February 8, 2023
Abir Ranjan Biswas’s speech on February 8, 2023 in the Rajya Sabha during the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address
Thank you Chairman, Sir, for giving me this opportunity. The TMC’s position has been very clear. We use the floor of Parliament to expose this Government on multiple counts. Economic blockade of States, murdering federalism, weakening institutions like Parliament, CBI, ED, SEBI, the price rise, unemployment, the lack of communal harmony and, of course, scams of huge proportions that need to be enquired. The immediate inquiry of the big scam which is currently creating much furore can happen in two different ways. Firstly, as many have been suggesting, by constituting a JPC. But, Madam, I understand the weak nerve of the Government. All the previous Governments which had constituted JPC, have not come back. Maybe on that count, they are afraid. They might not! On the second part, of course, we could have a Supreme Court monitored Committee to conduct this inquiry in a time-bound manner. So, we demand the second, of course, if the first plan is touching the weak nerve of the Government. It was said in the Address of Mahamahim Rashtrapatiji and I quote. “Today, India has a Government which is committed to removing every obstacle faced by women.” Madam, crimes against women in India have increased by 15 per cent. India registered 32,000 rape cases in 2021 – sadly, that is, 86 cases of rapes per day. I would like to remind this august House that Kolkata is the least crime-prone metropolitan city as per the latest NCRB records. Women’s safety in Kolkata should be emulated by the rest of the country. Another statement in the Address is, and I quote, “The digital network that India has built is a source of inspiration even for developed countries. Madam, I would like to showcase the digital service delivery achieved by West Bengal. The West Bengal Government recently received the Platinum Award from the hon. President at the Digital India Awards for its flagship scheme called Duare Sarkar, which literally means ‘the Government at your doorsteps’. This was for excellence in design and implementation of a public digital platform. The initiative by the Mamata Banerjee Government has a widespread coverage. Duare Sarkar camps help people, all over the State, to get Government services and accesses to various social welfare schemes; the achievement also includes the U.N. award winning Kanyashree Prakalpa and the students’ credit card. In the Address, the Rashtrapatiji has said, ‘From education to their career, my Government is trying to remove all obstacles for daughters.’ Madam, I would like to say that in this regard the Union Government can take inspiration from the West Bengal Government when it comes to education, especially for girls and implement effective schemes like the Kanyashree, the famous award winning scheme, the Sabooj Sathi and so on. The Kanyashree scheme has benefited 78 lakh girl children in West Bengal. The Sabooj Sathi has provided cycles to more than one crore students in West Bengal. In the Address, there was nothing mentioned about the youth unemployment. Let me tell you all about the Yuvasree Scheme in West Bengal. Under this scheme, eight lakh youths have been registered to receive financial assistance. Further, the Address said, ‘My Government has awakened the aspirations of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.’ At the top five IITs and IISc, Bengaluru, I would like to bring to the notice of the august House, 98 per cent of professors and more than 90 per cent of assistant and associate professors are from the privileged castes, in violation of the constitutional reservation mandate. In faculty positions, the reservation should be 7.5 per cent for Scheduled Tribes and 15 per cent for Scheduled Castes. That is the real picture. Madam, when it comes to the matters of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the Government at the Centre could take a leaf out of the success diary of the West Bengal Government. I would like to mention that there are multiple schemes for the benefit of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. About eight lakh students from economically backward sections have received scholarships under the Swami Vivekananda Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Programme of the Government. Madam, another thing is that we have a Joy Bangla Pension Scheme in place; it is an umbrella of two schemes–Taposhili Bandhu and Joy Johar- -where elderly, senior citizens of the communities, receive monthly pensions. Further, in her Address, Rashtrapatiji said, ‘The long felt urge to be rid of scourge of mega scams and corruption in Government schemes is now being realised.’ Is it true, Madam? Let me give you one example. In Meghalaya, the practice of coal mining was banned in 2014, but transportation was permitted till 2017. Further extensions were granted by the Supreme Court. They were also misused. Illegally mined coal was taken out of the State and then returned to Meghalaya with false documentation of coal originating in other States. Last December, re-verification of extracted coal before the ban on illegal mining of coal revealed that there are over 19 lakh MT of coal, not over 32 lakh MT of coal as stated by the Government. In 2018, activists Agnes Kharshiing and Amita Sangma faced a near-fatal attack while they were on returning after lodging a complaint on illegal mining. It has been five years since, but where is the justice? I would further like to mention that coming to the geo-political situation, we know that 25 per cent of current import of the Russian crude oil comes at a very lower price of an average of 48 to 52 US$ dollar per barrel. But when prices rose to over Rs. 100 for petrol, the international price of crude per barrel was more than 120 US dollars. Currently, 25 per cent of the import is of 48 to 52 dollars per barrel. But how is the benefit of this percolating to the poor? We can only say ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’, but it should not remain as a jumla, unless you want to have sabka vishwas and sabka prayas. This benefit should percolate down to the people as bringing down the oil prices will have a ripple effect. It will bring down the prices of other commodities that are coming up with transportation and definitely the people at the lowest rung of society who are suffering from high price rise will have the benefit. So, things should not just remain as statements, i.e. jumla. Things should reflect on the ground. We can have many things said, but one thing delivered will be much more than many things said. Sir, I would like to conclude by saying that I want to thank Mahamahim Rashtrapatiji for her Address. Having said that, equality in gender, caste and class is far from becoming a reality and needs to be our focus in all policies. The issues of people on the margins require urgent intervention by the Government. I conclude by re-emphasising our demand for an immediate Supreme Court monitored inquiry into what could be the world’s biggest scam. Thank you, Madam.