Rajya Sabha

May 5, 2015

Derek O’Brien speaks in RS on the working of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment | Full Transcript

Full transcript

Sir, I stand to initiate this discussion on the Ministry of Social justice and Empowerment. Sir, broadly to set the terms for this discussion, this Ministry encompasses the disabled, OBCs, transgender, scheduled castes and senior citizens. But I would take the liberty of requesting the minister, a lot of the members would also talk about the two other groups looking for social justice and empowerment. They are the minorities as well as the women of this great nation. So that is the scope of the discussion. Sir, through you I would like to request the Minister to note the specific suggestions we give you.

Sir, the Budget for this Ministry is Rs 6500 crore. If you leave the minorities and the women out – this Ministry covers 90 crore people for a Budget of Rs 6500 crore. This is about 50 paise per person per month. Sir, is this 50 paisa per person per month enough or should we at least be taking it up to 1 rupee per paisa per month. So what I am suggesting is to double the Budget from Rs 6500 crore to take it up to Rs 13000 crore.

Sir, when we talk about social justice what are the terms of this distribution? The terms of the distribution would be in three words: M for Money, O for opportunity and P for Privileges. This ministry should end this mentality of providing scholarships and building hostels. Can we take it beyond that and through this discussion over the next three hours we can get the Minister to open his heart, to open his eyes and most importantly to open his mind. I don’t want to give you any political statement. I will be making some points on each of these categories.

Manual scavengers are covered under this ministry. There are 11000 manual scavengers in this country. Of this 10000 are in UP. The government had a budget of Rs 480 crore to liberate the manual scavengers, to rehabilitate them and to take them away from this terrible job which they have. Mantri ji you must look into this seriously. The national budget was Rs 480 crore. Let us assume 80-90 percent funds would go to UP, that comes to Rs 400 crore. Of the Rs 480 crore, you have spent ZERO. So if you want to seriously eliminate manual scavenging please use the funds for this purpose

Sir, the Standing Committee has a very effective suggestion. We need to have an effective mechanism to reduce or eliminate manual scavenging. Sir, I started off with UP but let me also present an example which only happen last week. I am extremely proud because this happened under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal Government. This is a true story.

Nadia district of West Bengal has been declared the No. 1 district in the country. This is not my ranking but by the United Nations. There are 3.5 lakh toilets in that district. Last week United Nation gave this award. When you have something like that the level of manual scavengers goes down or it becomes zero.

Sir, it is not only a money issue, it is also a social issue. Every school going child in Nadia took an oath to keep their environment clean. Sir, the government spent Rs 250 crore on advertisement for the Swachh Bharat campaign. But if you want to spend 250 on your advertising budget then you please spend Rs 480 crore for manual scavengers.

Sir let us come to the point about senior citizens. Our country had a green revolution, we had a milk white revolution. The Trinamool Congress proposes a grey revolution. And what is the basic concept of this grey revolution? Currently the budget allocated for senior citizens is a miniscule Rs 50 crore. Under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pention Scheme, if you are over 60 and you are living below the poverty line you get Rs 200 per month. If you are over 80 you will get Rs 500.

Sir, like the Standing Committee suggested and let me reassert, that this figure has to go up. Let me make our point clear. Sir, if the figure you are giving out is Rs 150 or Rs 200, the cost to administer the scheme is working out to much more than what you are actually giving out. So our suggestion is to increase what you are giving to the consumer so your cost of administering the scheme will come down.

Let me also request the minister to remove the cobwebs on the paper titled ‘The National Policy on Senior Citizens’. That document is dated 2011, it does not matter whether the UPA 2 brought it, but we think this document is worth looking at. ‘There are some very good specific suggestions made, so please Sir, consider the document.

Sir, the third group of people, which is very small in number but I think a lot of the speakers would like to also speak about, is disability. I have lots of things to say but I will limit myself to just one point Sir, and that is the definition of disability. Under the current Act, it does not include autistic children or autistic men and women. Sir, my plea to the minister through you is to please, in the Rights to Persons with Disability Bill, which is pending in the Rajya Sabha – my party, the Trinamool Congress will support you wholeheartedly –  please bring in the required changes in the definitions and it will be a step forward.

Now I would speak for two minutes on the issue of transgenders. We have an Act in West Bengal which was passed two to three months ago. Sir, maybe you could advise the states to bring up an Act like this. The interesting thing about this is it is not a Transgender Welfare Board as we believe that Transgender Welfare Board is not a solution. This is a Transgender Development Board.

There are also suggestions, I’m not getting into the merits, but I would like to know the views of the BSP and so many other parties on this. There is a suggestion being made that the transgenders be put into a category. One category suggested is OBC. I am not opening that debate now but I’m just giving you what the thought is.

Sir, for the Scheduled Castes we have a unique Scheme. West Bengal in the last three years has had the Kanyashree Scheme which got UN approval. The Scheduled Caste students get a lot of scholarships. The land vested with the Government was distributed to landless people; 56% of pattas were distributed to the Schedules Cases and the Scheduled Tribes. Another scheme that I want to flag is the Shikhashree Scheme, which is same as the Kanyashree but goes to the Scheduled Castes.

Sir, my single and limited point on the OBCs – which I read in the papers this morning – is that the criteria for creamy layer has been pushed up from 6,00,000 to 10,00,000. Sir, this will help, we believe, in filling the seats marked for OBCs.

I have many examples again from West Bengal from the left-wing extremism areas. I will not dwell on it. Suffices to say that in the 23 blocks of the Jangalmahal area, cycles were distributed to the students which empowered boys and girls.

Sir, I have covered points which are traditionally listed under your ministry. Bur I want to just expand the discussion on two other areas which are not covered by your ministry – the minorities and women. Sir, in case of the the minorities, the Sachar Committee proposed the Equal Opportunities Commission about eight or nine years ago.

Basically the point being made in the Equal Opportunities Commission was that you will bring women, tribals, dalits, disabled persons, minorities, all in the purview so we could help everybody else. Now that Equal Opportunities Commission made these recommendations there was a draft bill to the best of my knowledge which was made in 2007-08. Through you I would request the Minister to pull the cobwebs out and to take a look at this.

Sir, I will end with the issue of women because you cannot discuss social empowerment, social justice without at least touching on the issue of women. Sir, there has been a lot of debate on the issue of 33% reservation for women. Sir, we finished the municipal elections in Bengal last week – I don’t want to remind you of the results as they would upset you – but at least let me tell you that 46% of the councillors who were elected were women. So if we want empowerment we can have women elected too.

Thirty three per cent is the so called reservation number we talk of in the Women’s Reservation Bill. The current average in the Lok Sabha for women is a dismal 11%. I am happy to tell you that my party has 36% women MPs in the Lok Sabha.

Sir, I have left you with these points to ponder over – on manual scavengers, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, transgenders, schedule castes, women, OBCs and minorities.

Sir, I would urge you, after listening to all my colleagues to take this beyond the discussion, and maybe after one or two months, you come back to us, maybe not in the House but through some written form. We are giving you some suggestions; please take them in the right spirit and I am sure you will.

Thank you Sir, for your time.