(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India
Kerala CM Leads March To Parliament
IN an unprecedented move, Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan and
15 members of his council of ministers staged a dharna before the
parliament on October 17 protesting the discrimination by the central
government towards Kerala. Twenty two members of parliament from the
state and 50 members of state legislature belonging to the ruling Left
and Democratic Front also participated in the dharna. National leaders
of the Left parties including CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat
addressed the dharna.
Some of the major issues on which Kerala is feeling discriminated
against are: the reduction of central quota for supply of rations
through public distribution system; reduction in share of central pool
electricity; failure of the central government to grant Kerala's
long standing demands like creation of Peninsular Railway Zone and
setting up of an IIT.
MLAs, MPs and ministers along with scores of concerned Malayalees
living in Delhi assembled at the Kerala House in the capital around 11
a.m. and marched to parliament under the leadership of the chief
minister. The procession culminated in a dharna at Jantar Mantar.
In his inaugural speech chief minister V S Achuthanandan accused the
centre of ignoring the reasonable demands of the state. He said that
Kerala has been forced to stage such a protest because the central
government repeatedly ignored their demands which were represented many
times through various means, including an all-party delegation
visit to Delhi which included the leader of opposition in the state
Achutanandan reminded that Kerala’s contribution to the foreign
reserves in the country is around Rs 7600 crore per annum. This
included the revenue from cash crops and remittances of Non-Resident
Keralites (NRKs). In 1966, the then prime minister late Smt Indira
Gandhi and other national leaders acknowledged this contribution and
promised that the state will be given enough foodgrains by the centre
for distribution through the ration system. Since then a strong
statutory rationing system has been prevalent in Kerala. “Unfortunately
the centre has now stopped the supply of rice for around 50 lakh APL
(above poverty line) consumers in Kerala and this resulted in the steep
increase of price of rice in the open market. This forced the state to
buy rice from other states like Andhra Pradesh and distribute the same
at subsidised rate”, he pointed out.
The chief minister said that Kerala has suffered considerable shortage
in the generation of electricity this time due to weak monsoon. And at
this juncture the central government has cut the supply of electricity
to the state from the central pool by a whopping 40 per cent. He also
criticised the centre for withdrawing the import duty on palm oil to
help the palm oil lobby. This move of the centre resulted in the
considerable reduction in the price of coconut oil which adversely
affected 60 lakh coconut farmers in the state.
Addressing the dharna Prakash Karat said it was not usual for chief
ministers to come and agitate in this manner in the capital for their
He charged the centre of trying to destory the Public
Distribution System (PDS) of Kerala which was a role model for other
He criticised the over-centralisation of power by the centre and
called for a re-definition of the centre-state relations.
Karat asserted that the Left parties would launch a united agitation
against centre's discriminative approach towards states.
The home minister of Kerala, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan welcomed the
gathering while the minister for food and civil supplies C Divakaran
presided over the meeting. Other speakers included CPI deputy general
secretary Sudhakar Reddy, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and MP Sitaram
Yechury, RSP general secretary T J Chandrachoodan, Forward Bloc general
secretary Debabrata Biswas, MP Veerendrakumar, CPI(M) central
secretariat member Hanan Mollah, CPI(M) central committee member and MP
P Karunakaran, Congress(S) leader and MLA Kadannappalli
Ramachandran, INL leader and MLA P M A Salam and parliamentary
affairs minister M Vijayakumar. Other ministers present were education
minister M A Baby, finance minister Dr Thomas Issac, revenue minster K
P Rajendran, water resources minister N K Premachandran,
transport minster Mathew T Thomas, PWD minister Mons Joseph,
electricity minister A K Balan, forest & environment minister Binoy
Viswam, fisheries minister S Sharma, agriculture minister Mullakkara
Retnakaran, health and family welfare minister P K Sreemathi and
minister for cooperation G Sudhakaran. Deputy speaker of legislative
assembly Jose Baby was also present. CPI(M) Polit Bureau
members S Ramachandran Pillai and Brinda Karat were also present.
MPs participating in the dharna included Pannian Raveendran, P
Rajendran, Chengara Surendran, C S Sujatha, Dr K S Manoj, K Suresh
Kurup, P C Thomas, Dr Sebastian Paul, Lonappan Nambadan, N N
Krishnadas, S Ajaykumar, T K Hamsa, P Satheedevi, A P Abdullakutty, A
Vijayaraghavan, K Chandranpillai, P R Rajan and K E Ismail.
The following are the issues which glaringly show the
discriminatory attitude of the centre towards Kerala:
(1) Drastic Cut In Ration Quota
The strong statutory rationing system prevalent in Kerala is today at
stake due to the arbitrary reduction of supplies under central quota.
There was an allotment of 1,13,420 tonnes of rice per month for
distribution to APL card holders up to March 2007. This was drastically
reduced to 21,334 tones from April 2007, and again to 17,056 tones in
April 2008. This has been completely stopped since September this year.
There is also severe shortage in the rice meant for distribution to BPL
card holders. There was considerable reduction in the share of wheat
too for the APL category. The allotment is 17,777 tonnes
while the demand is 59,477 tonnes.
As a consequence of the 86 per cent reduction and eventual stoppage of
ration quota, the price of rice has steeply increased in Kerala.
There is also severe scarcity of rice in the market.
Although this situation has been brought to the notice of both the
prime minister and the agriculture minister, no action has been taken
to correct the injustice done to Kerala. As if to add insult to injury,
the central government is now proposing to dispose of the excess stock
of rice lying dumped in FCI godowns through auction in the open
(2) Reduction In Share Of Electricity
Kerala has suffered considerable shortage in the generation of
electricity due to weak monsoon. Since electricity has to be
bought from outside the state at two or three times higher than the
rate levied from the consumers, the State Electricity Board is in a
deep financial crisis. Therefore the state cabinet has asked the
central government to extend an assistance of Rs 500 crore to the State
Electricity Board from the National Calamity Fund by treating the issue
of shortages in rainfall as a natural calamity. Not only did the centre
not respond to this request but it also cruelly cut the share of
electricity from the central pool to Kerala considerably. The state is
supposed to get 1188 MW electricity per month from the central pool,
including 145 MW from unallocated share from the Central Generating
Stations, but the availability of power from central pool in May, 2008
was 820 MW. It had gone down to 764 MW in June, 745 MW in July and 667
MW in August, resulting in a severe power crisis in the state.
The central government is looking at electricity merely as a
business commodity instead of a basic instrument for social
development. Through division of the state electricity boards,
the central government is aiming at commercialisation of the field of
electricity so that it can be grabbed by the capital forces. The state
government, having been left with no other option, decided to transform
the Electricity Board as a single company and retain the company as a
single entity in the public sector itself without its division. But the
central government is insisting that the single company will not be
appropriate and separate entities should be created for production,
transmission, distribution etc.
(3) Peninsular Railway Zone For Kerala
One of the prime and long-standing demand of Kerala has been a separate
railway zone for the state. The demand of the state for a
separate zone is justified by its geographical location. Kerala’s link
with the rest of the country is through the railway network.
However, Kerala gets the last priority in Southern Railway in
implementation of development works of railways. The establishment of a
zone with headquarters in Kerala is essential to ensure speedy
implementation of developmental projects of railways in the state. The
state’s demand was overlooked when the number of zones were raised from
9 to 16.
(4) Establishment of an IIT
While inaugurating the Golden Jubilee celebration of the formation of
Kerala, on November 1, 2006, the prime minister promised that an IIT
will be established in the state. Though it was decided to start eight
new IITs and to provide even a second IIT to some other states, the
central government has not allotted IIT to Kerala. The state
government demands establishment of an IIT in the state during the
Eleventh Five Year Plan.
(5) Relief For Natural
This year, the state experienced untimely heavy rainfall and this has
resulted in a huge loss in the agricultural sector. Sixteen persons
lost their life in this natural calamity. The total loss from
these calamities is estimated to be around Rs 1430.85 crore. As
per the parameters fixed for providing financial assistance from the
National Calamity Fund, the state is eligible for an assistance of Rs
214.88 crore. No amount has been released as yet. The state government
is demanding granting of this amount.