Shri Pranab Mukherjee, while presenting the budget yesterday as the Interim Finance Minister, said, “When the time comes, the people will recognize the Hand that made it possible.” I agree with him. Yes, the people will recognize ―
• the Hand that made price rise possible.
• the Hand that made farmers’ suicide possible.
• the Hand that made joblessness possible.
• the Hand that made speculative bubble possible.
• the Hand that made the economic crisis possible.
• the Hand that made scandals like Satyam/Maytas and “Cash for Votes” possible.
• The Hand that made more terror attacks possible
• The Hand that made more corruption possible
Mr. Speaker Sir,
I rise to join the House in thanking Mahamahim Rashtrapati for her address to the Joint Houses of Parliament.
The President’s Address to Parliament is prepared by the Government. It is customary for the two Houses to adopt a motion of thanks to the President at the end of the debate. But the debate itself affords an opportunity to members belonging to both the ruling side and the Opposition to present their independent views. This is the beauty of parliamentary democracy. All of us are united when it comes to affirming our common allegiance to the principles and symbols of the parliamentary system. At the same, we have the right to differ and to criticize.
Before I proceed, I join the entire House in wishing speedy recovery to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
I would also like the House to join me in wishing speedy recovery to former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
This being the last session of the 14th Lok Sabha, I would like, on my behalf and on behalf of all of the entire Opposition, to place on record our thanks and appreciation for the service rendered by the Speaker Shri Somnath Chatterjee.
There is one other person to whom I and my colleagues in the Opposition owe thanks and appreciation. It is the Leader of the House, Shri Pranab Mukherjee. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to the UPA Government without Pranab Babu. Whatever be the responsibility, his shoulders are ready to carry the burden. He presented his budget 25 years ago. Yesterday, he did so again, in his capacity as the interim Finance Minister. We may differ on the policies and performance of the government, but there can be no doubt about his service to the House.
People will judge UPA govt to be a FAILED GOVERNMENT
Mr. Speaker Sir,
The government has come to the fag end of its tenure. Elections are knocking on the door. Notwithstanding what the government has claimed in the President’s Address, the stark truth is that, when the people make a five-year evaluation of the government’s performance, their verdict will be: this is a failed government. Indeed, they will adjudge this as one of the worst governments India has seen.
The last session of Parliament was held in the aftermath of 26/11, the horrific terrorist attack on Mumbai. I said that when our Motherland is attacked by an enemy, all of us have to be united. Invoking the wisdom of the Mahabharata, I said, “Vayam Panchadhikam Shatam” -- The Pandavas are five and the Kauravas are a hundred in normal times, but while facing an enemy they stand united and become 105.
The Opposition performed its duty towards the nation at a time of crisis. But have those in office performed their duty towards the nation?
We supported the two anti-terror bills that the government introduced. This was a total U-turn on the part of the government and its constituent parties, who had all along maintained that no special anti-terror law was required since existing laws were sufficient. Indeed, the government’s first decision in 2004 was to repeal POTA.
In the last session, you did not have to answer on why you did a U-turn. But let me tell you that you are going to have to answer this question in the election campaign. Because your commitment to fight terrorism is suspect. It was a crisis that compelled you to take a certain stand.
And even the anti-terror law that you brought in was flawed. Under the law as it exists, the confession of an accused like Kasab cannot be presented as evidence before the court. When I pointed it out in the last session, and when other Honourable members pointed out other shortcomings, Home Minister Shri P. Chidambaram stated that the shortcomings could be corrected later.
I would like to tell my friends in the Government that you may not get a chance to do that. A new government, which is more committed to fighting terrorism, will do it.
Why didn’t the Govt set up an inquiry into 26/11?
While on 26/11, I must make another important point. Why has the Government not set up a judicial inquiry to probe how the terror attack on Mumbai became possible? After all, right from the PM to Raksha Mantri to the National Security Adviser had publicly pointed to the possibility of a terror attack using the sea route. Therefore, why not investigate the lapses, how they took place, who was responsible? What was the responsibility of the Central Government? What was the responsibility of the state government? After all, there has to be accountability.
