(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 05, 2009
Aam Aadmi Suffers In ‘High Growth’ India
The following are the extracts of the pamphlets released by the CPI(M) for the election campaign
PRICE RISE, HUNGER AND MALNUTRITION
ONE of the most striking failures of the Congress-led government has been the inability to check the persistent rise in prices of food and other essential commodities and ensure food security for our people. Shamefully, the UPA government is now claiming great success in controlling inflation, at a time when the entire global economy is spiraling rapidly into recession. Inflation in prices of food articles are 8 per cent and foodgrains are 11per cent higher than a year ago, respectively. At the retail level in Delhi between March 2008 and March 2009 sugar went up by 47 per cent, tur by 31 per cent and onions by a whopping 111 per cent. All this makes the slogan of Jai Ho sound hollow.
Endemic hunger continues to afflict a large proportion of the Indian population. The International Food Policy Research Institute ranks India 66 out of the 88 developing countries. This is not surprising, since latest NSS data show that 76 per cent of the total population has inadequate calorie and food consumption. More than half of India’s women and three-quarters of children are anaemic and one in every three adult Indian has chronic energy deficiency.
The obvious strategy to tackle hunger and malnutrition was to universalise and strengthen the Public Distribution System, expand the Anna Antodaya Yojana, act firmly against hoarders and black-marketers, ban futures trading in essential items and food, etc. But the UPA government did the exact opposite through its ill-conceived neo-liberal food policy, which favoured agribusiness and private traders, belying its promises to the aam aadmi.
It is shameful that today, even as the government’s granaries are overflowing with a surplus stockholding 84 per cent above buffer norms, kitchens of vast sections of our people remain empty.
The government cut allocations of food grains to the states by 325 lakh tones or by 73.4 per cent between 2006 and 2008, mainly under the APL category.
Furthermore, there has been a cut in household quota for APL from 35 kg per family per month to 20 kg.
It continued the policy of dividing and excluding the poor through targeting: The Targeted PDS scheme in a predominantly poor country like India means demarcating not between the rich and the poor, but between different categories of the poor at ridiculous destitution levels of Rs 11.80 per person per day for rural and Rs 17.80 per person per day.
Tardy expansion in Anna Antodaya Yojana beneficiaries by an average of just 10 lakhs a year
Concerted attempt to increase prices of foodgrain in the public distribution system, prevented by the CPI(M)
Despite production not declining in this period, the government jeopardised self-reliance in food security by its import of 5.5 million tonnes of poor quality contaminated wheat from big agri-business and traders in 2006 and 2007 at twice the price it was prepared to pay to Indian farmers.
Pandering to the speculation and hoarding by big traders and global and national agri-business, parliamentary committee’s recommendation to ban future trading in agricultural commodities.
There was a cut down on food subsidies when a big increase was required. During the UPA regime (2004-2009) the average share for food security allocation on all programmes has stayed below 1 per cent of GDP (current prices), at a time when 16 countries increased their subsidies from near zero to up to 2.7 per cent of GDP as a response to higher food prices.
What is the reality behind the tall claims being made by the Congress leadership on UPA policies on Agriculture?
1. Claims of “High Growth” rate of 10 per cent while growth rate in agriculture is only around 2.4 per cent. The situation is so bad that the quarter ending in December 2008 shows negative growth of -2.2 per cent of agricultural GDP for the Rabi season.
2. In the first four years of the UPA regime 69, 064 farmers have committed suicide i.e., one farmer committed suicide every 30 minutes.
3. The Congress claims that under the Loan Waiver Scheme, 36 million farm households benefited. This does not even account for 50 per cent of the total indebted.
4. The UPA government refused to implement crucial proposals of the M S Swaminathan led National Commission of Farmers to reduce the interest rates to 4 per cent and for the universalisation of the Crop Insurance Scheme under the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS).
5. The rhetoric on increasing public investment in agriculture is not matched by outlays. The prime minister announced an additional budgetary support of Rs 25,000 crore for agriculture under the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, which implies additional funds of only approximately only Rs10 crore per year for the 600 odd districts in the country over the next five years.
6. Concerted efforts by the Congress-led government to dilute and subvert the NREGA were prevented by the CPI (M) and the Left parties. But for our efforts, the government proposals would have made NREGA useless.
7. Against the interests of farmers, the UPA government has struck a deal with global agribusinesses and has gone for the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture Research and Education which has Monsanto and Wal-Mart representatives as its board members.
8. Farmers are not getting remunerative prices for their produce. Not a single support price meets the cost of cultivation. All crops are being cultivated at a loss to the cultivators varying from 38 per cent at the minimum to 50 per cent at the maximum. The exception is sugarcane where the loss is minimised at 12 per cent.
9. UPA tried to pass the Land Acquisition Act Amendment bill and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement bill on the last day of the parliament clandestinely. This would undermine the state and people’s right to determine land use policies, the right to fair compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation. It was spirited opposition by the CPI (M) and other Left parties that stalled the passage of the bill.
10. Jobs in agriculture are decreasing sharply. According to the Economic Survey, farm work was available merely for 57 days in a year in this decade. According to latest NSSO surveys, 80.6 crores live on a per capita expenditure of Rs 20 per day, of whom 23.9 crore live on a per capita expenditure of only Rs 9 per day. Most of them are agricultural labourers.
CRISIS AND INDIA
THE adverse impact of the crisis is being felt in India through a downturn in industry and agriculture, massive job losses and plummeting crop prices. This global crisis is the end result of the imperialist globalisation process. The Congress, which had embraced imperialist globalisation and the neoliberal free market policies since 1991 and the BJP, which is also firmly wedded to the policies of privatisation and liberalisation, cannot offer any credible solution to this crisis.
The current global economic crisis is the biggest in the capitalist world since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The deepening of the crisis has eventually caused a significant policy shift at the international level. Public pressure forced the governments of capitalist countries to partly nationalise the banks, abandoning neoliberal policies.
The Congress-led UPA government has been on a denial mode vis-ŕ-vis the impact of the economic crisis on India, claiming that the “fundamentals” are strong. This despite the hard facts that GDP growth has fallen to 5.3 per cent in the third quarter (October-December 2008), with the agriculture and manufacturing sectors witnessing negative growth rates of 2.2 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively. The response of the Congress-led government has been grossly inadequate. The increase in Plan expenditure by a meager Rs 20,000 crore, (0.5 per cent of GDP) is the fourth lowest fiscal stimulus package in proportion to GDP among the G 20 countries. Even as it cited the constraints of an interim budget, it doled out Rs 30,000 crore in tax concessions to the big corporates, without linking them to protecting the workers from lay-offs and retrenchment.
With international oil prices falling to $45/barrel, the government cut the prices of aviation turbine fuel eleven times to bailout the private airlines; but petrol and diesel prices were reduced only twice and cooking gas only once.
The Congress-led government underplayed the massive job losses and pay cuts that are affecting workers and employees. At least, 5 lakh workers lost their jobs during October-December, 2008. Another one lakh jobs were lost in January 2009.The most affected sectors were gems and jewellery, transport and automobiles and textiles. Even these shocking figures are gross underestimates, since 4.13 lakh workers lost their jobs in the diamond industry in Gujarat alone. If the organised and the unorganised sectors are taken together, the magnitude of job losses would run into crores.
It is yet to even acknowledge the serious situation arising out of the plummeting prices of crops like cotton, rubber, coffee, tea, coconut, copra and groundnut, wheat and maize. Huge inflows of speculative finance into the commodity futures markets have led to sharp increases in commodity prices. Following the financial meltdown, prices are coming down even more sharply.
India’s financial sector remained relatively immune from the devastating financial meltdown, mainly due to the existing regulations and public sector domination of the financial sector in banking, insurance, pension funds, etc, which the CPI (M) and the Left parties have struggled hard to defend by preventing financial liberalisation measures like the takeover of Indian private banks by foreign banks, increase in FDI in the insurance sector, privatisation of pension funds, etc.
The stock market crash in India has occurred because of the Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) pulling out a whopping Rs 78,800 crore since the beginning of the financial crisis, causing the rupee to depreciate below Rs 51 per dollar. This demonstrates the volatility of speculative capital flows by FIIs. Yet the Congress-led government wanted to push capital account convertibility, opposed by the CPI (M).
Learning little from the experience of the global meltdown, the Congress-led government continued to push financial liberalisation measures. Restrictions on the Participatory Notes (PNs) were removed in October 2008 despite government’s own National Security Advisor saying that terrorists are using PNs to invest in the Indian stock markets; In December 2008 it introduced legislation to raise FDI cap in insurance; FDI guidelines were clandestinely revised in February 2009 bypassing parliament to nullify foreign investment caps across all sectors.
The Congress-led government violated its own NCMP which had committed to reduce “the vulnerability of the financial system to the flow of speculative capital” and tried to lure the FIIs and other speculators through tax concessions and it failed to plug the Mauritius route, through which FIIs and MNCs evade Indian taxes.
The BJP’s economic policies are no different from that of the Congress. The CPI(M) had detailed a set of measures to tackle the global economic crisis in November 2008. These included: (1) Enhancing annual Plan expenditure to 10 per cent of India’s GDP (currently it is below 5 per cent). (2)Adopting specific relief packages for crisis-affected sectors aimed mainly at the small and medium enterprises; preventing job and pay cuts (3) Increasing public investment in agriculture and irrigation; providing protection against price crashes of crops through price support and increased import tariffs. (4) Expanding the employment guarantee to cover all adults and for as many days as demanded; extending it to the urban areas. (5) Universalising the PDS and supplying 14 essential commodities at subsidised rates. (6) Providing income tax relief for salaried employees, pensioners and senior citizens; increasing taxes on speculators and the wealthy and crackdown on black money. (7) Strongly regulating the financial sector and strictly controlling the outflow and inflow of speculative finance; maintaining predominant state control over finance and revive development finance.
DEFEAT THE COMMUNAL FORCES,
UNITE AGAINST TERRORISM
1. The experience over the last five years has been that the communal BJP-RSS combine still poses a grave threat to the secular fabric of India. Even though the Congress-led government came to power on a mandate against the communal forces, it refused to take stringent action against them. Moreover, the pursuance of neoliberal policies by the UPA has had an adverse impact on the livelihood and the living conditions of the people and this is bound to generate discontent and becomes fertile breeding grounds for their communal politics.
2. In recent years there has been an intensified threat to the security of the country and its citizens by various terrorist forces and groups. It is essential to mobilise the Indian people and strengthen their unity as a political counter to these forces, apart from the administrative and other measures to be taken. The CPI(M) holds that the fight against communalism and terrorism are interlinked.
3. The BJP and its RSS cohorts made every effort to utilise the levers of state power to push forward sectarian policies, often backed by violence that targets minorities, as in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, or where it was a coalition partner in the government such as in Orissa. The communal violence was targeted at the minorities, both Christian and Muslim.
4. The communal poison which continues to be fed to students in highly toxic textbooks in the BJP states is another case in point. Academic institutions, writers and artistes have been a special target of attack. Women and dalits are also targets of the communal forces.
5. Even as the violence in Orissa and Karnataka continued unabated, the central government did not have the political will or initiative to uphold the rights of minorities, refusing to use the constitutional provisions available to it and direct the state government to take action against the guilty individual and organisations like the Bajrang Dal despite ample evidence.
6. Despite a Supreme Court directive to hold CBI enquiry into the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, the UPA has failed to initiate concrete steps in this regard.
7. Be it the question of implementing the Sri Krishna Commission Report or taking decisive action against the Bajrang Dal, the Congress-led government has displayed a distinct lack of political resolve against communalists.
8. The Hindutva brigade also practiced the worst form of reactionary obscurantist vigilantism and moral policing in the country. The anti-woman face of the Hindutva brigade was exposed in the attack on young women in a pub in Mangalore by the Sri Ram Sene (SRS) where women were brutally beaten up in the full glare of the media and the BJP government in Karnataka remains a mute spectator.
9. The BJP tried to incite communal passions on the Setu Samudram project. While it was the BJP which first gave the green signal to the project, it did an about turn as it suddenly realized that the setu issue could fuel its communal agenda. Shamefully the Congress-led government vacillated on the issue helping the BJP keep the issue alive.
10. The series of terrorist attacks in the country shows that the Congress-led government has failed to revitalise the intelligence agencies and the security set-up to track down the terror networks.
