Rajya Sabha

June 25, 2019

Derek O’Brien speaks on Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address

Derek O’Brien speaks on Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address


In the greatest traditions of parliamentary democracy, we know that the speech of the President is written by the Prime Minister and the Government and the speech is delivered by the Rashtrapati ji.  Even though we have serious issues about the content but in the true spirit of parliamentary democracy, we will express that here, but I will stand up to support the ‘Motion of Thanks’.  

Sir, I think we haven’t started off too badly in the Rajya Sabha. At least for the last six hours from yesterday on this debate, there has been no professional heckling either from that side or from here or from there. We have managed to express ourselves. Sir, after the result of the Lok Sabha elections, someone has been made to come into the Government, others have a role to play in the Opposition. Bt let us begin by giving some real numbers where we in Opposition, and those in Government, can work towards improving these numbers.  

Swasthya: Four out of every ten children in India are malnourished. Let’s work to bring that number down to three and two, together. 

Berozgaari: 1.01 crore people, equivalent to the population of Uttarakhand lost their jobs in 2018. Let’s generate more jobs in the next five years. 

Shiksha: If we keep the dropout rate going as it is, the number of illiterate children in the country will be equivalent to the population of Bihar.

Manav Vikas: We are all talking about a five trillion dollar economy by 2024. I urge, let us altogether to look at the human development index of India. Where are we on international stage? Behind Libya, behind  Namibia, at 130th position on that index. 

Let’s look at GST together; 17 of the last 23 GST targets have been missed. 

Let’s look at cleanliness. By the time we finish this budget session, eight more Indians would have died due to manual scavenging, cleaning our human *beep*. 

Kisan: Four out of ten insurance claims filed by farmers have remained unpaid and this is something all of us need to resolve looking at the numbers. 

Women: Seven out of ten women in India are anaemic. That’s what we can solve together, Sir. 

Lets now go point wise. Let’s begin with women. There was a lot of thumping at Central Hall that day. It was announced (that we have) 78 (women) MPs; we are all excited. We hang our heads in shame that there are 78 MPs, (which comes to) 14 percent. Come to my state we will show you; 35 MPs from Bengal were women last time. This time we did better, 41 percent of MPs are women. It’s not the only way to empower women, Sir. There are other ways to empower women. 

The first meeting where we met the Prime Minister after this Government was formed, at the All-Party Meeting on June 16, my party, the Trinamool Congress proposed to bring the Women’s Reservation Bill here and now. Yesterday, I was delighted that the Leader of the Opposition passionately led the charge. The Prime Minister is speaking today in Lok Sabha, he is speaking tomorrow in Rajya Sabha; come! Not only on  behalf of the 60 crore women in India but on behalf of the men in India, bring the Women’s Reservation Bill. Otherwise, don’t say a word about women! You want to bring a Bill which will affect 7 crore women; you know what that Bill is. Why? Bring a Bill which affects 60 crore women, because those 7 crore women like everybody else only want protection, simply protection under Article 14, 15, 16. So don’t make it a minority issue.

So much big talk on this Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. Wait, I will tell you the truth about Beti Bachao. The all-India budget for Beti Bachao for all states is Rs 650 crore, challenge these numbers, that means Rs 3 crore per state. By the way, two years before Beti Bachao started, the lady in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee started something called Kanyashree. For one state, the budget for Kanyashree is Rs 7000 crore. How many girls’ lives were touched as a result of that scheme? 52 lakh girls’ lives touched. Advertising budget was not 57%, it was less than 1%. Lip-service, lip-service and more lip-service. And the drop-out rate in Bengal is half now. It’s not only about Bengal because this scheme for women was also awarded by the UN.

Before we move on, again I reiterate. Mr Prime Minister, talk in the Lok Sabha, come and talk here tomorrow. We will pass the Women’s Reservation Bill. Next week we will sit until 10 o’clock at night and pass it, but at least talk about it.

From women, let’s move on to Parliament.

Parliament had a tradition, from 1993 actually, of setting up Standing Committees to scrutinise bills. From the time it was started, till now the average number of bills being scrutinised is about 65% to upto 71%. In other words about 7 out of 10 bills which came here, were scrutinised. Good. It’s a good thing to have scrutiny. Otherwise we will just bring bills, and say, I have got a majority, and pass any odd Bill. Sir, this is not a complaint, that I’m saying BJP did this. I think we all must realise that we are trying. As Opposition, I would like to urge the government, through you Sir, not to take the number further down from what it is now. In the last 5 years, only 24% of the Bills were scrutinised. This is Parliament.

Ordinances. In the first 30 years since independence, out of every 10 Bills passed, one was an Ordinance. In the next 30 years, out of every 10 Bills passed about two were Ordinances. In the last two years, out of every 10 Bills, passed four were Ordinances. Sir, Ordinance is no more the emergency situation. It’s the reality.

Sir, Parliamentary productivity. The onus is always on the government to run the Parliament. The earlier average was 93-94 days. I have brought, after discussing with Mamata Di, (a Private Members’ Bill) – I think Naresh Ji has brought – that Parliament must sit for 100 days. How did we fare last time? 66 days. Bring this legislation. Let us discuss, talk to us and take it forward.

And of course the Budget. You all know, last time it was discussed here. 28 mins – check the records. Only 28 mins and 215 amendments and it was passed.

Women, Parliament and now the back-bone of our Constitution – you come, kiss the Constitution very good – let’s talk about federalism. Earlier, 66 government schemes were centrally sponsored; that number after the last budget has gone down to 28. In other words, the centre was contributing to 66 schemes, now it is only contributing to 28 schemes, rest (are funded by the) state government. The centre reduced its percentage of contribution in 58 schemes. What federalism? Then you say there was more devolution. Look at those numbers. 

Then you come to Ayushmaan Bharat. Here also, 60% of the money was given by the central government and 40% was given by the State Government. Yet the letters went around everywhere with one man’s photograph in it. I don’t want to give big talk about a scheme unless I have serious numbers. In Bengal, we have a scheme called Swasthya Sathi. The Bengal conversation, by the way is being distracted with everything else, because they do not want to hear about this. 

I am only giving you one example in Bengal. Yesterday we had a very good example from Odisha. My friend from DMK will give you another example from Tamil Nadu and similarly across states. I am giving you only one example. Under Swasthya Sathi there is an insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh per family. Cashless. Free treatment in Government hospitals. 40 to 70 percent discount to free medicines – it is happening in Bengal. 

Since you talked about numbers, let me talk to you about numbers. Bengal has achieved 100 percent immunisation of children. Look at the Maternal Mortality Rate. That was some 256, it is now down to 101 because of good healthcare. Infant Mortality Rate has gone down. This is an issue beyond politics. This is work on the ground and this is the way to in federalism. Peep to good idealism from different states.

 যুক্তরাষ্ট্রীয় কাঠামো। বাংলাকে বঞ্চিত করছে, বাংলাকে অপমান করছে, আমি বোঝাব আপনাদের কীভাবে করা হচ্ছে। আগে রেল বাজেট ছিল। রেল বাজেটে ১৯৫০ থেকে কেন্দ্র পয়সা দিত। এখন কে হরিদাস পাল এসে বলল, না কেন্দ্র পয়সা দেবে না, রাজ্যকে পয়সা দিতে হবে। Special Purpose Vehicle। আমি আরও বোঝাতে চাই আপনাদের, আমি আপনাদের দেখাব রেল বাজেটের বরাদ্দ বিজেপি শাসিত রাজ্য কত পায় আর বাংলাকে কীভাবে বঞ্চিত করা হল। সব রাজ্য পাক, সেটা আমরা চাই। উত্তরাখান্ডের রেল বাজেট ১০৭ শতাংশ বেড়ে গেছে। কোন দল ওখানে? রাজস্থানের বাজেট ৩০ শতাংশ বেড়েছে। গুজরাটে ২০ শতাংশ বেড়েছে। মধ্যপ্রদেশে ২০ শতাংশ বেড়েছে। এবার এগুলো দেখুন, দিল্লীর বাজেট কমেছে ৪০ শতাংশ, কেরলের বাজেট কমেছে ২০ শতাংশ, বাংলায় প্রায় ১৭ শতাংশ কমেছে। বাংলাকে বঞ্চিত করা হচ্ছে।

 ৯ই জুন থেকে ১৫ই জুন তিনটে অ্যাডভাইসরি কেন্দ্রীয় সরকার থেকে বাংলায় পাঠানো হয়েছে। এত অ্যাডভাইসরি পাঠাচ্ছেন, আপনারা একটা চাটার্ড ফ্লাইট এখানে রাখুন ও রোজ অ্যাডভাইসরি পাঠান। ৯ তারিখে অ্যাডভাইসরি স্বরাষ্ট্রমন্ত্রক থেকে, ১৫ তারিখে অ্যাডভাইসরি স্বরাষ্ট্রমন্ত্রক থেকে, ৯ তারিখে অ্যাডভাইসরি স্বাস্থ্যমন্ত্রক থেকে। উত্তরপ্রদেশে তো অ্যাডভাইসরি পাঠাননি। অজয় সিং বিষ্ট ওখানকার মুখ্যমন্ত্রী। ২৫ জন উত্তরপ্রদেশে মারা গেছে, ওরা হিন্দু হোক, মুসলমান হোক, যাদব হোক, দলিত হোক, যেই হোক, ২৫ জন মারা গেছে। বিহারে তো অ্যাডভাইসরি পাঠাননি। ১৫০ জন শিশু ওখানে মারা গেছে।

 আপনারা যা করতে চান করুন। কিন্তু, বাংলার অগ্নিকন্যা, দেশের জননেত্রী আপনাদের বিরুদ্ধে লড়বে, লড়বে, লড়বে। যদি আপনারা বাংলায় বক্তৃতা দিতে চান, বা বাংলায় আসার স্বপ্ন দেখতে চান, তাহলে বাংলার কিছু শিখুন। যেমন, কয়েকদিন আগে আমাদের নতুন মানবসম্পদ উন্নয়ন মন্ত্রী বৈঠকে বসেছিলেন, আর বৈঠক ছিল অরোভিলে। উনি বললেন, শ্রী অরবিন্দ কে? এটা আমি খবরের কাগজে দেখেছি। উনি জানেন না শ্রী অরবিন্দ কে? শ্রী অরবিন্দ যিনি যোগার ওপরে এত কাজ করেছেন,আমাদের স্বাধীনতা সংগ্রামে কত অবদান রেখেছেন, কত লড়াই করেছেন। কেন? উনি তো জানবেন না শ্রী অরবিন্দের কথা কারণ, he was a revolutionary-turned-yogi. He didn’t know who Shri Aurobindo is? But he is the HRD Minister of India. কেন জানবেন না? কারণ স্বাধীনতার সংগ্রামে আরএসএস-এর কেউ ছিল না।

তার পরে নির্বাচনের আগে, আমাদের ওখানে বিজেপি-র একজন এসে বললেন, রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর শান্তিনিকেতনে জন্মেছিলেন। উনি এখন আমাদের স্বরাষ্ট্র মন্ত্রী। উনি এখন গিয়ে বাংলায় ভোট চাইছেন। পরের বার যখন উনি আসবেন একটু জোড়াসাঁকো ঘুড়িয়ে আনবো। বাংলাকে বুঝুন, বিদ্যাসাগরকে বুঝুন, বর্ণপরিচয় বুঝুন। বাংলার ক,খ,গ জানেন না – আর আপনি বাংলায় আসতে চান।

You see it’s now the latest fashion – shame Bangla. Sir, with your permission, I’ve got all government figures in which Bengal is number one. I will take 15 seconds, whereas I can take one and a half hours.

100 days work – Bengal is number one. 

Skill Development – Bengal is number one. 

E-Tendering – Bengal is number one. 

Ease of Doing Business – we’re in the top three. 

Rural roads built – Bengal is number one. 

MSME sector – the banks lend most money to which state? Bengal is number one. Growth rate of GSDP – Bengal is number one. 

Krishi Samman Award – thank you Central government – Bengal has got the award five years in a row. 

And of course, farmers’ income. How many promises were made about doubling farmers’ income? We’re not even getting into those numbers. My simple submission is in 2011, when Mamata Banerjee became the Chief Minister she promised to double farmers’ income. She hasn’t doubled it. By 2019, the latest figures suggest it’s not double, she has tripled it. Based on authentic data. The farmers’ income has been tripled in Bengal.

Sir, let’s go back to this point on ‘federalism’. How many times does the Constitution of India mention the term ‘federalism’? How many times is the word mentioned in the Indian Constitution? 14, 27, or maybe 35? No, Sir. ‘federalism’ is not mentioned in the Indian Constitution but that’s what makes it more powerful.

Article 1 of the Constitution says ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States’. So to understand the concept of federalism, let’s not go here or there, let’s go to Dr. Ambedkar. He suggests (and this is the sense of his quote) that in normal times i.e in times of peace the structure of India and the Constitution is federal, and at times of war it is designed to work in a unitary system. That’s the spirit, Sir, of ‘federalism’.

And I want to move on from ‘federalism’. On a lighter note, although it is a very serious subject and all of us must fight till the last drop of blood to save ‘federalism’ in this country. We must. At the all-party meeting the Prime Minister was there, he is not the BJP’s Prime Minister, he is our Prime Minister and he advised all of us. There were no cameras there but we were all there. He said, listen, don’t disturb us till 2023-24. Then you can start your campaign again. Nope, our job as the Opposition is that we will do what it takes starting from today.          

On ‘federalism’ Sir, on a lighter note. The Cricket World Cup is going on. Few days ago, the Indian team that was playing had 11 different players from 11 different Ranji teams. Kya mazaa aaya, Sir. it didn’t happen that way; they didn’t get in by a quota system. They all came in because of that. 

Sir, now we come to institutions. I don’t have time to go into all institutions – CBI, ED etc, so am not going to do all institutions. I am just going to dwell on one institution. Media is the only institution since we don’t have time. But before I start talking about the media, Sir, I want to share a quote – 

“These days with the media in hand it is easy to manufacture great men.” 

What a beautiful quote. Who said this? Dr. B R Ambedkar. He saw this problem coming long long years ago and I don’t want to make it only a point about… Today as the All India Trinamool Congress we appeal to the media owners, you have a responsibility to play, to save our democracy. We appeal to the journalists, bring back the days of the editor, you know ‘The Editor’ of the sixties, the seventies, bring back those days. Where is the media? Where is the media? They use different brands. You know, as everyone says, it has become like a propaganda. It’s very sad. But Sir, I think to overcome this we need partnership of the media. Let me give you four quick examples, Sir.


The first is, why can’t the media partner the people of India and talk about the money spent in these last elections. 80% of ads on Google, You Tube, Facebook are pro-BJP ads. It’s an unlevel playing field.

Then we come to the second one, which is more for the media. I am not an investigative journalist but I hope these points can help the investigative journalists. There was a women’s NGO called Sarvani Foundation, now it’s called ‘Association of Billion Minds’. Go investigate ‘Association of Billion Minds’ – they are a surrogate advertisement creator for the Bharatiya Janata Party. The expense of ‘Association of Billion Minds’ doesn’t even go into the document of the party’s election expenses. 

Second one, go investigate Jarvis Technology, and I am saying this with all the responsibility at my command. Jarvis Technology has all the data points regarding the beneficiaries of all programmes, and that data is used to reach the poll booth, via these beneficiaries. So this is data misuse, and we have also spoken about data darkness, where the data disappears. 

The NDA also had a hidden partner – Non Disclosed Alliance. I am not here to promote book The Real Face of Facebook in India. You won’t read about this in the newspapers, you won’t see this on the television channels but this book tells a sordid story. The Facebook senior management in India are the de facto campaign managers for the BJP. Facebook’s Delhi office is virtually an extension of the BJP’s IT Cell, and I am saying this with all responsibility. Facebook censored anti-BJP news and put other parties in jeopardy. The Facebook algorithms censor anti-BJP content. 

Then you come to WhatsApp, owned by Facebook. I don’t want to dwell on Whatsapp because everybody knows about it. I have one lovely quote about WhatsApp, said in September 2018, “We are capable of delivering any message we want to the public, whether it’s sweet or sour, true of fake. We can do this only because we have 35 WhatsApp groups. This is how we can make everything viral.” Wow! The person who said this in September 2018 is now the Home Minister of India. Where are we headed? 

And of course, in return, Facebook got a lot of other benefits. There is much more to talk about besides Facebook, but we must investigate this. The media must look into it. 

Now let us come to the issue of electoral funding. When a television channel brings in money through the FCRA route, you hustle them. It happened in 2018. When the lawyers’ collective brings in money through the FCRA route, you hustle them. But you are, merrily, with a hose pipe, bringing in foreign funding. Then sab chalega. You remove the 7.5 per cent cap on companies which are donating to political parties. Fifty to 60 per cent of the money is coming in from unknown sources. And the ADR says, out of the total amount received through electoral bonds, 95 per cent of funds went to the BJP.

Now, Sir, let me make, on behalf of Trinamool, three solid suggestions to level the playing field of elections because it’s an uneven playing field, and we’ve been saying this right from 1998, when we started. 

We need a collegium to appoint the election commissioners. Read the Constituent Assembly debates. Shibban Lal Saxena made this suggestion. Dr Ambedkar didn’t throw the suggestion away. In fact, in Clause 2 of Article 24 of the Constitution, he said: “The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President.” It is not to lay for Parliament to act. I urge political parties across the aisle, please let us do this, let us study this in detail. This was made by our founding fathers. 

The second suggestion is about the use of ballot papers because EVMs are not reliable. We can have a full debate on that. And the third one is about the state funding of elections. A report was brought out by a parliamentary committee in 1998 which had seven to eight people, including Indrajit Gupta, Somnath Chatterjee and Ram Gopal ji; it also had members from the BJP. 

The committee made some very serious suggestions about the state funding of elections: create a fund for state funding so that it’s constitutional and hence, legal; provide equal opportunities, etc. This is a very, very important document.

These three suggestions are from the point of view of electoral reforms. You handle these first, then you talk about ‘One nation One Election’. There was a lovely cartoon I saw in The Hindu yesterday. One senior person from the government is saying, ‘One Nation One Election’ and the second-most senior member is holding a poster up, saying, ‘And One Candidate’. 

Trinamool will continue to play the role of a constructive Opposition. It normally doesn’t happen, when we got 4 per cent extra votes, like we got in Bengal, but less seats. 

I want to end today by speaking on a very, very important day, the darkest day of India. The 25th of June 44 years ago was the darkest day of India. Democracy was strangled, misused, and two years later, the people of India gave a fitting reply to those who strangled and mutilated democracy. Today, on the 25th of June 2019, let me say this – we did not tolerate the Emergency, and we will be alert, we will fight under Mamata Di to never allow a ‘Super Emergency’

Thank you, Sir.