09 March 2005

SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI (MAHARASHTRA) : Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Chairman Sir. On the Motion of Thanks to the President, I would not like to raise all and sundry issues. We have got this opportunity after 12 days, as Hon. comrade, Shri Nilotpal Basu pointed out. But once we have the opportunity, I would like to use it exclusively for comments on the President's speech.

                When speeches are made and there is acrimonious, tit for tat kind of debates, “you did that and therefore, we are doing it” I don't think we can really put the blame for the fact that the debate did not come up for 12 days. (When I was a student, we used to call it the 'RSS argument'. The RSS volunteers in our classes would always make an argument like that -- 'Muslims do that, therefore, we should also do it.' I find that all the comrades in the Left have fallen victim to this RSS virus and they are using the same kind of logic that the NDA did this when they were in power and, therefore, whatever we are doing would be fully justified.) The President spoke on the 25th February 2005 and the debate is happening after 12 days. During the interval, most of the time, the Rajya Sabha didn’t work at all. Naturally, then an attempt was made to say that you raked up a ruckus and therefore, there was no debate. I don't think we can really go into and find out who started this. But I undertook the exercise of finding out where did this practice start. And very objectively, without trying to be critical of NDA or without trying to side by the UPA, I would say that the first person who started this work was Sanjay Gandhi and his fighting brigade. They were the people who started this. Therefore, if you really want to find out who really started the trouble, I don’t think we will come to any kind of concrete conclusion. 

                The more important question is where we are going. If this book (Text of President’s Address) were to be published with a title, it would be called 'Where are we?', because that was the quotation the President made. A very famous poet, Umar Khayyam, himself raised this question in one of his rubaiyyat and said - whence I came, where am I going, not knowing the answers, I asked the skies above the same question, and the sky, equally ignorant, said, he did not know. Similarly, we went through the President's Address, hoping that we will get some kind of a line and some kind of a direction. The President, we found, himself, was not knowing exactly where are we.

                What happened during the 12 days has been a very eloquent comment on the President's Address. We have had a Parliament which was not working; we have had results of three elections in three States. And if those three elections have brought out anything, very honestly and very impartially I would say, ‘Out of the three States, in one State Congress had a sweeping victory. But in two other States the scales were so balanced that all that one can say about the 2004 elections is that the dice fell one way, the dice could as well fall another way in the next elections. Therefore, the kind of deterministic and dogmatic position that is taken from the ruling side that the secularism has triumphed and the communalism has been vanquished, etc. doesn’t really have any place in the factual situation.’ Very fact is this. We have a nation where Hindus or those they identify as Hindus, are the largest single minority. And the calculation of one side was that if they somehow managed to placate this largest single minority, which is about 50 or 60 per cent, then they might manage to get five per cent here, five per cent there and can manage a political majority.

                Other people were wiser and they thought rather than capturing the 50 per cent minority, it’s much better to go on collecting small groups here and there and, therefore, they managed to create a cluster which very clearly, talks of, even in open, one talks of the Muslim-Yadav alliance; the other talks of Muslim-Dalit-Yadav. These are the people, these are the kinds of groups that have been accumulated. This time, what has happened is not the triumph of secularism. This is not the defeat of communalism. Don't be under that wrong impression. What has really happened is a clever calculation about the political game that has triumphed and the other political parties have been found to be less clever in calculations. If that has happened, then, I am sorry to note that the President himself, has to read out a speech that is given by the ruling party. (Not recorded) But, I don’t think, the mention in the speech, which can really go as electoral propaganda that this has been the victory of secularism, etc., should have found any place here. The President talked about the early warning system and the disaster management system and I would like to point out that the disaster management and early warning system were kept aside not by this Government. I am not there to blame any particular Government. This was done under the NDA when disaster management was given to the present Minister for Agriculture. He was the Chairman with the rank of a Cabinet Minister and it was a positive decision taken that the early warning system should be kept aside. We had, after that, the experience of al nino, we had the experience of Bhuj earthquake and, all the same, the decision was not reviewed. In this very year, the Meteorological Department gave a wrong reading of early monsoons and good monsoons with the result that the crops failed and the farmers were driven to suicide. The President should have really made it a clear point and pointed out who was responsible for the fact that the early warning system was shelved. Then, since he has mentioned inclusiveness and pluralism often, I would like to say that the pluralism, that we are experiencing now, is a very selective kind of pluralism and very selective kind of inclusiveness. Those, who constitute specific political blocks, who can give you votes, those are the people you want to include in your inclusiveness. But, there are others. For example, farmers have not been able to organise themselves as a political community and have never been able to control the Government in spite of the fact that they are about 60 per cent in the whole country. Now, this inclusiveness does not include farmers.

                The President has talked of the National Common Minimum Programme so often in the speech. In fact, he should have avoided that because it is not a National Programme; it’s not a CMP, it is a Common Minimum Programme drafted by the members of the UPA and that’s what it is. I think, the President should not have glorified it as National Common Minimum Programme. All the same, the National Common Minimum Programme, at least, has two points. One point is that the Government will take measures to reduce the burden of loans and interest on the farmers. Nothing has been done in that direction in the last seven months. There is another specific point in the National Common Minimum Programme, and that is that all measures, that have the effect of depressing agricultural prices - restricting the movement of agricultural commodities etc. - will be removed. Nothing has been done in that direction. So, we will find that this inclusiveness is a very questionable and a selective kind of inclusiveness. 

                The last point is about the promise that the post-tsunami measures will ensure that the maritime civilisation and industry will be properly established. I have reason to believe from an NGO, which is working actually in Kerala and Tamil Nadu that what is happening there is that, because of the compensation system, many fishermen are being given boats for fishing, with the result that there is an excess capacity of fishing boats now and they are going to face serious problems in the coming years. I think, the policy of giving compensations and replacements should have been better worked out. The compensation should have been based on the fate and assessed needs of those who have survived rather than on the basis of people who expired or the property that they lost. The people who died, if the compensation is paid on that basis, the people who worked there are actually showing me evidence that, attempts are made to falsify and fabricate the evidence in order to get compensation more than what they really deserve. These are some of the suggestions, and some of the lacunae that I found in the President's speech, Deputy Chairman, Sir, through your media, I wanted to put it before the House. Thank you very much.