People's Democracy

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


No. 39

September 26, 2004


 On Neo-Liberals & Their Anti-Left Canards


A SYSTEMATIC effort is being mounted by a section of the media to falsify the CPI(M)’s and the Left’s position concerning the issue of foreign agency nominees being asked to serve on the Planning Commission’s consultative groups. The neo-liberal drumbeaters and the cheer leaders of globalisation are spreading canards regarding the CPI(M)’s so-called “double standards,” “hypocrisy,” etc. There is a need to examine the facts.


Before doing so, however, another issue needs to be addressed --- sections of the media with screaming headlines categorised this issue as “Left created controversy.” Neither this nor all others like the ones concerning FDI, airport privatisation etc are the creations of the Left. The Left merely reacted publicly to the unilateral public pronouncements by the UPA government.


At the outset, it must be cleared that the controversy originated from the unilateral decision of the Planning Commission to induct representatives of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, the McKinsey and other foreign agencies. Naturally, many an Indian patriot found this disconcerting and disturbing. The Planning Commission is an organ of the sovereign Indian state vested with the power and authority to oversee India’s planned economic development. Naturally, association of foreign organisations in the process of a mid-term appraisal of the tenth Five Year Plan constitutes an affront. It is the business of India and the Indian state to conduct such a review or an appraisal. This affront gets magnified manifold by the inclusion of foreign agencies who have an avowedly anti-plan process perspective.  These votaries of globalisation, whose omnipotent god is the “market,” have consistently stood against any effort of planned economic development.


Vested interests and sections of the media seek to meet this point by stating that these consultative groups are merely for consultation and hence what is the harm in having representatives of these agencies. However, the terms of reference of the consultative group defined in an order of the Planning Commission dated August 26, 2004 states that the group would “provide guidance in selection of the key issues and emerging problems” and amongst others to “review the draft material to be prepared by the Planning Commission on the subject and to give critical advice and directional inputs for further improvement.” Further, amongst other rights, the group will have the “powers to co-opt/associate professionals/domain experts into the group. The group will also have the powers to set up subgroups/steering committees of officials both from central and state governments as well as non-officials to finalise its views on specific issues.”


In other words, the members of the group will not only have access to governmental records and proceedings but can also summon officials. These are activities hardly of a consultative nature. It is these rights that are being bestowed on the representatives of the foreign agencies that are rightly being questioned. 


The CPI(M) is accused that the Left Front government in West Bengal does business with all the three agencies mentioned and hence it is “double standards” to oppose the inclusion of their representatives in these groups. First, doing business with these agencies and engaging in consultations with them is not tantamount to putting them on official bodies of the Indian state and granting them a right to intervene in our sovereign matters. By all means, discuss with them, consult them but do not accord them the status of being a part of the functioning of a sovereign state. This is all the more so because all these agencies, as is known and accepted, have their own agendas. More often than not, these agendas, far from converging with India’s interests, are contrary to our economic sovereignty.


The more naïve amongst the media have another argument: since some of these agencies lend money for specific projects, what is the harm in asking them to participate in our sovereign decision making process? This is a strange argument.  It is like saying that if one borrows from a moneylender for the marriage of his daughter, then the moneylender must be consulted on the choice of the groom! Merely borrowing from some agencies does not entail the grant to them of a role in the decision-making process on sovereign economic matters. 


Finally, the whole exercise has shown the utter contempt that sections of the Planning Commission and the cheer leaders of globalisation have shown to the Indian civil servants. Using the deriding term “babus,” judgements have been passed that they are incapable of making any reviews or appraisals. There are shortcomings, weaknesses, etc, that is there for all to see in the Indian civil service.  But we cannot escape the fact that for over half a century, it is this civil service that has nurtured the system which has produced the presidents, the prime ministers, the deputy chairmen of the Planning Commission and the vast Indian intelligentsia. It is a reflection of a lack of self-esteem in our own country and its human resources which seeks require the services of external agencies to oversee the work and evaluate the performance of our planning body.


What is required is not to fall prey to a premeditated and prejudiced mindset of expressing servility to the powers of external agencies such as the World Bank. The Left’s opposition to this decision of the government is, thus, based on sound reasoning. It is only those who have other agendas to serve who can call this “hypocrisy.”