February 27, 2013
Saugata Roy slams UPA
Sir, I will start from the beginning. I think that this rigmarole of a Presidential Address under article 87(1) of the Constitution has become an anachronism in a modern democracy like India. The President coming on a horse drawn carriage and into a procession in the Central Hall does not inspire anybody.
The only thing is, ultimately the President`s speech does not reflect his own opinion. He is bound by the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. So, when he makes that speech, he is not speaking for himself. He is speaking on behalf of the Government. What is the necessity of this speech? In America when the US President makes his State of Union Address; he is speaking about the policy of the Government. I think the same thing should apply to the Governor of West Bengal and to all the other States. I am saying that this has become an anachronism in a modern democracy and needs to be considered.
Sir, I have read the President`s Speech very carefully. It consists of 114 points spread over 22 pages. But it is a cut and paste job. It does not reflect a broad holistic view of the problems facing the country. Different Ministries have submitted their report and somebody in his office has done a cut and paste. This does not reflect any view of the Government or the state of the country. What is missing in the President`s Address is that it does not reflect the recent realities of the country.
What are the issues, which have rocked the country recently? You know, Sir, Delhi boiled over against the rape and murder of a young girl. Thousands of civilians, with no connection from political parties, came out on the streets. Does the President`s Speech speak about that? No, it does not. It speaks about some law, which has been promulgated by the Government. The President`s Speech does not speak about the corruption scandal which has erupted on the purchase of 12 Agusta Westland helicopters for VVIP, a deal totaling Rs.3,546 crore and out of which Rs.357 crore are alleged to have been paid as kickbacks. Does the President`s Speech speak about that matter? No, it does not. It does not address the problems of corruption. Only in paragraph 90 of the Speech, he says, Government is doing this. He does not say that the Government has not been able to enact a Lokpal. He does not say it. The President`s Speech does not mention any of the corruption scandals bedevilled this Government.
Sir, we were also part of this Government when the Commonwealth Games scandal broke; we were also a part of it, when 2-G scam, where the Government is supposed to have lost an amount of Rs.1,76,000 crore, broke, over which, Ministers of the Government were arrested and over which you are presiding over a Committee to probe into. The President`s Speech does not mention about it. The President`s Speech does not speak of Coalgate, where according to the C&AG, Rs.1, 86,000 crore was the total loss to the nation over the allocation of the coal blocks. The President`s Speech does not speak of that. So, in general, the President`s Speech does not speak of the burning issues before the country. On the 20th and 21st, all the central trade unions went on strike. Sir, in our State, in our party, we opposed the strike and we kept West Bengal run. But, one cannot deny that the issues raised during the strike were right. The contract workers are not getting proper wages. Minimum wages are not enforced in this country; the companies are still resorting to retrenchment. The President`s Speech does not speak a word about labour matter. This is unfortunate. It does not reflect the State of the Union of India at all.
Sir, let me say something, as I said, it is a very long speech of 114 points. It lists the achievement of the various Departments. After Independence, as you well know, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru laid the basis of democracy and also of planned development. He set our heavy industrial base and also laid the foundation for advancement in science and technology and nuclear sciences. Indira Gandhi`s major achievement was in Green Revolution and carrying on some of the programmes of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. Shri Rajiv Gandhi heralded the IT revolution in India. Since 1990, after Dr. Manmohan Singh, as Finance Minister, released the economy from shackle of the license control raj, the economy has grown in its own esteem. Now, the country has made a certain amount of progress in agriculture, in science and technology. No Government should appropriate the credit for that. If our scientists are able to explode nuclear bombs, if our scientists are able to send missiles, if we are able to send satellites into space, this is not the credit of any Government, it is the credit of the scientists.
Mr. Chairman, Sir, you were mentioning in your speech about 260 million tonnes of food production by the farmers. This production has been achieved irrespective of the vagaries of weather by the farmers themselves. No Government should appropriate the credit. In different States, different parties are ruling. It is to their credit that they have given the necessary inputs.
Sir, in computers and IT, our country has made phenomenal progress. Our IT companies have set up bases all over the world. Now, is it the credit of any particular Government? If any new Government comes, the progress will be the same because we have reached a base level. Now once you reach the take off stage, any economy flourishes on its own. So, when the hon. President lists all these achievements as if they are the achievement of his Governments, he is not presenting a realistic picture. In the advanced economies of the world, in spite of the instability of the Government, progress is taking place. Look at Japan. Every year they have a new Prime Minister. Does Japan`s progress stop because of that? Look at Italy. Just now Berlusconi has conceded defeat. Does the Fiat Company depend on who is the Prime Minister of Italy? It is not so because the economies progress, technologies progress irrespective of who is in power. So, to tom-tom the achievement of our scientists, our technologists, our farmers, our manufacturers and our IT specialists as that of the Government, it is appropriating the credit wrongly. It should not have been that way.
I am not saying that the Government has not done anything. After Dr. Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister, MGNREGA was launched; NRHM was launched; JNNURM-I for the cities was launched; PMGSY, though it was started by the Vajpayee Government, was taken forward; IAY was launched; and RGGVY was launched. These are all good flagship programmes. But now in 2013, the time has come to assess whether they are reaching their goals because as Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav said, under MGNREGA, the benefits are not reaching the farmers or the poor people for whom it is meant. There is also a complaint that this is making our rural people lazy. No assessment is made how much permanent asset is created in our countryside through MGNREGA.
Sir, please understand that NRHM is a good programme, but today the ASHA workers are crying because they are not even given a cycle to go around the villages. The Government is trying to make no assessment. The JNNURM-I ended on 31st March, 2012. It is almost one year, but the Government has not been able to announce JNNURM-II for the development of cities. RGGVY has done good work in some places, while in some other places, like UP, it is very much behind scheduled. It is very much behind schedule in many States. In West Bengal, the programme has not made progress. Mr. Chairman, Sir, through you, I have a simple request to make to the Government. Why must all flagship programmes of the Government be named only after Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Smt. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi? They were great leaders. Shrimati Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi sacrificed their lives for the country, but there have been other great leaders also in the country. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose has also been a leader in this country. Why can a national flagship programme not be named after him? The prerogative of doing good for the country should not belong – We were all in the Congress, but the prerogative of doing good for the country need not rest in one family. The country, as a mature democracy, must come out of the shackles of dynastic politics and show that the poorest of the poor can achieve and reach the highest place in the country.
Sir, there are certain other points that I would like to make with your permission. The President`s speech takes three paragraphs on the economic slowdown. The growth has come down to 5.4 per cent. The value of rupee has come to Rs. 57 per Dollar. Can you ascribe this whole slowdown to external factors alone, namely, slowdown in America, crisis in Greece and the Euro zone? No. There have been several wrong economic decisions taken by the Government of tightening credit that has led to this slowdown.
The Economic Survey, which was published today, admits this. Dr. Manmohan Singh, as Finance Minister — as Shri Mulayam was saying — was like a magician as he had turned around the economy. He unshackled the economy from the license control-raj. I am sorry to say that he has not been able to match his performance in his nine-years as Prime Minister. During his time, growth has come down from nearly 9 per cent to 5.4 per cent. What is the Government`s formula? It is a formula, which I totally oppose, that is, they say remove subsidies; put more burden on the poor; and invite Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Only FDI in every sector would change it. Sir, you know that in your State, the Government has opposed FDI in multi-brand retail — whatever you may have said over here — because it will affect 4 crore of small traders in this country and this has been done, I beg to say, under the pressure of Americans.
When I was speaking on FDI in multi-brand retail here, many people told me: `Why are you speaking? He is the Prime Minister and against Mrs. Hillary Clinton.` I told that I am a small man. Yes, I know that the Prime Minister has got the CBI and I know that Mrs. Hillary Clinton has got the CIA, but I have also got Madam Mamata and the people of Bengal. They are supporting is what I am saying. – I have said that we need not be afraid.
After we quit the Government, the Government was literally reduced to a minority. They had 273, and it became 254. It has survived due to various reasons, which I do not want to say. When we moved the No-Confidence Motion, some friends from the BJP said: – No, you do not move the No- Confidence Motion. You better let us pin them down on 184 and they may change. – But they did not change. They walked out to make the Government’s task easy. So, I told them, namely, my friends who had advised me not to move the No-Confidence Motion.
So, for them the things have remained the same. Sir, with your indulgence, I want to say that the President has not addressed the most complex question facing the country, which is that of Centre-State relations. Shrimati Gandhi had set up Sarkaria Commission to judge this problem. Today, there are different Governments of different Parties in different States. Now, you are trying to impose the NCTC after the Hyderabad blasts, which showed the Government`s failure to contain terrorism. It is being touted that NCTC is the panacea cure for use of terrorism. NCTC impinges on the right of the States. Why should not the States be taken together in the fight against terrorism?
