AILC Memo to President
A five-member AILC delegation comprising Comrades Mangat Ram Pasla (Secretary of CPM Punjab), Bhimrao Bansode (General Secretary of LNP(Leninist) Maharashtra), Taramani Rai (General Secretary of CPRM), Dipankar Bhattacharya (General Secretary of CPI(ML)Liberation) and Prem Singh Gehlawat (Party’s incharge for Haryana) presented the following memorandum at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
At the outset of the Budget Session of Parliament, the All India Left Coordination would like to bring to your attention several urgent legislative and policy issues requiring consideration in Parliament.
1. Anti Corruption Legislation: The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill passed by the upper house has serious flaws and shortcomings that will render it completely incapable of combating the deeply ingrained cancer of corruption. In its present form, the Bill does not allow for a Lokpal/Lokayukta that is truly independent of the ruling regime of the day, nor one that has the requisite authority and force to independently probe and pursue complaints of corruption. It fails to cover a large range of public functionaries, while its clauses against ‘false complaints’ intimidate whistleblowers and anti-corruption activists. Further, it has no specific safeguards to discourage and penalise crony capitalism and corporate plunder of natural resources – that is the dominant characteristic of most big-ticket scams in India today. We submit that the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill be redrafted to ensure full independence, autonomy, and investigation powers of the Lokpal/Lokayukta institutions; bring all public functionaries from the Prime Minister to the pradhan under the purview of the Lokpal/Lokayukta; provisions to protect rather than discourage and intimidate anti-corruption activists and whistle-blowers; and provisions specifically targeted against the beneficiaries (both corporate and public servants) of corporate plunder of natural resources and crony capitalism.
2. Food Security: Prices of food, essential commodities and fuel have been constantly on the rise, imposing an unbearable burden on the common man. Widespread hunger and malnutrition mock our claims of progress and development. The UPA Government’s Food Security Bill, far from protecting the common people in these tough times, will, if passed, actually render them more vulnerable. The Bill continues the discriminatory and exclusionary policy of targeting, dividing the needy into ‘priority’ and ‘general’ households. It proposes to replace food rations with cash transfers – a move which can only benefit corporate and MNC retailers and rob farmers of MSP by doing away with procurement. The Government needs to acknowledge that the vast majority of Indians are needy, and the PDS and other social schemes must be universalised to provide any real measure of food security for all. Only the topmost layer of upper middle class and rich must be excluded from the benefits of PDS: all other households must get 50 kg of food grains at subsidised rates, as well as subsidized supply of other essential requirements like dal, cooking oil, vegetables and milk, while the poorest households and those in especially vulnerable situations must get additional protection. We seek an amendment of the Food Security Bill to this effect.
3. Right to Employment: With jobless growth being aggravated by the economic crisis, job cuts and retrenchment are creating great anxiety and insecurity for youth. Those jobs that have been created are casual, contractual, highly exploitative and insecure and lacking in basic dignity and rights. It is high time that the Government recognised the Right to Work as a fundamental right. Right to Work must be defined as the right to dignified and remunerative work, and calls for an end to exploitation of casualised and contract labour and violation of labour laws, upholding the principle of equal pay for equal work and ensuring fullest democracy at the workplace. In case of inability to provide dignified and secure employment, the Government be obligated to pay adequate and reasonable unemployment allowance.
4. FDI in Retail: The disturbing attempt by the Government to introduce FDI in retail, bypassing Parliament, has been temporarily put on hold. We submit that FDI in retail, far from opening up avenues for employment as the Government promises, will actually rob millions of Indians, currently surviving as small vendors, shop employees etc, of their already precarious means of livelihood and survival. We therefore ask that the proposal of FDI in retail be withdrawn.
5. Land Acquisition: Corporate land grab and forced eviction of peasants and tribals has emerged as a burning issue all over the country. This is a matter of concern, not only from the point of view of peasants’ and tribals’ rights to land and livelihood, but also from the angle of the country’s food security and protection of precious natural resources. The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill 2011, introduced to replace the notorious 1894 Land Acquisition Act, seems to be founded on a completely misplaced premise. Its fundamental thrust appears to be to facilitate land acquisition, rather than to safeguard food security and peasants’ and tribals’ rights. Not only does it not have any will to prevent forcible land acquisition or protect fertile and forest land; its provisions for compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement are also extremely weak and inadequate. We therefore demand that the LARR Bill 2011 be withdrawn, and instead a fresh legislation be drafted, that will impose severe restrictions and safeguards against indiscriminate acquisition or purchase of fertile and forest land; prevent any forcible land grab (whether through acquisition or purchase) by making people’s informed consent mandatory; prevent any land acquisition for private companies; and ensuring adequate compensation and R&R for land holders as well as affected agricultural labour and other toiling people who lose their livelihood, both in cases of land purchased by private companies or land acquired by the government.
6. Second State Reorganisation Commission: Long-pending popular movements for separate statehood in many parts of the country, most notably Telangana and Gorkhaland, continue to await any satisfactory resolution. The Centre’s policy towards such issues has been marked by vacillation, double standards, and backtracking on promises – aggravating the situation. In this light, we demand that a Second State Reorganisation Commission be set up at the earliest, for a sympathetic resolution to such long-pending questions of separate statehood.
7. Six Bills on Higher Education: We note with concern a package of six Bills on higher education, which are being introduced in the name of reforming the manifest ills of anarchy and corruption in higher education. However, these Bills, instead of addressing these rampant problems that exploit and cheat students and rob them of their right to education, are designed to aggravate the problem by giving a freer hand than ever before to private, commercialised and foreign educational institutions. The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010, the Universities for Innovation Bill 2010, the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Educational Institutions Bill, 2010, the Educational Tribunals Bill 2010, the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) Bill 2010, and the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill 2010, all have clauses exempting private and foreign ‘education providers’ from regulatory norms, and in fact these Bills fail to lay down any adequate norms – relating to cap on fees, infrastructure and teaching, compliance with reservation for students from deprived backgrounds - or penalties for violation of such norms. We therefore demand that all these Bills be withdrawn with immediate effect, and fresh legislation be drafted as required in consultation with educationists and students’ and teachers’ groups.
8. National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC): The proposed National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) has been opposed by Chief Ministers, mainly on the grounds of violation of federal principles. In addition to these federal concerns, we feel that the proposed NCTC confers several draconian and invasive powers on the Intelligence Bureau, that are a matter of serious concern for democracy and civil liberties in India. We therefore demand withdrawal of the proposed NCTC. In addition, we also demand the scrapping of several draconian legislations – including the UAPA and the Armed Forced Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which violate principles of democracy and civil liberties.
9. Koodankulam: We note with outrage the attempts by the Prime Minister himself to intimidate protestors against the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant in Tamilnadu, by insinuating that they are pawns of a ‘foreign hand.’ Such statements are an insult to the democratic principles that allow citizens full freedom to protest and voice their opinions on policy issues. In fact, what is of concern that our country’s energy policies seem to be tailored more to serve the interests of foreign nuclear corporations and industry, rather than to prioritise the safety and interests of India’s own people. We demand that the Koodankulam project be cancelled, with view to the prevailing concerns about public safety posed by it.
10. Dow Sponsorship of Olympics: The brazen refusal of the London Olympics Organising Committee to cancel the sponsorship of Dow Chemicals (which, after taking over the infamous Union Carbide, is yet to acknowledge its commitments towards compensation and clean-up of the Bhopal gas disaster), and the British Prime Minister’s defence of Dow’s sponsorship, is a matter of outrage for the vast majority of Indians. We demand that the Indian Parliament honour the sentiments of Indian citizens, and adopt a resolution demanding cancellation of Dow’s sponsorship.
We hope that you will bring the above matters, of concern to the common people, to the notice of the Government for speedy action.
(Mangat Ram Pasla)
Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) Maharashtra
Left Coordination Committee, Kerala
Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM)