(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 27, 2008
Struggle Against Price Rise Intensifying
Left-UNPA Leaders Court Arrest
IN a major sign of impending broad-based struggles against the UPA government’s ruinous economic policies, the top leaders of the Left parties and UNPA jointly came on to the streets to protest against the UPA government’s failure to curb the abnormally high price rise. Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), A B Bardhan, D Raja (CPI), Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh (Samajwadi Party), Chandrababu Naidu (TDP), Om Prakash Chautala (INLD), Farooq Abdullah (NC), Brindavan Goswami (AGP) Devarajan (Forward Bloc), Chandrachud (RSP) were among those who led a march of hundreds of activists from Constitution Club to parliament. They were stopped near Rail Bhavan, where they courted arrest.
Later after their release, the leaders went in a delegation and submitted a joint memorandum to prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh demanding from him immediate measures to deal with the alarming situation of price rise in the country. They made the following six demands in the memorandum:
Ban on futures trading in all essential commodities
Withdraw all bills, which are aimed at allowing FDI in the commodity market
Universalizing of public distribution system (PDS) for bringing immediate relief to the people and include pulses and edible oil in PDS.
Roll back Oil Price hike.
Strengthen the essential commodities law for checking horders and black marketers from making use of the situation
Change in petro-products taxation structure.
Earlier, a national seminar on 'Inflation in India' was held at Constitution Club, which was addressed by not only the top leaders of Left and UNPA but also by prominent economists. It was clear from the three hour long seminar that there was unanimity among the speakers about the cause of this abnormal price rise: the UPA government’s faulty, pro-rich economic policies. And there was also unanimity on how to ensure relief for the people: intensify struggle on the streets till the government is forced to take measures to curb the price rise.
CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat in his address castigated the government for stating that the price rise is due to international factors. He detailed how for the last four years the government kept refusing to heed rational demands of cutting duties on petro products, or bringing under the ban 25 more items for future trading, strengthening and universalising of PDS etc. Asking the government to accept that it is its policies that are causing this price rise, he ended by calling on like-minded political parties to intensify the struggle against price rise.
A B Bardhan who co-chaired the seminar along with Mulayam Singh Yadav, in his address said the status of people is much worse if we take into account the Consumer Price Index rather than the misleading Wholesale Price Index. He asked the government to take real steps in curbing hoarding rather than going for cosmetic raids on small traders leaving big companies like Cargill, Monsanto etc.
Mulayam Singh Yadav said the UPA government was pursuing anti-people policies with vigour and no one need to be under any illusion that this government will provide any relief to people. He underlined that popular struggles are the only option available to make the government change its policies.
Chandrababu Naidu asserted that the joint agitation of UNPA and Left will continue till the government heeds to the demands. However he sought to give credit to economic reforms for creating wealth and blamed the present government for not ensuring its distribution equitably.
Economist and member of National Knowledge Commission, Professor Jayati Ghosh in her intervention put the blame on the UPA government for the current price rise saying that it recklessly imported futures trade speculation into our country. With the downturn in US economy, the finance speculators have shifted to futures trade and are having a field day at the cost of millions of poor people. With big corporates allowed free entry into procurement process, they were procuring from farmers at a slightly higher rate and holding the stocks to indulge in speculation. Ghosh said the policies of successive governments at the centre – trade liberalisation, removal of protections, higher input costs etc – have intensified the agrarian crisis. Thousands of farmers committing suicides is a manifestation of the gravity of this agrarian crisis. She said only through waging of struggles will the government be forced to change its ruinous policies.
Prominent economist C P Chandrashekar said that this was not just an issue of price rise but concerned with livelihoods of millions of farmers of our country. Attacking the government for practising high degree of conservatism in regard to government expenditure, he termed the FRBM Act an irresponsible piece of legislation, which was unfortunately allowed to pass through parliament without much opposition. He called for fighting to get the FRBM Act repealed so that the governments can subsidise food. Chandrashekar stressed the need to go beyond mere opposition to price rise and called for attacking the neo-liberal ideology which is the prime reason for such a price rise in the first place.
Others who spoke include AGP chief Vrinda Goswami, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, former Reserve Bank Governor and Rajya Sabha member Bimal Jalan, economist Professor Anand Kumar and journalist M J Akbar.