People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 11, 2007
Rural Masses Totally Ignored: AIAWU
The following is the text of the statement issued by AIAWU
THE All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) in not at all surprised that the finance ministerís 2007-08 budget fails to address the rural reality of two lakh farmers committing suicide and 20,000 of the poorest dying of hunger in the last seven years. What was required was a change in direction from monetary economics and supply side tinkering to actually addressing the issues of land to the tiller, rural development, employment growth, adequate subsistence at controlled prices and distributive justice.
The budget not only fails to change direction but there is every attempt to defraud the people. Behind the welcome rising of districts covered by the NREGA from 200 to 330 is the grim reality that the financial outlay has been increased by only Rs 700 crore. In other words, the NREGA is not meant to be implemented as its per district allocation has been brought down from Rs 56.5 crore to only Rs 36.4 crore each. And if inflation is accounted for, the figure is left at only around Rs 34 crore.
So much for employment schemes. As regards land reforms, which could have helped to increase self-employment, the figure has been brought down from Rs 135 crore last time to Rs 131 crore now. Obviously, even self- employment opportunities for the unskilled in the face of growing casualisation and hire and fire are not likely to get any better than before. And if we look at the plan outlay for rural development, it has grown by 6.7 per cent, which is actually no increase if inflation of 6-7 per cent is taken account of.
The UPA government is also not keen to handle the question of the price rise. While reducing customs duties and importing from abroad are considered as measures to control prices, a fact which ignores the almost immediate rise in global price as soon as Indian demand is accounted for, the time tested Public Distribution System is left in doldrums. The revised estimate for PDS was Rs 24,570 crore in the last budget. The budget allocates only some 6 per cent more, Rs 26,085 crores, which actually works out to less than before, as inflation in foodgrain prices is in double digits today. What is worse, future trading that is an important contributor to the price rise in foodgrains, is not tackled.
Our assessment is that the budget fails to meet even the minimum requirements of the rural masses, not to speak of tackling the agrarian crisis triggered off by WTO and World Bank dictated policies. The debate that follows in parliament must address itself to dismantling this approach and ensuring that cosmetic schemes are replaced by those that will bring genuine relief to the poorest.