I quote a case. Mr. Chairman, you know it is the case of Calcutta High Court. It is AIR 1980 Calcutta High Court, page 85, Madan Murari Verma Vs. Charan Singh. Their Lordships have held:

"There is no Constitutional precedent as to how far the advice of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet is binding on the President in a situation where the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers had never obtained and had never proven their majority in the House of People and after their resignations have been accepted and after the dissolution of the House they were asked to continue in office till alternative arrangements are made. There is no mention of any caretaker Government as such, in our Constitution or in the Constitutional law, but such an extraordinary situation calls for a caretaker Government and, therefore, the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers can in such a situation only carry on day to day administration..."

The diesel price hike is not a day to day administration affair. It is a policy matter. The then Caretaker Government had no Constitutional power to hike the diesel price. It should have hiked it when it was in office with full-fledged majority. After having lost the majority, they should not have hiked the diesel price.

My friend has just now said that the operators have started operating their locomotives. Throughout India, all the locomotives, motors, vehicles, lorries and trucks went on strike. They are not operating. If they have been operating, why should there be a hike in the price of essential commodities? Today, it is published in all the newspapers that the prices of vegetables have gone up; the prices of eatables have gone up; and the prices of essential commodities have gone up. Why? It is because of the strike. What for? It is because of the hike in the diesel price. I appeal, Mr. Chairman, through you, to the Central Government to withdraw the hike in the diesel price with an observation that it has no popular mandate.

Had we, the present House, gone in for this hike, then the deliberation is just and proper. But the Caretaker Government without the Constitutional power, without any Constitutional exercise, has raised the diesel price all of a sudden, that too after the elections.

I do not like to use any tough language. If an individual cheats a person after promising, then he is liable for cheating. But here the whole country was cheated by the then caretaker Government. The people have cast their votes believing that BJP may reduce the price because the Minister has circulated a note to all the Members that this was hiked as early as in 1997. Why did they keep quiet? Is it not a political dishonesty? Is it not a constitutional dishonesty? Is it not a constitutional impropriety? It is the constitutional duty of the Government to withdraw the hike as they had no power at that particular point of time on 5th October. There were so many policy decisions taken by the Government. I have not gone into all those things. But this is an essential commodity which the people conserve daily. The bus fares and other fares have gone up after the 5th October. Particularly in Tamil Nadu, the bus fares have been hiked and they hav been doubled there. The Chief Minister had promised that he would hike the bus fares only after 2001. Now, the Central Government has hiked the diesel price with the result that the people of Tamil Nadu had been suffering for the last one month by paying extra money. So, this constitutional impropriety and constitutional dishonesty is committed on behalf of the Government by an erstwhile petroleum Minister, who has been voted out of office by my friend, Shri Selvaganapathy, who is sitting here. ...(Interruptions). We, the Members, did not contribute anything for hiking the price of diesel. We were not party to it. We have not been consulted. We we are yet to be consulted. Now, we are deliberating on somebody's mistake. We are deliberating on somebody's conduct. On 5th October why should the Minister, who knew well that he would be defeated, raise the cost of diesel?

So, I appeal to you to direct the Government to withdraw the hike in the interest of the country, in the interest of the poor people and in the interest of the farmers. The farmer is the largest consumer of diesel. He cannot bear the 35 per cent hike. The Supreme Court has also issued a notice to the Government of Delhi that no new diesel car will be registered hereafter in Delhi.

So, I appeal to you to withdraw the diesel price hike and save the people.

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MR. CHAIRMAN : Shri Prabhunath Singh to speak.

... (Interruptions)

MR. CHAIRMAN : I have called Shri Prabhunath Singh. Nothing else should be recorded.

(Interruptions) ... (Not recorded)

MR. CHAIRMAN : Silence please. Please do not interrupt. I have called Shri Prabhunath Singh. Shri Prabhunath Singh, you may begin.

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ɦ{i ɽn : .B.vҮx*


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MR. CHAIRMAN : I have called Shri Sudheeran.

SHRI RAJIV PRATAP RUDY (CHHAPRA): When he calls my name, I have to respond.

... (Interruptions)

MR. CHAIRMAN: You have spoken very well. Why are you spoiling it?

... (Interruptions)

SHRI V.M. SUDHEERAN (ALLEPPEY): Sir, the decision of the Government to hike the prices of diesel has thrown the people into deep miseries and untold difficulties. Sir, as all of us remember and as the hon. Chairman and my esteemed friend Shri Pandian rightly put, this decision was taken by the Caretaker Government just before the counting of ballots. This reflects the Government's arrogant disregard for the propriety, the democratic practice and conventions. The Caretaker Government did not care even to wait for the sweeping decision till the new Government took over. I am sorry to hear from the Prime Minister that he ruled out any rolling back in the price of diesel. Sir, I am again sorry to say that it is thoughtless as well as shocking. I would like to join my friend Shri Pandian in saying that it is a clear case of cheating the people who voted him to power. No Government so far dared to burden the people with such an unprecedented hike. After doing this much, the official interpretation has come out that the direct impact of the hike would be only 0.86 percentage. I am grateful to Shri Ram Naik for having sent us the document containing the details. Shri Ram Naik, as a person, is a gentleman and a man of pucca sense. Shri Ram Naik has referred that the direct impact of the hike would be 0.86 percentage, but what would be the indirect impact?

16.00 hrs.

You seem to be mum on that. I would say that this is the greatest joke of the year. Those with a normal sense know very well that the Government is going to be the first casualty of this decision. All of us know that the Government is the largest operator of vehicles. Therefore, the administrative expenditure of the Central and State Governments and other semi-Governmental agencies will be galloping into several fold. The more the Government falls in a financial crisis, the more will be the inclination to transfer the burden to people by additional taxation. The more the Government is in crisis of their own creation, the more will be their selfish attempt to tax the people for a bailing out.

Look at the case of the Railways. The Railways will have to bear an additional burden of around Rs. 700 crore which will lead to a hike in the passenger fare and freight charges. The present exercise for raising additional income is not only unproductive, but is also counter-productive, and it reverses all our attempts for development. Your short-sighted adhocism is eating up even the meagre earnings of our common people because the brunt of the burden will ultimately have to be borne by the people.

The hike in diesel prices is no solution at all because a substantial chunk of it would be swallowed up by the intermediary interests and agencies. The chain reaction has already shown the catastrophic effect in the daily life of the poor millions. The prices of essential commodities and vegetables have gone up to dizzy heights. My own State, Kerala, is the worst sufferer because it depends heavily on other States for almost all of its daily requirements. Being a consumer State, I know that the burdens of the people have been multiplied.

The Government's mishandling of the strike of the truck operators has compounded the agony of the people. In the President's Address, para 11 says:

"During the current year, the Indian economy is expected to grow over six per cent. Inflation, as measured by the Wholesale Price Index, is around two per cent".

It is an irony that the very same Government, which claims that the inflation is decelerating, is actually leading the country to an unprecedented chaos in our economy and the common man's family budget.

I would like to point out that the present system of hiking of prices of diesel or petroleum products has a basic flaw in it. It is basically unscientific because it leads to nothing but more complications in the economy and the life of the people. This system bypasses Parliament. Decisions are taken somewhere by somebody else without taking Parliament into confidence. I would like to suggest to the Government to resort to the system in which the oil pool account is made a part and parcel of the whole budget. As all of us are very well aware, in that system, the proposals are presented in Parliament and an opportunity is provided to examine the proposal and the pros and cons of it threadbare. I say so not just for asserting the right of Parliament, but to point out the unscientific and irrational nature of the exercise. Though you shift the burden from one limb to the other, the real problem remains unresolved. Whichever method you adopt, it has to be imaginative enough to leave the common man the least affected. The Government have to find an alternate and a rational method for generating more income.

I would suggest that the Government take recourse to practising stringent austerity and economic measures by cutting wasteful Governmental expenditure. I urge upon the Government to take steps against tax evaders and unearth blackmoney. Practical and imaginative methods to reduce consumption of petroleum products has to be evolved. Steps have to be taken to slash down the establishment expenditure of the oil companies by better financial management. Indigenous production of petroleum products has urgently to be increased.