There is another aspect of 26/11 that needs to be probed. The November 26 Mumbai terror attacks could not have been carried out without help from local elements.
Moreover, the inquiry, and the corrective action that will hopefully follow, will help in making such attacks in future more difficult. After 9/11, the United States set up a commission of inquiry whose report led to many far-reaching decisions. And there has not been a single terrorist incident in the United States in the last nine years. Shouldn’t we learn a lesson from these global experiences?
Supreme Court’s decisions on Afzal Guru and Bangladeshi infiltration not implemented
Mr. Speaker Sir, the people will judge this government’s five-year performance in fighting the threats to our internal security on the basis of two more issues. Firstly, the Government has not acted upon the Supreme Court’s decision on execution of Afzal Guru, the prime convict in the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament.
Secondly, the Government has not acted upon the Supreme Court’s directive on taking effective measures to stop illegal migration from Bangladesh into Assam and other parts of the country. The Supreme Court has warned that the unchecked influx from Bangaldesh has assumed the proportions of “an external aggression” ― strong words indeed.
It may be recalled that the Supreme Court has rapped the UPA government twice on this issue. Once when it struck down the IMDT Act as unconstitutional. And the second time when the Government tried to bring in the very unconstitutional provisions of the IMDT as an amendment into the Foreigners Act, which too was struck down by the apex court.
Mr. Speaker Sir, this is not a BJP vs. Congress issue. All parties represented in this august House, which have sworn allegiance to the Constitution, are duty-bound to defend the unity and integrity of the nation. Security of the nation has to be sacrosanct to all of us. Whether the government is of this party or that party, of this coalition or that coalition, we all are answerable to India’s future generations.
Future generations will not forgive intentional failure to counter “external aggression” in Assam
Now, if as a result of what the Supreme Court itself has called “an external aggression”, Assam and the rest of India’s North-East face a real threat of division of the nation at a future point in time, won’t the UPA Government be held guilty by future generations? Just as Nehru’s government is held guilty by the present generation for the problem in Kashmir, which remains unresolved even after six decades?
In the case of Pandit Nehru, at least this much can be said that his mistake was not on account of votebank considerations. But what can be said about the collusive approach of today’s Congress party to Bangladeshi infiltration? For sake of votes, you are not bothered even about the extinction of Assam and the future dismemberment of India.
We shall not let this happen. The people of India shall not let this happen.
All-round despair is UPA govt’s achievement on economic front
Mr. Speaker Sir,
I now turn to some of the Government’s claimed achievements on the economic front, as stated in the President’s Address. The tone of achievement and self-congratulation was repeated in the budget that the government presented yesterday.
What do facts on the ground say?
I have with me an article by Dr. Bibek Debroy, a distinguished economist who was at one time the Director of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute. Hence, one cannot attach bias to what he says. The title of his article in The Indian Express of 6th February 2009 says it all: ‘Downgrade UPA's fiscal management!’
He writes: “Not just the Indian economic story, the deficit story is also increasingly turning dismal…. With off-budget items like oil and fertilizer bonds thrown in, the Centre's deficit will be 9% of GDP… the State deficit will be 3% and the combined deficit will be 12% of GDP. .. Twelve per cent is a horrendous figure, unparalleled since 1991. The issue is not the inevitable downgrading of India's sovereign credit rating, once this becomes public domain information on February 16.
There was a consensus on fiscal rectitude across every government since 1991. That disappeared under UPA…We should downgrade UPA's fiscal management.”
Dr. Debroy ends his article with the sentence: “Citizens have simply been too kind.”
All-round economic mismanagement
This is about fiscal mismanagement. What about credit mismanagement? There is a virtual credit famine in the market. Banks are not lending. The worst affected are the small and medium enterprises. I am not counting here the unorganized and informal sectors of the economy, since they don’t receive any help from the banking sector.
