People's Democracy

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


No. 23  

June 7, 2009




President’s Address:

Proof Of Pudding Is In Its Eating


AS expected, the President's Address to the joint session of the parliament following the 15th general elections, is full of bombastic claims of what this UPA government has charted out to achieve this time around. Many of the programmes and schemes that have been enumerated are actually a repetition and a follow-up of what was contained in the Common Minimum Programme of the previous government. This in itself constitutes an admission that much of what was promised last time around remains unfulfilled. This is confirmed by the fact that many of the flagship programmes like Rural Employment Guarantee, Bharat Nirman etc have been unable to fulfill the targets. For instance, the NREGA has, on an average, given 48 days of work as against the promised 100 to about 50 per cent of the 10 crore registered job card holders in the country. Likewise, only 27 per cent of the target for rural electrification has been achieved. The president has spoken a great deal about strengthening the infrastructure in the agriculture sector.  However, only 56 per cent of the targeted expansion of irrigation could be achieved.


There continues to be a state of denial on the impact of the global economic recession on India. The president notes with “a matter of satisfaction that the Indian economy has not suffered the kind of slow down that has been witnessed in almost every other country of the world”. This, as we had noted earlier in these columns, has been largely due to the pressures of the Left parties in preventing the previous government from proceeding with unbridled financial liberalisation.  It is precisely these measures  such as banking reforms and the establishment of a “regulator  (read privatisation) for the pension sector” that the president has advocated that her government will now proceed with. This will spell disaster to crores of Indians whose life long savings and old age security will be drastically jeopardised. 


The president has spoken of the government's commitment for an “inclusive society and an inclusive economy” as the goal set before the country by her government in 2004. What is the reality of the last five years? Notwithstanding the bombastic claims of a high growth trajectory until the global capitalist crisis and recession impacted upon us, the reality of economic reforms of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation has been the creation of two Indias – a ‘shining’ India for a few and a ‘suffering’ India for the vast majority. By the government's own estimation, 78 per cent of Indians live on less than Rs 20 a day.  While, on the other hand, there are at least 36 dollar billionaires in the country whose assets equal 25 per cent of India's GDP. Everyday, a thousand children die because of completely preventable water-borne diseases.  56 per cent of our children do not get any vaccination or protection.  40 per cent of our children are underweight. 70 per cent are anaemic due to malnutrition. These figures are from the National Family Health Survey. 70 per cent of our people do not have access to sanitised toilets. Two-thirds do not have access to potable drinking water near their habitation. Nearly two-thirds of our pregnant mothers are anaemic. They are producing the future of India. This is the state of our mothers and children. Mere declaration of intent cannot change this miserable state of existence of the real India. This, on the contrary, would require a massive hike in the levels of public investment which, past experiences have shown, will not happen to the required levels.


However, in the name of raising resources precisely for meeting the situation, the president has announced that her government will undertake large-scale disinvestment of the public sector “while ensuring that government equity does not fall below 51 per cent”.  What the Left parties were able to prevent during the course of the last five years has now been brought to the centre stage.  This comes at a time when the US government has virtually nationalised General Motors which declared bankruptcy!  Surely, resources need to be raised, but this must come from those sections who can afford and must part with their profits for nation building. This cannot come by decimating what has already been built by the public sector.  During the first four years of the UPA government, the top ten corporate houses in India have more than doubled their asset value. Given a corporate tax rate of 33 per cent, not one of them have paid this amount to the government's exchequer.  Only two of them have crossed the 30 per cent mark. Out of the rest only one has crossed the 20 per cent mark.  The rest pay even less with one of them having an effective tax rate of 0.08 per cent.  These loopholes through which such a non-compliance of the declared tax regime is being allowed must be plugged rather than dispensing with the country's assets. 


Worst, the access for private capital to enhance their assets and profits has been made by the president with the announcement that public-private-partnership (PPP) is the “key element” of its strategy for developing the country's infrastructure.  We have already seen how such PPP projects, while giving massive profits to private capital, are leading to imposing greater burdens on the people. Take, for instance, the imposition of substantial user development charges in the private airports.  Thus, the future appears as one which would impose greater burdens on the people, notwithstanding the expression of concern for “inclusive growth”.


The president has listed a long set of measures that her government will implement in the first 100 days (a la Obama). The first on this list is the promise to implement the Women’s Reservation Bill. At least now it is hoped that this will see the light of the day after having been kept pending for over a decade.


The president has made customary references to India's foreign policy highlighting that friendly relations will be developed with all countries in the world, particularly with our neighbours. A significant feature of this section is the absence of any reference to the Non Aligned Movement.  In fact, the word `non-aligned' does not figure in the hour-long speech. This, clearly, is keeping in tune with the UPA government's desire to further develop the strategic relationship with the USA and American imperialism.


Declaration of laudable intent has never been in short supply with the Indian ruling classes. The real class nature emerges in the implementation of many such intentions.  Recollect, Indira Gandhi's famous slogan of ‘garibi hatao’ (remove poverty).  After a few years, the people, given the decline in their standards of livelihood, raised the slogan of  garibi laotao’ (restore poverty). 


The period ahead, thus, is bound to be one where the Indian people can protect themselves and work for improving their standards of livelihoods only through sustained powerful struggles.  Indeed, we need to brace ourselves for such struggles in the future.