Opening the reply to the President's Motion of Thanks on behalf of the Left parties in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury, demanded the stopping of the “loot” of public money in the form of concessions to corporates and high-end taxpayers.
This relief, worth several lakhs of rupees, should be used to narrow the rich-poor divide, he added.
Calling upon the government to shift policy directions, Mr. Yechury described the living conditions of the people as “abysmal,” and that they had deteriorated even as tax concessions had been given to corporates and high-end taxpayers.
“There are two Indias are in the making — IPL [the Indian Premier League] India and BPL [Below the Poverty Line] India,” he said. “If this tax concession had been collected and invested in food security and health, we would have generated employment-demand and growth.”
On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent remark comparing sops to the telecom sector to subsidies to the poor, Mr. Yechury said the argument was untenable. He wanted to know how incentives for big business houses were considered good, but subsidies on food detrimental for growth.
On the 2G spectrum allocation scam, Mr. Yechury said: “You have chosen not to tax the corporates, but the scam lies in the fact that the licences were sold at least six times their value within six months.”
He added that had the government agreed on a Joint Parliamentary Committee earlier, the winter session of Parliament could have been saved from disruption.
On the stand that the Rs.1.76-lakh crore loss pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be treated as notional, Mr. Yechury pointed out that this amount could have been adequate to finance 35 kg of subsidised foodgrains to over 80 per cent of the total households.
It could even have funded schemes such as the right to education and healthcare for all, he added.
The Bharatiya Janata Party's Shanta Kumar questioned the government's commitment to tackling corruption when rules were yet to be framed for the Benami Transcations Act, passed 23 years ago. In the case of the Competition Act, the government had only made part notification.
He added that even Lok Pal Bill meant to check graft by those in office, still remained in discussion four decades after being recommended by the Administrative Reforms Commission.
Shanta Kumar’s poser
Mr. Kumar, a former Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, sought to know why the government had not ratified the United Nations Convention on Corruption, which would go a long way in seeking assistance from countries where Indians had stashed away ill-gotten wealth.
He supported the cause of a separate Telangana State, citing the instance of Himachal Pradesh which embarked on the path of development after being carved out of the erstwhile Punjab.
Communist Party of India leader D. Raja said it was time the UPA government carried out a mid-course correction, stating that something was rotten with the government.
While the government was seeking to disinvest profit-making public sector companies, it was also pushing foreign direct investment and the private-public-partnership model for development, he said.
Referring to the workers' rally in Delhi on Wednesday, Mr. Raja hoped that the popular demonstration place Jantar Mantar did not turn out to be another Tahrir Square of Egypt, and urged the government to listen to the demands of the working class.
He also criticised the absence of any solid programme for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes, which constitute 85 per cent of the country.