Your government appointed a committee under Dr. C. Rangarajan on “Financial Inclusion”. It’s a noble idea. How can we have inclusive growth without financial inclusion? But what did the committee’s report show?
• 51.4% of farmer households are financially excluded from both formal / informal sources.
• Overall, 73% of farmer households have no access to formal sources of credit.
This is the state of affairs after sixty years of freedom. The Congress party has ruled for the longest period in these six decades. The Congress party pursued EXCLUSIVE GROWTH, and NOT INCLUSIVE GROWTH.
And at no time was this Exclusive Growth more manifest than during the five years of the UPA. Your policies helped a handful of Indians become billionaires. Newspapers used to write about how many Indian businessmen were in the list of
Global Top Ten or Top 50 or Top 100.
Because of the government’s mismanagement of the capital markets, a speculative bubble was allowed to be formed. The stock market went up to 21,000 in January 2008. A year later, it fell below 10,000. The bubble burst, since it had to burst. When it burst, it is the small investors who were hit the hardest.
But I am less concerned by the ups and downs in the stock market than the ups in aam aadmi’s market. The UPA government’s focus was on the Stock Market, not on Sabzi Market or Grain Market or Kirana Market where the aam aadmi found ― and is still finding ― that the prices of essential commodities have gone beyond his reach.
I have here with a report in The Economic Times of February 13 that says: “Retail prices of essential items jump up to 40%”
“Retail prices of 23 essential items, including onion, washing soap, saree, rose up to 40% during the second half of 2008, according to the price data placed before Parliament.”
The information was provided by none other than the minister of state for consumer affairs Taslimuddin in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.
Let me remind you that this figure refers to the second half of 2008, the very period in which the government claims that the rate of inflation came down.
This shows how badly the government has mismanaged the prices. Because of price rise, crores of Indians have become poorer than they were. And the poor have been hit the hardest.
Infrastructure development neglected
Mr. Speaker Sir, I now come to the government’s mismanagement of infrastructure development. In its issue of January 30, 2009, India Today magazine highlighted the plight of the National Highway Development Project with a headline that said: Roads to Nowhere
“Eight years after it took off as a prominent signpost of India’s drive to be one of the world’s fastest growing economies, the National Highways Development Programme (NHDP) with its planned network of world-class highways and an investment of Rs 2,20,000 crore is a picture of missed deadlines, policy blips, red-tape, and most importantly, delayed economic benefits to the country.”
I have here with me the actual figures about how this signature project has been badly neglected by the UPA Government.
The same is true about the Government’s claims on Bharat Nirman, which is about rural infrastructure.
• village electrification is only 34 per cent
• electrification of officially determined BPL households an abysmal 6 per cent
• drinking water connections to habitations around 48 per cent
• Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana – badly behind schedule
How can there be real economic growth, how can there be employment generation, if infrastructure is ignored?
Mr. Speaker Sir, today joblessness is spreading like wildfire because of the economic crisis. Each and every sector of the economy has been badly affected ― construction, automobiles, capital goods, textiles, gems and jewellery, tourism and, of course, IT and IT-enabled services. Millions of ordinary Indians have lost their jobs due to the sharp downturn in the economy, and many more are experiencing the torment of likely loss of livelihood.
According to the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, one crore jobs could be lost by March 2009.
Increasingly, there are stories about the newly jobless committing suicide.
We already have a large underemployed population, most of them young Indians. And now there is the specter of those already employed losing their jobs.
People are worried about the uncertain future. I have never seen this kind of loss of confidence in my many years of political life.
I am sad to say that the President’s Address was totally silent on this issue.
The Interim Finance Minister, while presenting the budget yesterday, said, “When the time comes, the people will recognize the Hand that made it possible.”
I agree with him.
• Yes, the people will recognize the Hand that made price rise possible.
• Yes, the people will recognize the Hand that made farmers’ suicide possible.
• Yes, the people will recognize the Hand that made joblessness possible.