Is the Centre alone powerful? In the United States, there was 9/11 in 2001. They set up a Department of Homeland Security. After that there has not been a single terror-related incident in the USA. Our Government has failed miserably. Today, it is Bengaluru, tomorrow it is Mumbai, day after it is Pune, then it is Hyderabad, then it is Delhi, the Capital; we are not able to control. I will wind up shortly. This is a major failure of the Government in controlling terrorism, which the President`s Speech has not mentioned.
Sir, let me also say that we had opposed the Lokpal even while we were in the UPA. We opposed the Lokpal because they included Lokayukta, whereas Lokayukta is the right of the States. Why should you impinge on the right of the State? The President has not clarified his attitude. Similarly, I read in the papers that the President is going to Bangladesh. He may well go. Bangladesh is our neighboring country and friend. We all participated in their freedom struggle. But no settlement on Teesta waters should be made without the concurrence of the Government of West Bengal. We suffered because of the Agreement on Ganga waters. Our Kolkata Port is dying. We do not want the whole of the North of Bengal to die. Sir, I want to say that we had quit the UPA on the issue of pressures on the common man, when diesel prices were raised, when subsidy on LPG was removed, and when FDI in Multi Brand Retail was introduced. Thank God that we came out because after that diesel and petrol prices have been increased again, and railway fares have been increased again. The President`s Speech speaks of only one rail factory in Raebareli. May I tell you, Sir, five or ten railway factories which had started work in Bengal have been given no money in the Railway Budget? We shall speak in detail on that. There is an effort in the Rail Budget which is pro-rich. It wants to create `Anubhuti` compartment for the rich people of the country. They forget that two crores of Indians travel on Indian Railways and when they increase the fare by 20 per cent, putting a load of Rs. 6,600 crore on the common man, it hurts the common man. They have not provided better services, but it is only promises. They are putting load on the common man by again increasing the charges on reservation, cancellation, tatkal, and everything else. This is leading the country`s poor to destruction and destitution. The rise of freight cost will also be inflationary. I do not want to speak at length on railways, but I want to say that the Government is acting in a vindictive manner, with vengeance, to destroy Bengal just because we dared to differ with the Central Government. People of Bengal will not tolerate it.
Where the question of national security is concerned, Bengal is not behind anybody. Where controlling is terror is concerned, it is a national problem. The Prime Minister called the Maoists the biggest internal security threat to the country. The only State which has controlled Maoist in a peaceful manner is West Bengal. Even after the death of Kishanji, there has not been a single Maoist related incident in West Bengal. How have we done it? We have done it by taking development to the Maoist affected areas.
Today I may say that the Centre has given Backward Region Grant Fund. But today we need money for development of those Maoist affected areas. The Centre is not coming forward to help us in developing the Jangal Mahal areas. Even the Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has proposed one railway line from Baduthala to Jharna. All allotment to that has been cut by this heartless Railway Minister. Is this the way to control Maoism? You are spending hundreds of crore by way of buying weapons, helicopters. You cannot give simple roads. What is the attitude of the Government? It is doing beautification of Delhi. What are you doing? You are taking away the forests. You are taking away the forests and turning the tribals into Maoists. The forests of India cannot be the home of multinational mining companies. Yes, we want development but the development should not be at the cost of forests; development should not be at the cost of tribals. Even the Tribal Affairs Minister has written to the Environment Minister saying that the Forests Rights Act is being violated in giving environmental clearance.
One of the major impediments to investment and development is that we have not been able to arrive at a consensus regarding two issues. One is the land issue and the other one is the Environment and Forest issue. There must be a consensus. We are against forcible acquisition of land for private industry. We are also against violation of forest and environmental principles but we want the Government of India to give its mind to these matters. Unless these two matters are solved, everywhere like it took place in Bengal, like it took place in Noida, like it takes place in Odisha sometimes, there will be protests by the people. You cannot ride roughshod over people in order to facilitate your so-called development for the capitalism. The advent of the capitalism is not the solution in this country. The President`s speech has admitted that in this country, 65 years after Independence, people still defecate in the open. We have not been able to provide latrines, sanitary toilets to all the villages. Half of the villages in this country are not connected by metal roads. Even with the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyuthikaran Yojana, electricity has not reached the home of the poor and the dispossessed. So, what is the direction of development? Unfortunately, if the President had spoken on his own, he might have given his views. But these are the Government views, this litany of so-called achievement, yes it is the achievement of the missile scientists. They say that they can send a missile beyond 5000 kilometres. It should not be appropriated by the Government. The Government should tell us what they are doing for the poor to change their lives. I support all the amendments to the Motion of Thanks on the President`s Address and I say that we cannot support the Motion of Thanks which was unfortunately moved by a very eminent Member like you Sir.