People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 52

December 28, 2003


Build A Mighty

People’s Movement


WE extend our warm greetings to our readers on the occasion of the New Year.


On such an occasion it has become customary for us to invoke Lord Tennyson’s famous lines: “Ring out the Old and Ring in the New”. The coming year 2004 indeed provides the opportunity, if not to succeed in ringing out the old at least for ringing in the new.


The special edition brought out by the London Economist annually peeping into what the new year holds in store says in its lead editorial that a majority of the world’s democracies constituting more than half of its population will be electing new governments in 2004. With regards to India it apprehends that during the election, “with luck the country will keep its communal cool.” The detailed country-wise assessment elsewhere in the issue states “in a calendar crowded by state and national elections painful reforms however necessary is deferred not to upset potential voters and some political parties will be tempted to stoop to crude populism including stoking communal tensions in 2004 elections. India is at risk on both counts.”


It is quite something for the pro-reform Economist to admit that economic reforms actually result in electoral unpopularity. This is a candid admission of the fact that the reforms are basically anti-people and aim at only fattening the profits of the propertied classes while impoverishing the vast majority of the people.


The moot point however is the recognition of the fact that of the many problems plaguing India and its people, communalism and economic liberalisation are the two central issues before the people. Through these columns all through the year we have been drawing the attention of the nation on the need to combat both these features along with the growing levels of corruption at high places and the distinctly declining political morality in the country. Any meaning to the words “ringing out the old” in Indian context can only mean the defeat of communal forces, the reversal of anti-people economic policies and the arresting of corruption at high places.


Indeed 2003 saw the institutionalisation of both corruption and communalism. The aftermath of the Gujarat carnage continues to haunt the country. The conduct of the BJP state government in Gujarat in brazenly defending the perpetrators of ghastly communal violence has exposed the degree of institutionalisation of communalism. Similar tendency of institutionalisation can be seen in the field of education where every single body of research and administration is being taken over by communal elements and their agendas are accordingly redefined. As stated in these columns earlier, the BJP victories in the recent elections to the state assemblies have also been, amongst other reasons, on the basis of a systematic communal polarisation that it has undertaken in these areas.


Clearly, in the run up to the elections both to some state assemblies like Andhra Pradesh and to the parliament, the RSS/BJP will leave no stone unturned and will employ every weapon in their arsenal to try and win the vote. This is a challenge that has to be met. For, another victory will only push deeper the seeds of discord threatening the unity and integrity of India and seek to convert the secular democratic republic into the RSS vision of a rabidly intolerant “Hindu rashtra”.


Notwithstanding the hype and orchestrated euphoria being mounted by the Vajpayee government concerning India’s economic progress, in a campaign titled “Shining India” the miseries of the people continue to mount. Through a clever statistical manipulation, the government is claiming many an achievement to its credit. Let us examine the reality.


When the final data for the year arrives, it may well be that the growth rate could be close to 7 per cent, which is good compared to last year where it was, according to the Central Statistical Organisation, 4.3 per cent. But then, what explains the higher growth rate this year?  The single important factor has been the good monsoon which has come after a disastrous drought last year.  Last year, the index of agricultural production fell by as much as 12 per cent. Foodgrain output registered a colossal drop of 14 per cent. Under normal times, this alone should have been a cause for alarm. Given the excellent monsoon this year, it is estimated that agricultural growth rate would be around 9 per cent. But remember, this is on the low base of a large negative growth last year. Meaning, that such a rate of growth is simply unsustainable in the coming years unless investments are made in agricultural sector.  Apart from this is the fact that the growth this year has not wiped out fully the decline last year. 


That, the good monsoon and the consequent agricultural growth rate alone is responsible for the upward revision of the GDP growth rate becomes obvious from the sectoral data projections made by all the agencies referred to above.  The industrial growth rate is estimated to be 5.8 per cent, i.e., below the 6.1 per cent registered last year.   The services sector which contributes nearly 50 per cent of India's GDP is slated to grow at 6.7 per cent, down from 7.1 per cent last year. In 1999-2000, this sector grew at 10.1 per cent.   In other words, the only sector of the economy where there is a massive leap in the growth rate has been in agriculture. The others are on the decline or at best stagnating. This only confirms that Vajpayee's "shining India" is still predominantly dependent on the rain gods. The policies of this government, far from contributing to any growth acceleration only seem to consolidate the recessionary tendency in the Indian economy.


The worst feature of the economy this year has been the universally admitted fact of stagnant, if not declining, employment growth. The demographic composition of India shows that over 40 per cent of our population is in the working age group, i.e., over 40 crore youth. The privatisation of the public sector has already resulted in rendering jobless lakhs of earlier employed. Add to this the latest NSS consumer expenditure data that shows widespread hunger stalking large sections of our population. The 57th round of the NSS has frighteningly shown that only 43 per cent of the rural population and only 36 per cent of the urban population is gainfully employed. If the jobs are declining, where is this "feel good factor"? For the majority of Indians facing starvation, unemployment, insecurity leading to distress suicides, where is the "shining India"?  An illusion at best! 


The one thing that is not an illusion however is the scandalous institutionalisation of corruption that we have seen during this year. The series of scams accompanied by complete inaction on the Tehelka exposures comes as the icing on the cake the Judev and Jogi episodes and the Telgi scam. Apart from the partisan manner in which this government deals with people who are caught red-handed accepting bribes belonging to its flock and those from the opposition, all these scams and exposures clearly show the rot that has set in our system whose presiding deity is Atal Behari Vajpayee. While the vast majority of the people struggle to eke out a miserable existence, the high and the mighty unscrupulously loot the country and its resources.


Accompanying such loot is the institutionalised loot of our country’s resources and people’s property through the privatisation of the public sector. As we go to press a whopping over Rs 12,000 crore worth of assets of blue chip public sector companies is being sold by the government to meet its fiscal deficit. We have repeatedly stated in these columns that the privatisation of the public sector is like a farmer selling his productive land to meet his daily expenditures only to realise that he faces absolute ruination. Similar will be the fate of the country if this mindless privatisation is not halted.


Such are the challenges that confront us as we move in to the new year. Daunting as they seem the year also offers us the opportunities to arrest if not reverse many of the policies that are responsible for the current state of affairs. These opportunities must be utilised to ensure that the communal forces do not remain at the helm of affairs by controlling the reins of state power. More importantly, both communalism and the economic policies of liberalisation will have to be fought through bitter battles and struggles. The past few years have seen big struggles by various sections of our people against their deteriorating livelihood. Big struggles of the working people are in the offing. Just recently the workers of the oil sector had gone on an unprecedented successful strike. Various other sectors like the coal industry, state and central government employees etc. have given calls for massive strike actions. The peasantry on the other hand is also bracing itself for wider struggles while the youth, in despair with mounting unemployment are bracing themselves for mightier struggles. The opportunities in 2004 for converging these various struggles into a mighty people’s movement in the defence of our country and for improving the lot of our people must be effectively utilised if we are to “ring out the old and ring in the new”.


December 24, 2003