Shri Shashi Tharoor
Shri Shashi Tharoor said on behalf of the Congress party as well as myself congratulate the people of Odisha on the cabinet’s decisions today to recognize Odiya as a classical language. Many of you are aware this is something the UPA government has been undertaking ever since Sanskrit and Tamil were initially classified. The cabinet has recognized Kanadda, Telugu, Malayalam and today Odiya and this has certain obvious benefits for the promotion of the study of those language, creation of a couple of international recognized chairs towards the establishment of Institute for the Study of that classical language and we are really pleased that the long cultural history of the Odiya language is been recognized in this fashion and we know decision will be widely welcomed by the people of Odisha.
Secondly parliament is still going on; some of you must have been watching with attention what was going on in Rajya Sabha till a few minutes ago. We have, therefore, had a very complicated busy challenging part of this session in parliament but in the din and noise, I hope you will not over look that a few useful Bills have also been passed. Some of them relatively minor in terms national headlines but they have a significant impact on the institutions concerned and example of that is the one that I myself piloted on behalf of the Human Resource Development Ministry which is converted the National Science and Engineering College in Shivpur into a National Institute of Technology. Others have particular administrative benefits but long lasting ones and one thing particular I would like to highlight for you is really something that affects One Crore of our fellow citizens in the country and that is Street Vendors Protection Bill which has become an Act today. It really is something that all of us growing up in this country have got used to seeing street vendors supplying everything from newspapers to ‘chai’ but the fact is that there has been no legislative framework for protection of their rights, their ability to do their work properly and today it is a historic decision that as I said will touch the lives of approximately One Crore Indians who are street vendors and I would urge you all to not let this story be lost in the bustle of big headline stories. This ought to be headlines because it affects the lives of human beings and because none of us in this room has not been touched by or used or purchased from a street vendor growing up in our country and it glorifies certain rights for them. It allows them to be surveyed, to be licensed, to be given certain protection and I think you will all join me in welcoming the unanimous passage of this Bill with all parties supporting it very strongly.
To a question that in view of the fact Andhra CM has resigned and Telengana is created, is the leadership of the Congress party considering imposition of President’s rule or will you opt for another chief Minister for Telengana and Seemandhra, Shri Tharoor said that decision is yet to be taken. It is one that will have to be seriously considered as the question of two Chief Ministers, you have to wait for the creation of the second state. Before that happens and as you know, the process is still ongoing, it is premature right now to speak in terms of two states. The state has to be created and then certainly we will require appropriate political decision to be made at that time but right now we have a Chief Minister who has resigned and clearly the Governor has submitted his report to the Home Ministry. Right now there is no decision. All options will have to be considered.
On the question of’chaiwallas’ in the Street Vendors Bill, Shri Tharoor said I would say that chaiwallas, newspaper wallas, moongfali wallas or sellers everybody are a vital part of fabric of our nation. As far as the Congress party is concerned, don’t forget we have historically had a great deal of support as well from such members of the Indian hard working under class and the fact is that we have always believed that when certain parties speak of the polity and so they should not forget these people are also participating in our economic lives at the lowest levels of the ladder and for us we do not discriminate between the ‘chaiwalls’ or newspaper wallas.
To another question on the pre poll alliance in Telengana and Andhra, Shri Tharoor said these are the processes that are ongoing. The elections are still little while away and in our party we have Antony Committee that is looking in to the question of alliance. Let us give them sometime not for Andhra but for other parts of the country as well. There are processes which will play out in due course.
To a question that in view of the verdict of the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the killers of the former Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi Ji, whether the Congress party has lost platform in Tamil Nadu now, Shri Tharoor said I would not agree with that. You speak of the killers of late Shri Rajiv Gandhi but let us not forget that they killed another 17 innocent Indian citizens. I find it odd that people would speak of protecting the interest of Tamil people and forgetting the 17 families that are bereaved in Tamil Nadu as well. Our message is very clear; do not play politics with terrorism. As far as we are concerned, terrorism from any quarter from any part of the world directed at Indian citizens on Indian soil must be firmly resisted and as far as we are concerned, we don’t see any difference between one kind of terrorist and another kind of terrorist. Those who take innocent Indian lives, we must take sternest action against them.
Now on the question of the Congress party in Tamil Nadu, as you know, we have a long history in Tamil Nadu. We have been in power; we have been out of power. We have at the national level contested elections with allies and without allies. As far as Congress party is concerned, our roots in Tamil Nadu are very-very deep and we are sure that there is a strong element of the Tamil population that has always remained faithful to the values and principles of the Congress party. Shri Tharoor said that he had a chance to visit Kanyakumari – next door to Tamil Nadu – and I can assure that there the Congress party is the strongest single party in that District. It is not that the congress has disappeared from Tamil Nadu. We will be very happy as long as the benefits reach the people of our country.
Shri Tharoor said I totally reject the notion that the Congress party has ditched the people of Tamil Nadu. On the Srilankan issue, UPA government has been amongst the strongest and most internationally audible and visible voices and the rights of Tamil people of Srilanka and what is more our direct relationship with the Srilankan government as well as our active role in the international forums has gone a long way towards protecting the interests of Tamil people there and results Are there to see. Tamil people are by and large improving their lot after the end of the civil war. We cannot accept any preposition that suggests that somehow we are in a way indifferent, let alone negative, to the interests of Tamil people in Srilanka.
To a question that anti-graft agenda is pending in the parliament, Shri Tharoor said we are extremely keen on seeing all these Bills passed. Four of them are pending in the Lok Sabha. We recognize that we are running out of time and we have asked and invited the BJP and the opposition to agree to an extension of the session so that these Bills which are part of the nation’s urgent priorities may be considered. So far there has been no agreement on extending parliament and therefore, if parliament does end tomorrow without the Bills being passed, I would not hesitate to say it is a setback for the nation not a setback for our party because we do not consider it a party issue. So if the Bills are not passed and the parliament is finished for this 5 year term, then I think all options will have to be examined and we are not ruling out the possibility of trying to get these out there through other routes obviously through ordinance. I do not want to overstate that because this is the decision yet to be taken. Message should go to the nation that these are the steps that we have with great deal of thought concluded necessary for the interests of the Indian people.
On the Telengana Bill in Rajya Sabha, Shri Tharoor said we were told by the leading opposition party that they were supporting. I do not want to cast aspersions on the extent and the level of their support. I would very much hope the BJP acting in consonance with the spirit of that public assurance.
On the latest situation on the fate of the killers of former late Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi and now it has become centre Vs. state, Shri Tharoor said forgiveness is an individual act. I think we have a great deal of respect for the members of the family to pardon the killers of their father. The government has responsibility to protect lives against terrorism and it is the life of our former Prime Minister who really was killed for actions conducted in the service of the nation and on top of that 17 other innocent Indian citizens were also killed. An individual may feel forgiveness. The state has to follow due process and the laws take its course and that distinction has always been made clear. As far as government of India is concerned, a review petition has already been filled which has been admitted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. You will have to respect the final outcome of that.