New Delhi, July 12: The Left parties may have lowered their pitch on the Bhel divestment following assurances by central coalition chairperson Sonia Gandhi not to sell off navratna companies, but they are gearing up to put the government in the dock on several issues.
The general body of the CPM parliamentary party met here today to shortlist topics to be raised in Parliament after the monsoon session begins on July 25.
Apart from the Congress-led government’s move to offload 10 per cent of its equity in Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, the party wants to discuss among other issues the recent defence cooperation pact with the US. The Left feels India is straying from the path of non-alignment and plans to raise the topic while discussing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s US visit.
Sources said the CPM is planning to interlock three pet issues ' food, land and employment. They said even the Prime Minister had admitted at the recent meeting of the National Development Council that agricultural production was decreasing.
The CPM will also raise all the 16 points in the charter of demands of the trade unions. Almost all unions except those of the BJP and the Congress are set to go on a nation-wide agitation on September 29 to protest the economic policies of the government.
The sources said the general body discussed the employment guarantee scheme bill, likely to be tabled during the monsoon session, and decided to raise the tardy implementation of the food-for-work and Rozgar Abhiyan programmes. The CPM wants the government to review the food-for-work programme being implemented in 150 districts.
One area of friction is the Pension Funds Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, which is awaiting clearance from a parliamentary committee. The Left is opposed to the bill, which CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta has dubbed anti-worker. Dasgupta has submitted a dissenting note to the House committee.
The squabble over the new pension system stems from a proposal to allow private pension funds to manage the corpus by investing a part of it in the stock markets. The Left feels the safeguards in the bill are not adequate.
The Left is also against the proposed amendment to the Banking bill, under which foreign direct investment will be hiked to 74 per cent in private banks from the current 49 per cent ' a measure finance minister P. Chidambaram has approved.
Another point of conflict is the Electricity Act, 2003. The central alliance’s common minimum programme had promised to review the act. The Left wants review of a clause to unbundle or split state electricity boards into separate firms. It would mean separating the three branches of the power sector ' generation, distribution and transmission.
Proponents of the act say separation of responsibility would increase efficiency but the Left feels it would promote privatisation.
While the stand-off persists, the Left has welcomed the proposal by the government’s department of public enterprises to make parliamentary approval mandatory for “any decision” to reduce government shareholding below 51 per cent in profit-making central public sector enterprises.
CPM sources said divestment decisions are now taken by the executive and Parliament has no say, nor can it assess how the money is being used.