11. Instead of strengthening these basic requirements, the government went for the option of strengthening the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Shamefully, the Congress-led government has brought back draconian and widely misused POTA provisions like detention without bail for 180 days, three years imprisonment for withholding information, etc., within the UAPA. The CPI(M) and Left parties were the only parties in parliament to oppose such measures.
12. The double standards of the BJP on terrorism stand fully exposed. While it has no compunction in ascribing all terrorist activities to the Muslim community, it protects the Hindutva extremists accused in the Malegaon blasts case by branding the ATS investigation as prosecution of “Hindu religious figures”.
13. The CPI(M) argues that there is a need to create an atmosphere in our country where communalism cannot feed terrorism and terrorism cannot be used as an instrument for communal polarisation.
IN DEFENCE OF THE
RIGHTS OF MINORITIES
1. Religious minorities (Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians) constitute 18.4 per cent of India’s population. Muslims are the largest minority at 13.4 per cent of the country’s population.
2. Lack of access to education and employment is a major source of frustration for Muslim youth. Destruction of traditional crafts and industries has hit their livelihood further. Muslim women are the most exploited and have no protection. The condition and well being of the minorities is a critical measure of the functioning of our democracy.
3. The fight against the BJP and Hindutva communalism and the defence of minorities remains a cornerstone of the CPI(M)’s national policies, esp. as the Muslim community continues to be the target of Hindu communalists
4. The Congress-led government has been wavering and hesitant in protecting the rights of the minorities and ensuring their socio-economic development and adhering to the CMP on this.
5. Indiscriminate rounding up of innocent Muslim youth, detaining and torturing them after terrorist violence has continued under UPA rule. The case of 21 Muslim youth who were awarded compensation for wrongful detainment and torture after the Hyderabad bomb-blasts and the Batla House encounter are examples.
6. The Congress-led government ignored even the recommendations of its own commissions.
* The Sachar Committee Report has revealed the deplorable social and economic status of Muslims and made a strong case for boosting the community’s share in jobs and educational institutions. It has exposed the false propaganda of the BJP and Sangh Parivar that the Muslims have been ‘appeased’. However, the Congress-led government’s approach towards implementing the Sachar Committee recommendations has been half hearted and most of the wide-ranging recommendations ignored
* The Ranganath Mishra Commission, in May 2007, recommended that scheduled caste status be granted to dalit Christians and dalit Muslims, but the government has failed to table the report in parliament. The National Commission for Minorities too made the same recommendation.
* The Congress-led government took no initiative to undertake the long pending revision of OBC Muslim’s list.
* The CMP assured that the UPA will “strive for recognition and promotion of Urdu language”. The Congress-led government did nothing in this regard.
* The National Minorities Commission demanded a 15 per cent budgetary sub-plan. However, the Congress-led government rejected this
1. The ministry of Minority Affairs was allocated Rs 7,000 crore in the 11th Plan. In 2008-09, it was Rs 1,013.83 crore, 35 per cent of which remained unutilised; multi-sectoral development plan for minority-concentrated districts has only received Rs 5.29 crore per district or 37 districts.
2. Priority sector lending to the minorities as a percentage of total priority sector loans had decreased from 9.87 per cent in March 2003 to 9.67 per cent in March 2008, as against the targeted 15 per cent.
3. Over three-and-a-half decades, the central government has released a meagre total grant-in-aid amounting to Rs 33.16 crores to the central wakf council.
4. In the Left-ruled states, the CPI(M) is doing its utmost to remove the gaps that exist. The government of West Bengal has a 15 per cent state level budgetary sub-plan for the advancement of minorities in the state since 2007. The government of Kerala has adopted additional state-specific schemes in addition to existing schemes. In Tripura a component of targeted gender budgeting has been adopted to ensure that the benefit of all schemes for the welfare of the Muslim minorities reaches Muslim women. Kerala and West Bengal have the best record in terms of access to land by Muslims through land reforms. 30.9 per cent of the rural households in West Bengal are Muslim households having access to 25.6 per cent of the total cultivated land in the state. In Kerala, the Muslim households comprise 20 per cent of the total rural household having access of 16.7 per cent of the total cultivated land. Equity to Muslims was ensured through land reforms.