Three major developments are today taking place in the country simultaneously. Farmers are forced to commit suicide for not getting fare price of their produces, thousands of tonnes of foodgrains is rotting in different parts due to lack of inadequate storage infrastructure, and crores of people sleep empty stomach every day. According to government statistics, 37.2 per cent population of the country is forced to live below poverty line. Arjun Sen Gupta Committee clearly said that 6,40,000 people are forced to survive at Rs 9 per day.
Everyday, we see restlessness in the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India with just small fluctuation in share market, but the rotting foodgrains, suicides by farmers, six crore people sleeping without food make no government or agency restless.
This is the actual state of affairs in the country today. Our Parliamentarians recently expressed grave concern over the fast declining credibility of Parliament while celebrating 60 years. But none of them honestly tried to go into the reasons which are causing this decline. The truth is that if we fail to act today, the situation may take an ugly turn, which will be difficult to face by any government or political party.
The Members of Parliament (MPs) participated in the celebration of 60 years in both the Houses of Parliament on May 13. About 150 of the total 543 MPs in Lok Sabha and 43 of the total 243 MPs in Rajya Sabha joined the special discussion conducted on the occasion. After that a joint session of both the Houses was organised in Central Hall. The unanimous view emerged out of the entire celebration was that the credibility of Parliament degraded in the 60 years. But none of them tried to resolve to rectify the reasons causing this degradation.
During the last 60 years many vows have been taken by the Parliament on different occasions. But the seriousness which is displayed while taking the vow, is found missing in materialising them. For instance, after the 1962 war with China, we vowed to liberate every single inch of our land from the Chinese occupation. But practically no concrete action was ever seen towards materialising that resolve even after passing 50 years. While celebrating 50 years of Independence, the Parliament vowed that the only unfinished task with Pakistan regarding Kashmir was to take back the portion illegally occupied by Pakistan. But now practically the leaders do not want to remember that vow and they also expect the other countrymen to forget it.
Similarly, during the general elections of 1971, Smt Indira Gandhi gave the slogan of poverty eradication. But now after 40 years of that slogan, instead of eradicating poverty, we could not even ascertain the exact number of poor in the country. The Central Government in its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court recently says that those who earn Rs 32 in cities and Rs 26 in villages are not poor. On the other hand, the Planning Commission of the same Government says that those who spend Rs 28.42 in cities and Rs 22.62 in rural areas are not poor. Contrary to both these claims the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in its memorandum says that those who spend Rs 65.10 in cities and Rs 35.10 in rural areas are not poor. The common men is confused as to who is right—the central government, Planning Commission or the NSSO. The prime question is whether one can survive today at Rs 32 in cities and Rs 22 in rural areas. Nobody in the government is ready to answer it.
Undoubtedly, the Parliament enacted many laws related to labourers/employees, but nobody ever bothered whether they were properly implemented or not. For example, Contract System Eradication and Regulation Act was enacted in 1970, but even the Government Departments are violating it today. The Labour Department, which is responsible for implementing the law, is getting the work done on contract. Similarly, in 2008, the government enacted a law for the workers of unorganised sector. But the reality is that no state government has so far constituted a Board to ensure that its benefits should reach the poor workers of the unorganised sector. Equally responsible is the Central Government which has not provided adequate fund for it. The Central Government did not even think it necessary to question the state governments in this regard. Now the government is even refusing to legally implement the Employees Provident Fund Act which comes under the social security law. For example, the limit of Rs 6500 has been fixed for the Provident Fund Act. Whereas fact is that the minimum wage in cities like Delhi is now Rs 7020. It means the government refused to extend the benefit of social security law to the labourers in this 60th year of Parliament.
If the government or the Parliament are really serious to save the credibility of Parliament they should wipe out the tears of these poor, take steps to prevent farmers committing suicide so that the poor can also live happily and also realise the fruits of Independence. What pained me more in this celebration of 60 years of Parliament was that not even 60 seconds were spent to discuss the woes of the deprived people in this 60th year of the Parliament.
(The writer is national general secretary of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh)