Welcome to all of you.
Repeal of Farm Laws
The Government has finally repealed the three farm laws. In this government’s usual style, the repeal was done undemocratically just as their passage last year was pushed through without discussion.
Farmers and farmer organisations have been strongly protesting and agitating against these laws for the past thirteen months. The Congress Party has been pressing for their repeal along with many other Opposition parties. It is the solidarity and tenacity of the farmers, their discipline and dedication that has forced an arrogant Government to climb-down.
Let us salute them for their great achievement. Let us remember that more than 700 farmers have been martyred in the past twelve months and honour their sacrifice. We are firm in our commitment to stand by the farmers in their demands for a legally guaranteed MSP, remunerative prices that meet the costs of cultivation, and compensation to the bereaved families.
Spiralling Prices of Essentials
Since this session commenced, we have also been raising the issue of spiralling prices of all essential commodities of daily consumption.
I cannot understand how and why the Modi Government is so insensitive and continues to deny the seriousness of the problem. It seems impervious to the suffering of the people.
The steps it has recently taken to reduce petrol, diesel and cooking gas prices are totally insufficient and inadequate. As usual, the government has passed on the responsibility for duty cuts to financially strapped state governments - when it itself has far greater room for action. And all this while, the Centre persists with huge public expenditure on vain glorious projects!
The prices of edible oils, pulses and vegetables are burning a hole in the monthly budget of every household. The rising prices of cement, steel and other basic industrial commodities also does not bode well for economic recovery.
Selling off National Assets & Economy
The Modi government is busy selling off precious national assets like banks, insurance companies, public sector enterprises, railways and airports. First, the Prime Minister destroyed the economy with his demonetization move of November 2016. He is continuing on that disastrous path, but calling it monetization. Now, he is dismantling the public sector built up over the past seventy years with strategic, economic and social objectives in mind. All that has been given the go by. And what will happen to employment of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, for instance, if public sector companies and institutions continue to be privatized? Already lakhs upon lakhs of people, mostly young, have joined and continue to join the ranks of the unemployed.
For quite some time, spokespersons of the Government have been proclaiming that the economy is on its way to a speedy recovery. But recovery for whom is the real question?
It means nothing to those millions who have lost their livelihoods, and to those MSMEs whose businesses have been crippled — not just by the Covid-19 pandemic but also by the combined effects of notebandi and the hasty implementation of a flawed GST.
A few big companies making profits or the stock market rising to new heights does not mean that the economy is recovering. And if profits are being made by shedding labour, what social value do these profits have?
Yes, the economy had lost its momentum well before Covid-19 struck. Yes, the pandemic accelerated this loss. But thanks to the Government’s half-hearted and ill-advised responses, the situation has become even more serious.
No Allocation of Time for Debate on key issues in Parliament
It is extraordinary that Parliament has been given no opportunity whatsoever so far to have a discussion on the challenges we continue to face on our borders. Such a discussion would have also been an opportunity to demonstrate a collective will and resolve. The government may not want to answer difficult questions but it is the right and duty of the Opposition to seek clarifications and explanations. The Modi Government steadfastly refuses to allocate time for a debate. I would once again urge for a full-fledged discussion on the border situation and relations with our neighbours.
Covid -19: Publicity Stunt
Coming to the Covid situation, medical experts have clearly said that every adult must receive two doses of vaccination. The Modi Government indulged in massive publicity and celebrations when the 100-crore dose mark was reached. Needless to say, it never bothered to mention that the 100-crore mark figure was for a single vaccination only. The sad reality is that the country is nowhere close to reaching the level of double-dose vaccination announced by the Government for the end of the year. Efforts must clearly be intensified—the daily vaccination dose has to increase four-fold so that even 60% of the population is covered with both doses.
Now the Omicron variant has reached our country. Our preparedness to deal with the changing situation is also being fully tested. I hope the Government has learnt a lesson from the previous waves of Covid 19 and is preparing itself to dealing effectively with the new variant.
Compensation for Farmers
There are many other issues that we want to raise. Important amongst them, are a discussion on the various challenges confronting Indian agriculture and the urgent need to have direct income support to families who have lost their livelihoods. We must insist on it.
Shocking & Tragic Incidents
I must also express our collective sense of deep anguish at the tragic incidents that took place in Nagaland, causing the death of so many innocent people, as also that of a security personnel. The Government expressing regret is not enough! Justice for the families of the victims has to be ensured at the earliest. Credible steps must be taken to prevent the recurrence of such ghastly tragedies.
Solidarity with MPs
The outrageous suspension of 12 Opposition Rajya Sabha MPs for the entire Winter session is unprecedented and shocked us all. It violates both the Constitution and the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States, as Kharge-ji has explained in his letter to the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Chhaya Verma, Phulo Devi Netam, Ripun Bora, Nasir Hussein, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Rajamani Patel – six of our colleagues have been sitting by the Gandhi statue every day. We stand in solidarity with them.
I end by expressing the hope that attendance will be full and participation active. Thank you.