cent disinvested. In BEL and GAIL, public holding is 2.4 and 1.6 per cent respectively. Most of the disinvested shares have actually gone to big corporate entities, FIIs, financial institutions, NRIs and other companies. All this was done in the name of resource crunch but yet the government forewent tax revenue to the tune of Rs 4.5 lakh crore while unpaid tax arrears came to Rs 1.98 lakh crore last year.


On the Central University (Amendment) Bill 2009, P K Biju of the CPI (M) said the government must lay down stringent measures to avoid further delay in creation of 12 central universities promised by the previous UPA government. As there will be an expansion of the professional and technical education through the private finance initiative (PFI), we need a strong regulatory framework to rein in the predatory private interests. The second thing is the private public partnership (PPP). The government needs to partner with the government controlled non-profit making autonomous bodies for the establishment of new institutions. The member said the licence given for setting up foreign universities in India would adversely affect the common man’s prospects to secure education. The government needs to desist from commercialisation of higher education and come forward to strengthen our public education sector, he said.

Lok Sabha held a short duration discussion on natural calamities in the country. Participating in the debate, P Karunakaran of the CPI (M) said we are increasingly facing the vagaries of nature, which cause huge damages to farmers. Floods and drought have become virtually permanent, leading to huge losses to production, property, human and cattle life every year. But the government is unable to contain them; rather their intensity is increasing. This situation leads to hoarding and black-marketing. Yet the centre has not evolved a permanent disaster management mechanism. It needs to take long-term measures in this regard.

As far as relief is concerned, the centre sends a team to the states for spot study. But sometimes the team may not see the actual situation prevailing there. This is one of the main reasons for delay in giving relief. While the Calamities Relief Fund is not a special fund, the main issue is of the National Calamities Relief Fund. Many items are not included in it. For example, it does not include sea erosion, from which Kerala with a long seashore suffers. In Wayanad district, some places disappeared due to landslides. But the latter are not included in NCRF. Last year, Kerala experienced a severe flood and a central team visited to assess the damage but no special fund was given. This was unfortunate. The people of Kerala strongly protested but the centre released Rs 61 crore only. The member concluded with an appeal that the government must take into account how climate change affects crops and the life of farmers.

CPI (M) members in both houses strongly protested the sudden increase in coal prices by Coal India Limited. The CPI (M)’s Shyamal Chakraborty in Rajya Sabha and Bansha Gopal Chowdhury and Saidul Haque in Lok Sabha said the CIL has raised the basic price of coal by 15 per cent --- from Rs 2,000 to 2,300 per tonne. The coal required for power generating units has been decontrolled and placed for auction. The minimum price fixed for the auction of Raniganj coal has been increased twice, thus affecting power generation in Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal severely. DVC and NTPC (Farakka) have enhanced their electricity charge by 73 and 95 paise per unit respectively. Other power generating units are also out to increase their tariffs. Thus the rise in coal prices has a cascading effect. In the midst of sharp rises in the prices of essential commodities, this sudden rise in coal prices has further worsened the people’s life. So the CPI (M) members demanded immediate withdrawal of this hike.

P Karunakaran expressed concern over the pathetic condition of Indian labour in Gulf countries due to the global economic meltdown and the crisis in Dubai in particular. He said most of these employees and workers, taken there through the recruitment agents in India, stay in shanty labour camps. There is no security for them. Unfortunately, we have no special legislation to monitor the recruitment agencies, though India gets from the Keralite workers Rs 24,000 crore annually. (Half of it goes to the state of Kerala whose economy much depends on these contributions.) Hence, the member said, we have to take some measures with regard to these workers’ wages, safety, job security, flight convenience etc.


THE first winter session of the 15th Lok Sabha began on November 19, and the houses adjourned for the day after paying tribute to their deceased members. The second day saw both the houses adjourn on farmers’ issues. On the day, thousands of cane growers thronged at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, demanded immediate withdrawal of an ordinance, and forced the government to amend it. On November 23, the government came under fire over a leakage of the Liberhan commission report on Babri Masjid demolition before it was tabled in parliament. The entire opposition demanded immediate tabling of the report, forcing repeated adjournments of both houses. The home minister, P Chidambaram, assured the houses that the report, along with an Action Taken Report (ATR), would be tabled soon. The assurance failed to placate the opposition members. Next day, there was much commotion in the houses when the report and the ATR were tabled. In Rajya Sabha, there was a fracas between the slogan shouting BJP members and Samajwadi Party members, leading to an abrupt adjournment. The house did meet again but only to adjourn for the day. In Lok Sabha, a short duration discussion on Liberhan report was fixed on December 1.

In this session, Lok Sabha is likely to pass the Rubber (Amendment) Bill 2009; the Workmen’s Compensation (Amendment) Bill 2009; the Seeds Bill 2004; the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Central Establishments) Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2005; the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill 2005; the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2006; the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Bill 2006; the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2008; the Pesticides Management Bill 2008; the Plantations Labour (Amendment) Bill 2008; the Legal Metrology Bill 2008; and the Representation of People (Second Amendment) Bill 2008. There are 62 new bills to be introduced in Lok Sabha. Among them, the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2009; the Jharkhand Contingency Fund (Amendment) Bill 2009; the Central University (Amendment) Bill 2009; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2009 will be taken for consideration.


On the government’s changed position on climate change, the CPI(M)’s Brinda Karat moved a calling attention motion in Rajya Sabha. She said, while in the United States, the prime minister was going to sign a bilateral agreement with the US president on the issue of climate change. The first question is: since we are heading towards the Copenhagen summit and since there are clearly differentiated positions regarding the summit, what was the haste for India to rush into a bilateral agreement precisely with the country with which we have the gravest of differences? This is in clear violation of the national interest. She said the CPI(M) completely disagrees with this stand that hitching our wagon to that of the imperialist US will defend our national sovereignty. Don’t do anything without taking the parliament into confidence, she warned, adding that unilateral statements and changing stances on the issue of climate change would put even a juggler to shame.

The member pointed out that on this issue of greenhouse gases, the Kyoto Protocol and subsequent agreements recognised the responsibility of the developed capitalist world. The predatory nature of capitalism eggs it on to grab the largest share of the common space; today the developed capitalist world has captured 75 per cent of that space while its share in the world population is only 20 per cent. Thus, there is very little carbon space left. This was why India had adopted the agreed position that (1) the control of emissions by the developed world has to be the basis for any further action; (2) whatever actions developing countries like India take would be linked to that. In all the negotiations so far, we rejected the pressure about the growing economies like China and India being equally responsible. The entire effort of the industrialised world is to delink the actions that are required today from the crimes they committed in the past to capture that space.

The third very important point was that the Kyoto Protocol had the concept of differentiated responsibilities, saying that the past polluters had to pay in terms of money and technology transfer. India always was in touch with the Group of 77 countries on this issue, this was the political strategy India had adopted, and this had a wide-scale consensus. But now we find that a major shift has occurred in our stance. The concerned minister’s letter to the MPs said we are committed to Kyoto. The statement here said, “The prime minister has already stated that India will never allow its per capita emission to exceed that of the developed countries.” But the minister sent a note to the prime minister which indicates a shift. It said, “We will keep per capita emissions below that of the developing countries.” If this is not a major shift in our policy, she asked, what else constitutes a shift?

Moinul Hassan, CPI(M), said the minister’s note circulated to different departments says, “India will make low carbon sustainable growth, a central element of its Twelfth Plan growth strategy. This will mean taking on commitments to reduce energy-to-GDP intensity and corresponding emission reduction outcomes for the year 2020.” What, he asked, is the basis of committing a reduction in our energy intensity of GDP? In total global emission, India’s share is less than four per cent and our position is 137th in per capita terms. So we are not responsible for global warming; it is the responsibility of those who are polluting our world by their emissions, he said.


In Lok Sabha, the CPI(M)’s Basudeb Acharia moved a calling attention motion on the shortage of fertilisers and seeds in the country. He said the statement by the minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers said the situation is quite comfortable in regard to urea, DAP, MOP and complex fertilisers and the availability of certified seeds. But the ground reality is contrary to his claim. Quoting the statewise figures of urea availability, he said there is wide variation between its requirement and availability in Chhattisgarh, Haryana, J&K, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The fact is that fertilisers are not reaching many farmers; they are being sold at double the price.

Acharia said there was increase in the production of urea, DAP and other fertilisers during the last 62 years from 3 million to 53 million metric tonnes; and still we have to import urea. Last year the total urea production in our country was 109.70 lakh tonnes and of phosphate, 34.64 lakh tonnes whereas we imported 56.66 lakh tonnes of urea, 66.1 lakh tonnes of DAP and 43.66 lakh tonnes of MOP during the same period, spending thousands of crores of rupees. In West Bengal, the public sector Durgapur fertilisers unit was closed in 2002 and the state is forced to import the entire required amount. Same is the case with Gorakhpur and Barauni public sector units which the NDA regime closed in 1998 and 2002. The Haldia unit (West Bengal), Talchar unit (Orissa) and Ramagundam unit (Andhra Pradesh) were also closed. As a result, we had to import 56.63 lakh tonnes of urea, 66.31 lakh tonnes of DAP and 43.66 lakh tonnes of MOP.

Charging the minister of evading the question of when these units would be reopened, Acharia said the first UPA government decided to reopen them in 2007 but no action has been taken. Due to huge shortage and delayed monsoon, farmers could not cultivate more than 10 lakh hectares of land. In reply to a question, the minister admitted that there would be less production of kharif crops. The total food production will come down to 200 million tonnes from 232 million tonnes last year. There is a shortage of foundation seeds everywhere. Seeds are not being made available though 25 per cent of production depends on certified quality seeds and foundation seeds. In order to increase rabi production, farmers must get subsidised seeds and fertilisers, the member said.

On November 26, Lok Sabha held a short duration discussion on the rise in prices of essential commodities. From the CPI(M) side, Basudeb Acharia said whenever the questions of price rise, food security, non-availability of food items were raised in the past, the only reply from the government was that we had abundant stock of foodgrains. Yet the government has failed to control the prices of essential commodities because of its policy of allowing futures trading and dismantling the public distribution system. People are dying of starvation. A large number of people were forced out of the PDS though they cannot afford to purchase grains from the open market. Even in PDS, based on faulty criteria, there are two different kinds of prices. The Estimate Committees has recommended for universalisation of the PDS. To provide 35 kg of grains per month to each family, the subsidy required will be Rs 1,20,000 crore, while the government is already giving Rs 50,000 crore. Though the government has the money, it has no political will to give the rest and thus save the people from hunger and malnutrition. The NDA regime diluted the Essential Commodities Act by issuing two notifications in 2002; these need be withdrawn forthwith. The act itself must be made more stringent to check hoarding and black-marketing. It would be a crime if the government remains indifferent on the issue, the member said.

In Rajya Sabha, Prasanta Chatterjee, CPI(M), raised during zero hour the issue of misuse of railways fund. He said the rail minister is treating the Indian Railways as her personal fief. She recently constituted a Culture and Heritage Committee while the government is talking of austerity measures. The creation of posts like full-time committee chairman and members with high salaries is against the Sixth Pay Commission recommendation which forbids the creation of new senior administrative posts. Violating the usual practice, the railways are renaming stations without consulting the states. On disaster management, Chatterjee said the 2008 audit observed there was no preparedness to face the disasters, relief equipments were not strategically located, the railways could not provide organised relief in many cases, and we had less than 25 per cent of the frontline staff required to respond to disasters. Instead of properly addressing such crucial issues, the railways are playing with the safety of people’s lives, he accused.



The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marist) issued the following statement on December 20, 2009.

THE Copenhagen Climate Conference has ended without meeting its goal of a legally binding agreement for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Without a treaty committing the rich and industrialised countries to deep emission cuts, the lives and well-being of hundreds of millions of people, especially in the developing world, have been put at risk. This will most adversely affect the people in South Asia, large parts of Africa, the least developed countries and the island nations that could be entirely submerged under rising sea levels. People all over the world had been hoping that the conference would chart out a clear course to save humanity and the planet from runaway global warming and climate change. This has not been happened. The political leaders who gathered in Copenhagen have failed their people by not delivering an effective and equitable climate change agreement.

Such an agreement in Copenhagen was made impossible by the positions and tactics of the US and other developed countries. From the first day to the last at Copenhagen, the US and its allies tried their utmost to kill the Kyoto Protocol itself, negate the cornerstone principle of differentiation between the industrialised and developing countries, and pressurise the developing countries to take on the major burden of reducing global emissions. Their inability to achieve these aims was due to the stiff and united resistance put up by the developing countries, a resistance which was one of the few positives in Copenhagen.

Major developing countries such as the BASIC bloc of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, as well as Mexico and Indonesia, voluntarily announced reductions in emission growth rates in the interests of humanity, going far beyond their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. However, the US, EU and other developed countries did not budge an inch from the low emission cuts they had declared before Copenhagen. A leaked draft UN report has revealed that pledges made by large developing countries will contribute more to emission reductions than the low commitments of the US and other developed nations.

The CPI(M) had warned the Indian government that unilateral concessions, before the negotiations, and without conditional linkages to deep cuts by developed countries, would not yield results. This is indeed what has happened.

A complete failure in Copenhagen has been averted with the face-saving text of a “Copenhagen Accord” with the promise of a legally binding agreement in 2010. The accord was crafted in the closing hours of the conference by the US, the BASIC countries and 22 other developed and developing countries from different continents and groupings. Though the accord has no legal status and would not bind countries, it at least provides some way of keeping future negotiations going along the current twin tracks. Without this, the failure of the conference could have meant the collapse of the climate treaty and the Kyoto framework.

However, this accord is extremely weak in terms of the deep and immediate emission cuts by developed countries that are required to tackle climate change. It is deeply ambiguous with several loopholes and the possibility of different interpretations, particularly with regard to emission cuts by developing countries, and fund and technology transfers. India should therefore ensure that in future negotiations, the red lines committed by the government in the parliament are adhered to. India must also press for deep and immediate emission cuts by the US and other developed countries and work with other developing countries to ensure sustainable development and equitable terms in any final treaty.


Following is the statement made by Jyoti Basu before the Liberhan Commission of Inquiry:

I am happy that I have been given the opportunity to appear before the Commission. I wish to make a few points on the demolition of the Babri Masjid and reply to any queries.

· There were reports that the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya may be attacked by the Kar Sevaks. The then prime minister Sri Narsimha Rao, convened the meeting of the National Integration Council on November 23, 1992. On behalf of the CPI(M), Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the general secretary, and I attended the meeting. No member of the BJP attended it. Unanimously, powers were given to Sri Narsimha Rao to take necessary measures to protect the Masjid. On our party’s behalf we proposed that even Article 356 of the Constitution may be used if there is no other way to protect it, though we have been opposing its use.

· Two days before the demolition, i.e., on December 4, 1992, I rang up the prime minister to inform him that there was apprehension that the Masjid may be attacked and hence something has to be done to protect it. The prime minister said the Working Committee of the Congress was to meet on the issue. But your lordship knows what happened.

· After the UP government was dismissed, Sri Kalyan Singh addressed a meeting in Calcutta on February 2, 1993, as recorded by the police. The Hindi speech, along with its English translation, is also with me. I shall leave these with you. I particularly draw your attention to that part of the speech in which he speaks about the demolition of the mosque: “I express before you, I did not have any repentance, nor any pangs or agony for the case, and I had a pleasure to declare it as a historic day. I can tell you, my dear friends, without the inspiration of God such a colossal job of demolition could not have been pulled off within five hours without using any explosive device. Even if we engaged a labour contractor for the same, the contractor might have taken at least one and half months time for the said purpose, including removal of huge amount of debris. You know, the birth of new Indian era will take place with some glorious future after December 6, 1992. The demolition of the structure (though some sections of people took it for a shame for the Nation) has become an affair of pride to the Nation.”

· In the third week of December, 1993, Surjeet and I met the prime minister and asked him why nothing was done. He said, “How could I disbelieve a chief minister when he assured me that no harm will be done to the Masjid.” I then presented the cassette to him and told him what I told you now. I do not know whether he heard the cassette.

· The present prime minister, Sri Vajpayee, met me on March 20, 1999, in Calcutta and asked me why I called the BJP barbaric and uncivilised. I said I do not normally name anybody, but I do call the demolition a barbaric act, and I asked him how did it happen and what language should I use. He said “It was an accident and not organised”. I told him about Kalyan Singh’s speech. He kept quiet. Now he is saying something else - “expression of national sentiment”

We shall await the findings of the Commission.



THE recent decision of the UPA government to divest at least 10 per cent of government equity in all listed public sector undertakings and listing all unlisted profitable PSUs in the stock market was questioned by the Left in the ongoing session of parliament. The matter was discussed on December 1 in the Rajya Sabha and December 8 in the Lok Sabha, under Calling Attention motions moved by CPI(M) members of parliament. The finance minister provided similar responses, peppered with barbs at the Left in both houses. However, in his response he completely failed to counter any of the substantive points that were made vis-à-vis disinvestment by the Left.


The new catchphrase invented by the Congress to justify disinvestment is ‘peoples’ ownership’. The Left has pointed out that less than 1 per cent of Indian households invest in equities or participate in the stock market. The bulk of the equity of profit-making PSUs that have already been sold by earlier governments is held by big financial institutions and FIIs and not small investors. The invocation of ‘peoples’ ownership’ is nothing but a cover to transfer resources, which are already in the hands of the state which represents the entire people, to a miniscule minority of 1 per cent of Indian people who are rich and affluent. The effort is clearly to whet the appetite of the big players in the stock market like the FIIs and domestic financial institutions in the name of the ‘people’.

Not only did the finance minister have nothing to say in defence of this misleading concept, he tried to give it a new twist. In the Lok Sabha (December 8) he said: “Why we are going for the peoples’ ownership. You have ridiculed it. But it is really the peoples’ ownership because the actual valuation is taking place. It adds significantly to the enterprise value and the value of the government’s residual equity shares. I will give you one example. Enterprise value of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation post-listing, increased from Rs 18,280 crore to Rs 37,702 crore. That is a 125 per cent increase in the enterprise value…If we had not listed them, we would not have ascertained these figures. That is the difference between pre-IPO and post-IPO valuation of the shares of public sector enterprises.”

So now the concept of ‘peoples’ ownership’ has got linked with “enterprise value”. But what has this value got to do with either the ‘people’ or their ‘ownership’? This value is nothing but the value of a company on the basis of prevailing stock prices, which are essentially driven by speculative players. Is the finance minister oblivious of the fickle-mindedness of the stock markets and the fragility of such “enterprise value” derived on the basis of market valuations? If the stock markets crash tomorrow, the 125 per cent increase in NHPC’s market valuation that the minister is citing today may end up as a 225 per cent decline in “enterprise value”. How far can such market valuation be taken seriously, after what we have witnessed in the financial markets across the world since September 2008?

The BSE Sensex in India, which had crossed 21000 points in January 2008, had fallen to below 8000 points by September 2008. Now it has once again risen to above 17000 points, which points towards another bubble in the making. In fact the disinvestment announcements have contributed to this bubble, with several “PSU Equity Funds” being launched almost overnight by big financial players like Religare, Sundaram BNP Paribas and UTI. Rather than being cautious about such bubbles, the finance minister seems to be claiming credit for it. An editorial in the Economic and Political Weekly (November 14) had pithily stated: “The decision to disinvest is the fulfilment of a tacit commitment to keep the stock market supplied with the raw mate­rial of fresh equity. Punters (and the financial services industry that supports them) can profit from the froth that disinvestment will generate, regardless of the effects on either resource alloca­tion or corporate governance. Notwithstanding the worldwide re­vulsion against the excesses of finance-led capitalism, the more powerful among India’s policymakers are anxious to feed the ap­petite of the large players in the stock market.” What is further revulsive is the cynical use of fraudulent concepts like ‘peoples’ ownership’ by the finance minister to conceal the real motivations behind the disinvestment process.


The Left’s opposition to disinvestment is based on the fact that mobilising resources by selling government’s assets like equity to finance government expenditure (whether on social sector schemes or otherwise) lacks any economic rationale. Selling off government equity in a profitable PSU is worse than running a budget deficit. While in the case of running a deficit, the government has to make interest payments in the future against a one-time borrowing from the market, in the case of disinvestment, future streams of income from dividends are forgone against a one-time receipt from the sale of stakes. Disinvestment is worse since it involves transferring state-owned assets to private hands, which is not the case when the government borrows from the market. According to the Public Enterprises Survey 2007-08, the central PSUs taken together contributed Rs 19,423 crore to the central exchequer in 2007-08 as dividends, witnessing an increase of over Rs 4000 crore from 2005-06. Considerable divestment of government’s stakes in central PSUs would squeeze this important source of revenue for the government.

The central PSUs also have huge cash surpluses piled up over the years, which are not being put into productive use. The Public Enterprises Survey states that the reserves and surplus of all CPSUs taken together stood at Rs 4.85 lakh crore in 2007-08. While aggregate real investment in CPSUs in 2007-08 increased by 10.16 per cent over 2006-07, reserves and surplus grew by 16.56 per cent. In the absence of managerial autonomy, the CPSUs are unable to utilize these reserves for their own expansion or diversification. If the resources of the CPSUs are to be tapped at all, an eminently better way would be to seek special dividends from them rather than selling off their equity. This way the government would be able to mobilise resources without transferring a single percentage in equity ownership or sacrificing future dividends.

It also needs to be underlined that while the effective tax rate for the CPSUs taken together in 2006-07 was 30.78 per cent, the average effective tax rate for private sector companies in the same year was 19.5 per cent only (as per the statement on revenue forgone, receipts budget, 2008-09). When the private sector’s effective tax rate is way below the scheduled tax rate (33.66 per cent) owing to myriad tax concessions, why can’t more taxes be raised from the private corporate sector by doing away with some of the tax exemptions? That the government lacks the political will to raise resources by taxing the corporates and the rich is borne by the fact that total tax revenues foregone has reached an astronomical figure of Rs 4.18 lakh crore as per the last budget (2009-10).

Current public spending on social welfare programmes can and should be financed by raising more tax revenue from the private corporates and the affluent sections, whose earnings and assets have grown manifold over the past decade. This can be done through better administration of corporate tax and wealth tax and introduction of long-term capital gains tax and inheritance tax. This would be both socially desirable and economically sustainable, compared to the irrational course of selling government’s capital assets like equities in profit making PSUs.


The finance minister’s reponse to the Left’s critique of disinvestment was marked by flip-flops and doublespeak. At one point in his Rajya Sabha speech (December 1) he admitted that financing the budget deficit by selling government’s assets like equity was bad economics: “I do agree that it is bad fiscal management”. When it was pointed out that as the leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha he had himself said on 27 February, 2001 that: “if the objective of the government is to bridge the resource crunch by disposing of capital assets in order to meet consumption expenditure, it would simply not be permissible under any amount of fiscal prudence”, the finance minister said: “What I said in the House, in 2001, sitting on the other side – I don't change my views simply because of the accident that from that side I have come to this side – was that I should not like to use the proceeds of the disinvestment to meet the normal revenue expenditure. That is really a wastage of the family silver. But if you use the disinvestment proceeds for strengthening the public sector enterprises themselves, enhancing their capacity, their modernisation, upgradation of their schemes and their expansion, what is wrong with it?”

However, in the same speech he contradicted himself and provided a detailed explanation why disinvestment is required precisely to meet the budget deficit: “I know during this period, during the remaining part of the Eleventh Plan, massive investment would be required for social sectors, health and education. The revenue realisation, the revenue buoyancy, which we enjoyed in the previous years from where our tax GDP ratio increased from 8 per cent of GDP in 2003-04 to 12 per cent of GDP, is no longer available…Exports are going down continuously. Imports are going down. Customs duties are going down…On excise duties, realisations are going down. It cannot be made up only from direct taxes…there will not be buoyancy which was witnessed year after year. Therefore, from where will the money come? Is it through borrowed resources! I agree with Shri Rahul Bajaj, and I myself stated in my Budget speech, that this level of fiscal deficit is not sustainable…Therefore, that level of fiscal deficit is not acceptable in our system. This is my most respectful submission. So, some corrective measures have to be taken.”

The finance minister was more explicit in the Lok Sabha, when he said: “I cannot afford to have the fiscal deficit to the extent which I left last year, that is, at 6.8 per cent. Fiscal prudence tells me, tells anyone sensible that you come back to the FRBM as quickly as possible...That is why one time exception that this money will be utilised in these three years up to March 31, 2012. The disinvestment proceeds will be utilised for the capital expenditure of socially targeted projects.”

Thus, the basic reasoning of the finance minister is that the fiscal deficit is unsustainable and the money for social sector expenditure has to come from disinvestment of stakes in profit-making PSUs. But then what about the “bad fiscal management” that the minister spoke about in the Rajya Sabha speech? What about “I should not like to use the proceeds of the disinvestment to meet the normal revenue expenditure”? What about “wastage of the family silver”? The finance minister’s intellectual gymnastics about what he considers “fiscal prudence” is indeed mind-boggling.


The simple truth, which the finance minister is loath to accept, is that he lacks political will to mobilise resources through taxation. If the deficit has indeed become such a big problem, why has he been doling out huge tax concessions to the corporates through the stimulus packages? In fact he has justified it in an extremely dubious manner. Attacking the Left in the Lok Sabha he said: “The total value of the stimulus packages given - including the third one of mine and the earlier two of prime minister – in terms of money is Rs 1,86,000 crore. And you come out with a fancy figure and say that Rs 4 lakh crore of concessions have been given to the corporate sector! Where are these figures coming from?...There is no concession to the extent of Rs 4 lakh crore as tax concession.”

Where is the figure Rs 4 lakh crore coming from? From the budget documents presented by the finance minister himself in July 2009. The Statement of Revenue Foregone, which is a part of the receipts budget, contains the following table (in page 58).

This clearly shows that the total revenue foregone in 2008-09 was Rs 418095 crore, which was almost 69 per cent of aggregate tax collection in 2008-09. The reason why revenue foregone in 2008-09 jumped up to Rs 4.18 lakh crore from Rs 2.85 lakh crore in 2007-08 (an increase of Rs 1.33 lakh crore) was obviously because of the slew of tax concessions announced in the stimulus packages. Rather than ranting against the Left, the finance minister should read his own documents more carefully.

Moreover, the finance minister’s “fiscal prudence” was not at all evident when he unveiled the Direct Taxes Code Bill in August 2009. The tax slabs contained in the new code proposes to levy income tax at 10 per cent up to Rs 10 lakh, 20 per cent between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh and 30 per cent above Rs 25 lakh. It is estimated that over 97 per cent of the 3 crore odd taxpayers in India will be paying income tax at just 10 per cent, in case the code is adopted. The tax code also proposes to bring down the wealth tax rate from 1 per cent to a miniscule 0.25 per cent, while raising the tax slab from the current limit of Rs 30 lakh to a net wealth exceeding Rs 50 crore. Corporate tax rate is also proposed to be cut from 30 per cent to 25 per cent and the Securities Transactions Tax on financial market transactions abolished.

Thus the finance minister is not content with the humongous tax concessions already doled out to the corporates and the rich and wants to “stimulate” them further with more tax cuts. But these tax cuts will substantially erode the tax base and lead to huge loss of tax revenues, widening the fiscal deficit further! Why invoke the fiscal deficit in justifying disinvestment, while blissfully forgetting it while giving tax breaks? Underlying this preference towards disinvestment in order to bridge the deficit while handing out generous tax largesse to the big corporates and affluent sections is nothing but the finance minister’s class bias.

The inconsistency and dishonesty underlying the finance minister’s responses to the debate on disinvestment were combined with unwarranted superciliousness. Being short on logic, the minister tried to make up through arrogant assertions of commanding majority support. This is perhaps symptomatic of the economic irrationality of disinvestment itself, besides the powerful vested interests that drive the process. Reason, however, always catches up and there is no reason why the people of our country will tolerate such class-biased policies for long.



THE incidence of poverty, we are now being officially told, is much higher than the government has been claiming thus far. The Suresh Tendulkar committee, set up by the Planning Commission, has argued that a little more than 37 per cent of Indians live in poverty as compared with the officially estimated 27.5 per cent. The new figure is bound to further stretch the tiresome debate on poverty, in which the issues involved have been clear for some time now. However, the government, which is yet to formally announce acceptance of the new figures and the new method of poverty estimation, does not seem too displeased with the report. In all likelihood, the report’s recommendations would be accepted. Thus, from a political economy perspective, the more interesting question relates to the motivation behind the government’s decision to consider revising its poverty estimates, especially since it has been maximising the political mileage it gets from the decline in poverty incidence indicated by estimates based on the current methodology.

A favourable answer would attribute the revision to the recognition that the earlier method was delivering faulty figures. In the never-ending dispute on the extent of poverty in the country, it has been increasingly accepted that the official estimates were erring on the lower side. There were indeed a few who used the National Accounts Statistics to argue that the National Sample Survey figures on expenditure tended to underestimate consumption and overestimate poverty in the country. But they were an unrecognised minority. For the rest, the problem was that the NSS figures on calorific intake per person, on which poverty estimates were ostensibly anchored, pointed to a significantly higher proportion of poverty than the estimates obtained by adjusting for inflation a set of 1973-74 nominal expenditure figures that were seen as adequate to deliver an average per capita per day calorie intake of 2400 calories in rural areas and 2100 calories in urban areas. Some analysts attempted to explain away the low calorific intake of those seen as being above the “poverty line” by arguing that the actually needed nutritional requirements and changing consumption desires were responsible for the divergence.


However, these attempts at obfuscating the issue were challenged by the fact that the nominal expenditure of those who were seen as being at or below the poverty line was embarrassingly low in the rural areas, where it stood at Rs 356.30 per month or around Rs 12 per day in 2004-05. What is more, the National Commission on Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector pointed out that, going by the consumer expenditure data, 78 per cent of Indians were forced to manage with Rs 20 or less per day — an expenditure figure which to many was low enough to identify three fourths of the population as living in poverty.

Whether the Tendulkar committee was expressly set up to deal with this anomaly or not, it was clear from the outset that it could not go with the low figures of poverty incidence that the government had been citing routinely for the last decade or more. But the committee was walking a tight rope, since the options in terms of method and sources of data were indeed limited. If it opted for a method which used the direct calorie intake figures available from the NSS reports on consumer expenditure, the proportion of the population below the poverty line would have risen sharply at least in some states, inviting criticism from those who would use the sheer size of the increase to question its validity. On the other hand, if it anchored its estimates on the 1973-74 poverty lines and merely played with the conventionally used price indices, it would be stuck with embarrassingly low poverty incidence estimates.

Given these circumstances, the committee has chosen a clever route to a compromise figure. It has accepted the currently prevailing nominal poverty line figure for urban areas on two grounds. First, that it permits in practice a calorific intake per person of around 1775 calories, which though below the 2100 calories urban norm, is close to the FAO calorific norm of 1800. And, second, that the nominal poverty line permits in addition to this a reasonable degree of expenditure on education and health and allows for a better definition of an above-poverty consumption basket.

Having thus defended the nominal 2004-05 poverty line for urban areas, the committee has decided to use this nominal figure as the anchor for estimating a rural poverty line. This it does by arriving at a purchasing power parity (PPP) equivalent of this figure for rural areas, or a nominal expenditure figure that would allow the same basket to be consumed in rural areas after taking account of rural-urban price differentials. The net result of these exercises is a new set of poverty lines for 2004-05 — Rs 446.68 for rural areas and Rs 578.80 for urban areas per capita per month — and a new set of poverty incidence figures that are more or less the same for 2004-05 in urban areas but higher at 41.8 per cent as compared with 28.3 per cent in rural areas.


These figures sound more “reasonable” in terms of magnitude, even though they are derived from an ostensibly “estimated” but unanchored nominal poverty line for urban areas for 2004-05. But what accounts for the fact that the government is accepting them without much protest?

The explanation seems to lie outside the issue of methodology of estimation. Poverty incidence figures matter now not merely because they reveal how many are marginalised in an India seen as “emerging” onto the world stage. They also matter because they provide the numbers of people to whom government schemes of various kinds aimed at addressing the worst forms of deprivation are to be “targeted.” Most social protection and poverty alleviation schemes are directed at the below the poverty line (BPOL) population, in a misguided effort at obtaining more bang for the rupee. If targeting is in fashion, a reasonable estimate of those who deserve the benefit of these schemes is necessary. That was what the earlier poverty estimate was not providing. Moreover, if the number of those targeted is kept small because of an inappropriate poverty incidence estimate, the social legitimacy the government seeks through these schemes would not be garnered. In practice, therefore, the numbers identified as BPL for implementing government sponsored schemes were much higher than those seen as below the poverty line as per the official poverty incidence figures.

In fact, a report prepared by former Planning Commission member N C Saxena at the behest of the rural development ministry argued that the proportion of the population below the poverty line should be closer to 50 per cent, without specifying a clear method to arrive at that figure. This arbitrariness was obviously discomfiting. It also opened doors to poverty incidence figures that would require budgetary outlays for targeted schemes that would trouble a fiscally conservative government.

Thus, since it has managed to legitimise targeting, a method that delivers a middling poverty figure suits the government. Especially because “even though the suggested new methodology gives a higher estimate of rural headcount ratio at the all-India level for 2004-05, the extent of poverty reduction in comparable percentage point decline between 1993-94 and 2004-05 is not different from that inferred using the old methodology.” This also deals with the embarrassment of those who have to compute and put out poverty incidence figures. The result is a cosy convergence in the views of the Tendulkar committee and the government in which the poor are by no means left any better.


KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Thursday held a closed-door meeting with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen at a city hotel. The meeting lasted an hour.

Sources said that at the meeting which began late on Thursday evening, the two discussed issues such as agriculture, irrigation, primary education in the State and also the progress of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribe and the minority population in certain areas of the State. Professor Sen told reporters after the meeting that he was happy with the overall progress but felt that there was scope to do more. Mr. Bhattacharjee said that he discussed rural development with Professor Sen as also agriculture and the state of irrigation facilities in West Bengal. He said that by 2010 the State would extend its rural development projects further.

Professor Sen’s Pratichi Trust had recently submitted the second part of its report on the State’s primary education and the West Bengal government had begun implementing the suggestions made by the Trust. “Issues like introduction of compulsory midday meal and setting up parent-teachers committee” were followed by the government, sources said.

Enquiries revealed that the meeting was organised at the behest of the State government which wanted to discuss a few things with the son-of-the-soil Nobel Laureate and make its position clear on certain issues. At several fora Professor Sen has maintained that there was no need for the State to acquire land at Singur and it should have been left for the Tatas to acquire their requirement of land directly. He has also stressed the need for dialogues to resolve issues and ensure the State’s progress.

Source: The Hindu

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The futility of the Trinamool Congress claim of ‘400 acres land of unwilling farmers to return back’ was once more exposed when the original facts about the land acquisition scenario for the Tata Nano project at Singur came in publicly by State Government.

According to reports reaching here, about 82% of the land owners at the acquired land for the Tata project have already taken compensation for their land. Only the owners of about 254.36 acres of land are yet to take any state Government offered compensation for the lawfully acquired land at Singur. Owners of about 51.11 acres of land though agreeing to the governments proposal in this regard is still unable to take compensation for the acquired land, because personal &legal land related litigations are coming in the way of them accepting the cheques. The figures thus arrived points to only to the above mentioned 254.36 acres of land whose owners comprises of a mere 17.17 %of the total acquired land .In all 13thousand 103 persons owned the acquired 997.11 acres of land out of which 10 thousand 852 persons comprising a bulk 82.82 % of the owners have already taken compensation for the land and are in support of the project. Out of the rest many are unable to take compensations due to land related litigations and family suits in courts regarding ownership rights of the land. Only a minority handful of owners exist who at the instigation of the opposition politicians’ are still unwilling to part with their land in the hope of better future deals as promised to them by the opposition politicians for luring them to protests. According to the emerging reality, the Trinamool’s claim that owners of 400 acre’s of acquired land are yet to take the compensations earmarked for them have once again proved to be totally baseless.

In case of the Bargadars, out of the 244 persons only 14 of them are yet to take the compensations announced by the state government. The rest 230 Bargadars have already taken compensations and most of them are employed with the project work itself. In this scenario, it can be recalled that West Bengal is the first state in the country to offer compensation for land acquired to the Bargadaars also.

If the acquired land is viewed through the plot holding pattern then about 3thousand535 plots existed there, out of which plot holders of about 1963 plots or 55.53% have got full compensation for the plots according to the basis of acquisition. While about 883 plot holders have received partial compensation i.e. 24.97 % i.e. a portion of the land holders have received partial compensation. Owners of only 689 plot holders have not taken there compensation which sums up to 19.49 % of the acquired land.

From the fiscal angle, the pattern of disbursement of compensations clearly shows that the total compensation for the acquired land amounts to 118.95 crores. Out of which 90.87 crores have already been disbursed. Only compensation amount of about 21.24 cores is still to be disbursed. Only about 25 lakhs of Bargadars compensation is yet to be disbursed. About 4.17 crores of compensations have been accepted by the owners but had to be deposited in the court due to internal strife’s between the co-owners or due to their pending family litigations in various courts.

But it has been cleared return back of 400 acres is not possible, even Supreme Court verdict also told that acquired land for public interest should not possible to return back, even if the project is to stopped for any reason, then this land should be sell through auction and the raised fund is to be used for public interest. Mentionable that state Government has acquired total 997.11 acres land, where the owner of these land are 10 thousand 852 people. Among them compensation cheque were received by total 8 thousand 890 people for 691.64 acre land. And still about 2251 people didn’t receive the cheque for only 305.47 acre land. Though among them many people still not get cheque for technical problem, and few are active TMC workers denied to take this compensation. But TMC supremo still rigid on stand to return back the 400 acres land ‘which are forcibly taken’ claimed by her. Even now Central government heavy industry ministry also ruled out the allegation of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee that Tata got excess land for required in Singur. Even as the recommendations of national Automotive and Research and development Infrastructure Project , for the production one lakh car, there is needed 450 acres land for manufacturing unit. And then after every 1lakh additional car it is needed 25 percent additional land for the manufacturing unit. In Singur Tata motors will manufacture about 3 and half lakh car so, as per the norms they have needed 650 acres land for manufacturing unit and another 600 acre land for ancillary unit. So as total its needed 1250 care land. But In Singur less than one thousand acre land was given to Tata motors for their project. But is it any justify demand to return back the 400 acres land which are scatter into pieces throughout the whole project area.