• Yes, the people will recognize the Hand that made speculative bubble possible.
• Yes, the people will recognize the Hand that made the economic crisis possible.
• Yes, the people will recognize the Hand that made scandals like the one in Satyam/Maytas possible.
UPA’s record of corruption and misuse of institutions
Mr. Speaker Sir,
One of the most disappointing aspects of the President’s Address is that it had no mention of what the Government has done so far to fight corruption. Though disappointed, I was hardly surprised.
Fighting corruption has never been on the agenda of the Congress party or the UPA government. Not even lip service is done by talking about corruption as a problem. This is because corruption became fully liberalized in the UPA rule.
The worst case of political corruption in the history of Indian Parliament was the “Cash for Votes” scandal, which the Government enacted in order to save itself during the Trust Vote in July 2008. A greater scam than the scandal itself was the cover-up operation.
An upshot of the “Cash for Votes” scandal is what is happening in Jharkhand today. I do not wish to take names. Earlier, an independent MLA was made the chief minister. Later, one of the persons whose support the government sought – and got – during the Trust Vote was made the Chief Minister of Jharkhand. He did not even his own by-election.
It is obvious that there can be no stable government in the present Assembly in Jharkhand. And yet, the President’s Rule is continuing. Why not hold Assembly elections in Jharkhand along with Parliamentary elections?
And when a delegation of BJP members went to meet the Governor, they met with police excesses of a kind that does not enhance the reputation of India’s democracy. My colleague Shri Yashwant Sinha, a former Finance Minister, was badly beaten. He still carries a sling on his hand.
I wish a former FM had not received this kind of treatment when another former FM has become the Union Home Minister.
But there is a larger point about the misuse of institutions of governance. Only last week, the Supreme Court severely censured the CBI in a matter concerning the leader of one of the political parties. That party is no ally of the BJP. Indeed, it is the Congress that is in parleys with it for an alliance in UP.
But the manner in which the CBI and other institutions have been used and misused for political ends in the past five years is unfortunate. It prompted the Supreme Court to remark : “God help this country.”
And I am not going to talk here about what is happening in the Election Commission.
Nor am I repeating here what I have often said about the devaluation of the high office of India’s Prime Minister, the altogether new precedent of a bigger power centre that operated throughout the five years of the UPA rule.
Throughout these five years, people often wondered if India had a Prime Minister at all. And today they wonder: who is really in charge of the affairs of the nation? There is a complete crisis of leadership in government today.
Three elders of the House
Mr. Speaker Sir, I have been a member of Parliament for the past nearly forty years. I became a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1970. You became a member of the Lok Sabha in 1971. Shri Pranab Mukherjee became an MP before both us – he was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1969.
You, Sir, belonged to a different party when you became an MP. Similarly, Pranab Babu and I also belong to different parties. Nevertheless, we three of us ― Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition ― are eligible to be called “ELDERS OF THE HOUSE”.
None of us is immortal. None of has a permanent place in Parliament. All of us come and go. But all of us are responsible to Tomorrow.
Let us ask ourselves: What precedent, what legacy, what culture of governance are we leaving behind for the future generation of MPs?
Bigger than this House is the Nation. More important than the Lok Sabha is the JAN SABHA – the people of India. But our conduct influences the thinking of the people. If we conduct ourselves well, the people’s faith in the system gets strengthened. If we conduct ourselves badly, if we weaken and besmirch the reputation of Parliament and the institutions of governance, people’s faith gets eroded.
This is the larger question that has arisen after five years of the UPA’s misrule.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the people of India will of course give their own verdict in April-May this year. Whosoever gets the people’s mandate to form the new government will inherit a badly messed up economy, and a badly messed up governance. It will inherit an atmosphere of all-round despair and insecurity.
For all these reasons, people will judge this is as a FAILED GOVERNMENT.
The people will recognize the Hand that made DESPAIR AND INSECURITY possible.
And the Hand will be taught a lesson.
With these words, I once again affirm my support to the Motion.