Press Briefing Friday, 13th April 2012
Shri Manish Tewari addressed the media today.
Shri Manish Tewari said the decision of the Supreme Court upholding the Right to Education legislation is indeed a welcome step. It once again underscores the validity of the 'right' based entitlement architecture which the UPA government has constructed over the past eight years. Away from the media glare, the screaming headlines and the breaking news, there has been a silent revolution which has been taking place in this country. RTI, Right to assure Employment, Right to Education, Right to Food which is in the pipeline and the UID programme called 'Aadhar' has created social safety net which is indeed unprecedented and completely exceptional in terms of sheer numbers that it takes in its sweep. It has laid the foundations of protecting the weakest and the most vulnerable sections of the Indian society by collectively creating a social safety net at a point in time when India is being counted as one of the emerging great powers of the world. The social safety net taken together forms the core of the Congress party's vision that India can be, will be and shall be a great power provided that we are internally cohesive, socially stable and economically integrated and we do hope that the Food Security Bill which is before the Standing Committee would come back to the House sooner that earlier.
To a question over the Food Security Bill in the absence of the number of the poor in the country having been arrived at, Shri Tewari said the Food Security Bill is pending before the Standing Committee where all aspects of the Bill are discussed. All the political parties are represented in the Standing Committee. There can be different view point on a particular matter and the Standing Committee make concerted efforts to arrive at a consensus after different view- points have been placed before the Committee.
On another question as to the reaction of the Congress party as to how the Food Security Bill can be a reality when there has been a reduction in the subsidy, Shri Tewari said this question was asked to the Finance Minister also during the discussions which took place in the public domain outside in the media and various other places. If you go back to the budget before that, there was a provision which was made with regard to taking the green revolution to Eastern India. At that point in time also the criticism was that the allocation was very meager and as the programme took off, the allocations subsequently kept increasing and if you refer to the budget speech of the Finance Minister, he categorically and unequivocally makes it clear that once the bill is back to the House from the Standing Committee and when it is enacted into law, each and every commitment which the UPA makes under that Bill will be fulfilled in its entirety.
On the question of the absence of high voltage campaign in the forthcoming MCD elections in Delhi, Shri Tewari said I do not understand what you mean by high voltage but if you are referring to the campaign of the BJP, it is very self evident that somebody who basically has a municipal level thinking would turn into a high voltage campaign. As far as the Congress party is concerned, we fight elections from Panchayat to Parliament across the country. We believe in a certain division of labour. We have Pradesh Congress Committees which are tasked with the responsibility of taking these campaigns to fruitation and we do hope and believe that in this round of elections, the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee and the people of Delhi would repose their faith in the Congress party but having said that let me caveat once again by saying that municipal elections are fought on municipal issues.
On the question of the Congress party over the arrest of a person in West Bengal who has made cartoon of Mamata Banerjee, Shri Tewari said I have also seen it around on TV channels. I do not really have first-hand knowledge of what the facts of this matter are. I think it will be inappropriate for me to make a sweeping judgment bereft of the facts. Let me ascertain the facts from our West Bengal Unit and allow me to get back to you in this particular instance but having said that the Congress party has always believed and continues to believe and upholds the freedom of right and expression which is guaranteed under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India. We do believe that is something which is intrinsic to the entire democratic ethos of this country but having said so that there is no room for misunderstanding, let me caveat it once again by saying insofar as the facts with regard to West Bengal, I am not cognizant of the facts. Let me ascertain the facts and get back to you.
To another question on the insult of Shahrukh Khan in US, Shri Tewari said it is very unfortunate. It is not a question of a leader, an actor or an ordinary citizen, if this has happened. We do hope that Indian High Commission in United States will raise this issue with the concerned US authorities and sort out the misunderstanding and put a full stop to this kind of things.
On another question that the Home Minister has written a letter to all the states on the recommendations of Sachhar Committee and if it is being done in view of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Shri Tewari said I don't understand as to why politics is seen in every aspect. The power of democracy does not lie in demonstrating the way how you take up the issues concerning the minorities. It is demonstrated only by the manner in which you behave with the minorities. So, therefore, what is wrong if the government is taking any step to bring to minorities into the mainstream? It should be appreciated and should not be seen politically motivated.
To another question on the statement of the Finance Minister that subsidy has to be contained with 2% of the budgetary spending, Shri Tewari said that essentially you asked a question which goes across the entire paradigm of economic thought but to try and in capsulate an answer, I think the answer very squarely is that you need to improve your revenue collection because the fact is that this is 'rights' based entitlement approach which the UPA has conceptualized and implemented over the last eight years, there is universal appreciation that it has helped the poorest and the most vulnerable sections by integrating them into the main stream. So there is absolutely no question of detracting from this approach but Yes, if there is a problem of balancing the budget, balancing the numbers, it obviously will have to come out with a more robust tax collection so that we are able to support these social initiatives and the creation of social safety net which now has even been validated not once but repeatedly by the upholding of different legislations by even the Supreme Court of India. Shri Tewari further said prioritization of subsidies is an on-going process because the three biggest numbers are 'food', 'fertilizer' and 'oil' and to some extent some of these subsidies really do not depend upon you. They also depend upon what the external factors are but having said that while there is a case for rationalization of subsidies, there is no case for taking away from the 'right' based entitlement programme that we have built over all these years.
On the question over the statement of Raj Thackrey over his not allowing celebrating Bihar Day in Mumbai, Shri Tewari said possibly the person you are talking about has changed his statement and in the changed scenario, it will not be appropriate to offer any comment.