Left walkout in Lok Sabha

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Members of the Left parties walked out of the Lok Sabha on Thursday in protest unable to secure a commitment from the Government on restoring the interest rate of the Employees' Provident Fund (EPF). The Left members — who warned that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) could meet the same fate as the National Democratic Alliance if it pursued "anti-people" policies — found support from the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Shiv Sena as they walked out.

Minister of State for Rural Development A. Narendra having to step in for Union Labour Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao was unable to respond to the various clarifications sought by members during the calling attention motion on the "situation arising out of reduction in the interest rate of EPF.''

As he reeled out data, Left members rose in protest; stating that this was not what they wanted to know. "He is being made a scapegoat,'' said Gurudas Dasgupta (Communist Party of India) even as Speaker Somnath Chatterjee conceded that he had made a mistake in admitting the calling attention motion when the Labour Minister was indisposed.

Being considered

Earlier, in his written answer to the motion, the Minister said the reduction of the EPF rate from 9.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent was the recommendation of the Central Board of Trustees (EPF) and was being considered by the Ministry.

The Board, according to him, had authorised the Chairman (the Labour Minister himself) to take a decision on the rate and he had "accordingly declared the rate of interest for the financial year 2005-06 at 8.5 per cent.''

Clarifications sought

Seeking clarifications, Rup Chand Pal (CPI-Marxist) wanted to know the rationale for the reduction while his party colleague Suresh Kurup warned that the NDA was shown the door because of its anti-people policies such as bringing down the EPF interest rate from 12 per cent. This was echoed by C. K. Chandrappan (CPI).

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